In terms of the luxury industry, a silk mask was much more representative of the last, pandemic-riddled 19 months than a silk dress. Despite this, love and the respective multi-million-dollar wedding industry built around it were not canceled.
”Love was postponed, but not canceled,” said Monique Lhuillier, co-founder and creative director of her namesake luxury brand, on the latest Glossy Podcast.
Before she founded her brand in 1996, an engaged Lhuillier was faced with the two “extremes” of either “traditional” or “minimal” dresses, she said. “I wanted something that had the elements of tradition — the lace, the long sleeve — but with an open back, giving [brides] something unexpected. And that’s what I set out to do.”
As Monique Lhuillier, the brand, celebrates its 25-year anniversary, Lhuillier and Tom Bugbee, her co-founder and husband, are continuing to bridge the design gap with the brand’s extensive custom and ready-to-wear bridal and bridesmaid dresses, accessories and shoes.
When events came to a halt last year, Monique Lhuillier and its clientele held onto glimmers of tulle and lace, and the hope that traditional weddings would soon return. Using social media posts, the brand’s nationwide retail locations and customer service representatives, the company never lost contact with brides, Lhuillier said.
In the future, Lhuillier said she hopes to continue growing the brand’s DTC business, as well as its presence internationally, on the red carpet and in the beauty space. “We are exploring everything,” she said. “Because you have to stay ahead.”
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
On the challenges and surprise blessings of 2020
“A lot of people had to postpone their weddings. All of those weddings are now on top of the [other] girls’ [weddings] who are getting married this year. We have a bottleneck of everybody needing their dresses now. And our teams are working many hours trying to get everybody’s dresses done on time. The good thing is that we own our facilities and factory. We make everything here locally in downtown Los Angeles and can control getting the product out on time. What’s also proving a positive is that [retailers] started to cancel their orders [with us], because they didn’t want the inventory. And, because we have our own retail stores, we absorbed all that inventory and focused on DTC. We learned a lot from that process, and we are now concentrating on building our direct-to-consumer business.”
On entering the home category with Pottery Barn
“I never partner with a company that doesn’t have the same goals as I do, [the] same traditions and values. Pottery Barn was a perfect fit from the start. Pottery Barn Kids had reached out to us saying, ‘We love what you did for your [children’s] rooms. Would you be interested in doing a kids’ collaboration?’ Then Pottery Barn’s mainline reached out to me and said, ‘Would you like to do something for the core [collection]? Let’s go after the [bridal] registry, because you’re now helping the bride start her home.’ The good thing with having partners who are knowledgeable in their arena is [that] they bring the expertise to make that product perfect.”
On the brand’s ageless appeal
“I discovered during the pandemic [that] even when people could not have their special days, they were not willing to compromise on the dress. And I’ve seen it continue, where women want less [stuff], but they want more quality. They want things that are going to last when they invest in new clothes. They care about the craftsmanship and how they feel in the clothes, more than ever. Another thing I discovered is that my dresses are touching a lot of different generations, because I can talk to the bride who comes into my space. Then her mom usually buys something, too. I’ve had many friends whose daughters are having their Bat Mitzvah or prom, and they’re all wearing [my] dresses… It’s a multi-generational vision.”