When in Houston recently as the featured designer for the Catwalk for a Cure gala, in association with Saks Fifth Avenue, Lhuillier talked about new ways women are dressing for evening, why her bridal line continues to be so popular and why she's in such a good place as her brand gets ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
CultureMap: Your spring collection is so colorful. Are you in a happy mood? It sure seems that way.
Monique Lhuillier: You can say I'm happy. I wake up every day and I'm filled with gratitude because I love what I do. Sometimes I look at my calendar and I scream a little bit and then I regroup. If you are organized you can get it done.
CM: What were your thoughts in creating this collection?
ML: It still has the signature, like my elegance and refinedness, but I wanted it to feel a little sleeker and more modern. I did that by the pop colors and also the silhouettes I chose are a little closer to the body and sleeker. There are hardly any voluminous gowns. I stripped all the corsetry out. And there is more contrast of colors.
CM: I particularly liked the cobalt blue top and cigarette pants.
ML: I am pushing more options for evening. I don't think it's always about a gown anymore. I think evening separates, doing a great trouser with a top, that's the way people dress now for evening. They can wear a cocktail dress, a great shoe. It's about mixing it up. They want more options and that's what I'm doing.
CM: Bridal is very strong for you. How to you keep that fresh, particularly when you are doing ready to wear and so many other things?
ML: You know, bridal was my start and I never forget that. It really taught me how to cut for a woman's body because everything had to be so flattering and close to the body. And I even learned to draw a perfect corset, so I started there.
I've kept it fresh even after all these years because I don't think about bridal all year long. I do the accessories, I'm into the ready-to-wear-collections, other collections that I do. So I only focus on bridal like two months before my show is out. It comes to me quite easily. I have a vision and I execute. It's not a drawn-out process and I think that's how come it feels very fresh and very on point. And when I approach bridal, it feels new to me.
If I only did bridal, it would not be as much fun.
CM: What are the new trends in bridal?
ML: I think our brides love separates. They like slimmer silhouettes and overskirts, so they can have two looks for one night. Also, slits. Women are feeling very confident about their bodies. They take care of themselves, they lead healthier lifestyles, so they want to feel sexy on their wedding day.
They also are trying some subtle color. Women are not afraid of that anymore, so you might see a blush pink, mint greens and pistachio greens in my collections.
And long sleeves are making a comeback. I've been showing them for a while, but I feel like the trend is really finally kicked in. And it's doing it in a very delicate way so you still see the silhouette underneath, but the sheer long sleeves is new again. I love it because it's traditional yet with a twist.
CM: In Hollywood, you have a lot of celebrity brides.
ML: They are great brand ambassadors. I really am filled with gratitude. They have lots to choose from and they continually support me is wonderful.
CM: How do you stay in such good shape? You look fantastic.
ML: I do yoga and I work out and I try to get enough sleep. I realize it's important to take time for yourself. To be able to think clearly and to be creative in design, you have to be in a happy place. And you have to take care of yourself first. Or else all of my collections would be dark and dreary and uninspired.
CM: How regularly do you work out?
ML: I try to work out four times a week. I do yoga and a dance class. You just keep active. And with my children (ages 5 and 9), on the weekends we are hiking or playing tennis.
CM: What's next for you?
ML: We are really invested in our shoes and handbags. I have been designing them nonstop for the last year and a half. They only launched now in the fall. And we're also launching eyewear soon, because I really believe in accessories. People dress high low now and I think that's great. Like a pretty top with jeans and I think that's great. I think killer accessories is key.
CM: What's been the reaction?
ML: It's been really great, except they want to see it expand more. So now it's not only evening, but it will have a day component. And the shoes will have flats. It's about dressing from day to evening, not only evening. Hopefully down the line we'd like to open more stores and I'd like to launch a fragrance. That's always been a topic of discussion. And a collaboration I'll be announcing in a month. It's very exciting.
Portions of this interview have been edited for length and clarity.