From her keen, focused business sense to her new take on old school glamour, Monique Lhuillier is one of our favorite designers out there. Not only that, she’s also incredibly kind and warm, a wonderful mother to two gorgeous kiddos and makes time to give back to others. In short, Monique is very much a Woman of Style. Get to know this inspiring fashion insider in today’s exclusive interview.
Growth & Career
"I was born in the Philippines. My mother is Spanish and Filipino and my father is French, which explains my name. Growing up in Philippines, I was surrounded by a tightknit family. My mother was my greatest fashion inspiration growing up; she was very elegant and had fabulous personal style. Fashion was engrained in me at a young age and I would often dream of becoming a designer. "
Her First Design Job
"After high school I moved to Los Angeles to attend the prestigious Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising. My three other siblings were in University in LA, which made it easier. My first job was working for a small French company called Melivier. I designed, cut samples, chose fabrics and worked directly with the owner."
Why She Launched Her Business
"When I was in school I always loved to design the most beautiful, feminine statement gowns. When it was time to plan my own wedding, I was looking for a wedding dress that felt timeless and romantic yet fashion forward. The selection proved to be very limited and the whole process was far from easy. After my wedding I realized there was a void in the marketplace I could fill. Years later, in 1996, I debuted my first bridal collection to a few retailers and magazine editors and the rest is history."
A Milestone Moment In Her Career
"Opening my first retail store in Los Angeles was such a momentous occasion for me. Being able to have a space where I can have customers experience the world of Monique is truly special."
Growing The Company
"We are growing rapidly. Once simply a bridal company we now include a ready-to-wear collection and an array of other categories including jewelry and footwear (and soon, hopefully, fragrance). I just recently came back from the Middle East. Global expansion is a big focus for my company right now.
On Being A Designer
"Being a designer allows me to fuel my creativity, it also gives me the opportunity to make women feel beautiful and strong when they wear my collection. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else."
"The most challenging part of having your own fashion line is understanding the entire fashion business as a whole. Sales, marketing, accounting, merchandising, shipping are all crucial components to having a successful business. I am lucky enough to work with my husband who handles many of these aspects and it is truly a brilliant partnership."
The best career advice I've received is to "find your own balance". Balance is a very individual thing and everyone has their own barometer of what they can or cannot handle.
What She Looks For In An Employee
"It is important for an employee to be able to embrace change. In fashion, the environment is fast paced and things are always shifting."
"Hard work is also a very simple trait but honestly, it's the most important one. Hard work means being results oriented, staying late, taking initiative, going over and beyond what you think is sufficient and never giving up."
"Another trait which is crucial to success in the workplace is being detailed-oriented. It is so vital to a boss to have an employee who pays attention to detail and is meticulous about making sure the job is done accurately."
The Perfect Job Interview Outfit
"I think wearing something that speaks to your personal style but is still effortless and elegant is usually the best. You also want to be comfortable as you never know how long you will take. Stay away from anything too tight for obvious reasons. I think all white is very chic and a nice alternative from the classic black interview uniform."
Grace Kelly and Prince Rainer III of Monaco. Photo: Getty Images
Her Bridal Style Icon
"The dress Grace Kelly wore to her wedding to Prince Rainer III of Monaco is my favorite and one that I will be forever inspired by. Rose point lace was used for her fitted bodice with a high neckline, long sleeves and a graceful train. This wedding dress was the epitome of elegance with exquisite detailing."
Bridal Rules Worth Breaking
"I encourage a bride to opt for an unexpected hue versus the traditional white or ivory when it comes to selecting a wedding dress. This season I experimented with color in my bridal collection using pastel shades of blush, hydrangea, pistachio and mist. I think it can be quite enchanting for the brides looking for something non-traditional."
How She Gives Back
"To me, giving back is an easy way to show how thankful you are for the things that you have. I know I am very blessed and I want to pass my blessings to people less fortunate. Last November, Typhoon Haiyan devestated the country I grew up in and left 6,000 dead and displaced more than 4.4 million residents, 1.8 million of them children. This hit too close to home and I knew I had to do something. I organized a fundraising “chore-a-thon” at my son’s school and was able to raise funds to help support the relief efforts. Something so easy was able to impact so many. I also visited the typhoon hit city of Tacloban to contribute to the rebuilding efforts in person with my family. I was so humbled by the children that we met, their optimism and appreciation was completely amazing given the adversity they were enduring."
"An organization near and dear to my heart is Operation Smile, they do tremendous work in my hometown in the Philippines. Operation Smile provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the globe. My family and I this year will be visiting a hospital in Cebu this summer."
"The other organization I have tremendous respect for is the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I know so many people affected by this horrible disease and I was inspired by their mission to advance the world's most promising research to eradicate breast cancer in our lifetime, I created a pink collection with Waterford where a percentage of proceeds go to BCRF."
Style & Personal Life
On Her Summer Shopping List
"I love a romper or jumpsuit, one piece dressing is easy for the summer and adds a bit of playfulness to your look. I gravitate towards gold delicate jewelry for the summer, my personal fave are Jennifer Meyer's personalized necklaces. In the summer, I am constantly on the go and the Goyard monogrammed tote is the perfect carryall. I will definitely pick up an Eres two-piece swimsuit; the figure flattering cuts and high tech materials make them a summer must-have. Last on my shopping list is sun protection! I always carry Clarins Sunscreen to protect from the California rays."
Her Beauty Essentials
"During the day I go for a more natural look. I use tinted moisturizer, which hydrates my skin, and bronzing powder, which creates a more vibrant complexion. I finish the look with lip gloss. I love Chanel's Constellation gloss. My go-to lip color is Jouer's Monique; it’s a creamy muted peach. One of my girlfriends started Jouer and named the color after me! For my hair, I love Kerastase. My favorite is Kerastase's Lift Vertige; it lifts at the roots and adds the perfect amount of volume and shine."
Her Fashion Crush
"Giselle is a natural beauty. I am in complete awe of her commitment to living a healthy lifestyle. When it comes to fashion, she has an innate sense of style and looks flawless in anything she puts on."
Her Recipe For Instant Glamour
"I actually think a bright red lip is an instant mood changer and I always feel extra glamorous when I have it on. My favorite red lipstick is MAC's Viva Glam red lipstick. It's a matte, deep red that instantly glams up my look."
How She Finds Balance
"The balancing act of being a designer, mother and wife is a hard one, but the one thing I know is that you can always reschedule a meeting, but you never get a do-over with your kids. The trick I continue to work on is being present. I work hard when I am in the office, but when I am home with my family the phone is put away and I try to be 100% present for them. This technique allows me to feel less of that tug of war between work and personal life."
Fashion Lessons She'll Pass Down To Her Daughter
"I would tell her to always have fun, experiment so you can see what looks look best on you and most importantly do not feel the need to follow trends; having your own individual style makes you confident and beautiful!"
Three Things We Didn't Know About Monique
1.) "I absolutely love to dance.", 2.) "My husband and I collect contemporary art.", 3.) "I love the outdoors; hiking, swimming, you name it. My family and I love being outside."