Monique Lhuillier is a HUGE name in the bridal industry—you may know her as the international wedding dress designer that makes dreamy, chic-elegant bridal gowns. She’s also a world-renown fashion designer and a celebrity favorite.
At just 25-years-old, she started her own company and her own wedding was the inspiration she needed to start her own bridal collection. Lhuillier is beyond impressive and deserves all the bridal praise.
How It All Began
Born on September 15th, 1971, Monique Lhuillier came into the world in Cebu City, Philippines. Her father was a jeweller and a diplomat, and her mother was a model, so she was surrounded by glamour throughout her childhood—thus planting the fashion seed in her life.
It was a no brainer for her to pursue her passion and study design at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, California. Her studies included evening and formal wear design and that’s where she fell in love, but not just with the fashion world.
Lhuillier met Tom Bugbee while living in L.A. He was an accountant and she was crazy about him. Shortly after graduation, Bugbee proposed to 21-year-old Lhuillier and she started working for a small French firm that was doing high-end ready-to-wear fashion.
Lhuillier started her search for a well-designed wedding gown but was disappointed with too many traditional options, which sparked an idea—after she would say “I do” she would start her own bridal line.
Getting Into the Bridal Industry
In 1996, Lhuiller started her career as a fashion designer with full support of her now-husband. Bugbee was totally on board and became fully invested as manager and CEO of their company, Monique Lhuillier & Company. Lhuillier says that they had zero experience running a business, but their partnership was perfect from the start.
She also launched her bridal collection that same year with five dresses. She was working out her home at the time but had made a few relationships with some seamstresses from her previous company.
They helped her create a few samples for a trade show. Her first gown, a simple spaghetti-strapped dress called “The Laura”, is still a bestseller today! Lhuillier took her three bridesmaid dresses and two flower girl dresses to the show and immediately had five stores interested in carrying her designs.
That’s when she knew that her business was actually going somewhere. She has joked that about a year later she knew her line was making headway when people could actually pronounce her last name correctly instead of just saying “that Monique girl”.
Three years after the launch of her bridal collection came Lhuillier’s evening wear collection—which is still ever-popular today. The collection featured beautiful gowns in color and in 2001 she opened her first retail store in Beverly Hills.
Since she and her husband were still at the beginning of building their business, they didn’t have a strong PR strategy or business plan. Since the Beverly Hills store was in a very visible location, many celebrity stylists would see a dress and ask Lhuiller if they could borrow it or if she could turn her white dress and make it in black. The celebrities were literally helping her build the brand!
Lhuiller says the dress she designed for Britney Spears’ wedding to Kevin Federline in 2004 really catapulted her to bridal designer stardom.
Today, Lhuillier is internationally known in the fashion and wedding industry. Her use of exotic lace, embroidery and imported fabrics have helped create exquisite, voluminous gowns. All of her bridal and evening wear pieces are handmade and absolutely stunning.
Lhuillier opened another retail store in New York in 2012 and has 140 stores across the globe. Her collections start at $2,900 and are available in a number of retail outlets including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Harvey Nichols.
You can also rent out her bridesmaid dresses from Vow to Be Chic, a company that rents out designer dresses.
Although Lhuillier has expanded her bridal empire into a successful business, she wanted something more. She wanted to follow the bride in the stages of her life beyond the wedding, so she launched a ready-to-wear line.
This opened the door to other creative expansions: shoes, jewelry, bags, stationary and more. She also collaborated with Pottery Barn Kids to show her vision of the next life stage—a family at home.
To add to her ever-growing resume, Lhuillier has also received several top honors. She was named “Designer of the Year” from Wedding Dresses Magazine in 2003. In 2006, former President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presented Lhuillier the “Medal of Honor” and “Presidential Medal of Merit”.
She is also part of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
2020 was a big year for Lhuillier—she released her first fragrance “Monique Lhuillier Eau de Parfum”. It took the designer nearly a decade to finally launch the perfume line and worked with perfumer Mauric Roucel to craft her dream scent. Since she grew up wearing Chanel scents, she wanted to use the same kinds of notes but with a softer tone.
The fragrance is bottled in a blush pink tone (one of her signature colors) and has notes of bergamot, freesia, rose and lily of the valley (her favorite flower). The end result is a sweet, floral base warmed up with rich violet, musk and patchouli.
Lhuillier says she wants to expand even more into the beauty space, hopefully with a lip product or a color palette.
These A-listers are just a few celebrities that have gone to Lhuillier for their dream gowns, and as we mentioned before it started with a girl named Britney. When Spears said “I do” to Kevin Federline in 2004, she chose a $26,000 strapless wedding gown with lace half-gloves and a cathedral-length veil.
For her casual backyard reception, she hit it baby one more time with another Lhuillier dress—a mini lace number. Singer P!nk went the non-traditional route with a lace halter gown, black bow-tie and bustled skirt for her Costa Rican wedding.
Reese Witherspoon, Catherine Giudici and Lea Michele all went the strapless route but with totally different looks. Witherspoon wore a now-iconic dress with a bustier-style bodice and A-line skirt in a blush color, which of course is one of Lhuillier’s signature hues.
The Bachelor star, Giudici, had a theme of “grown sexy” which totally fit her sweetheart neckline and fitted lace mermaid gown in 2014. Michele’s pristine white ballgown was stunning and she looked like a dreamy princess for her botanical nuptials. The actress said her Lhuillier dress was “the one” the second she saw it.
Lhuillier was the designer behind both wedding dresses worn by the stars of How I Met Your Mother. Alyson Hannigan looked stunning in her strapless satin gown and was Lhuillier’s first dress displayed in a TV series.
The show paid $8,000 for the gorgeous gown so Lily could finally marry Marshall. When it was Robin’s turn to walk down the aisle, the show turned to Lhuillier once again. The producers said that they knew they didn’t want a strapless gown for Cobie Smulders, so the beautiful $7,000 gown with the gorgeous beaded belt was perfectly elegant, classy and timeless.
Many fans of the Fifty Shades franchise were eager to see what Anastasia Steele would wear for her wedding to billionaire Christian Grey. For the 2018 film Fifty Shades Freed, Lhuillier pulled off an amazingly romantic lace-covered, off-the-shoulder wedding dress that totally fits the look of a billionaire’s wife.
Lhuillier told ELLE magazine she wanted something iconic and memorable. It was a traditional design but with a modern twist and definitely encompassed Anastasia’s personality. The designer says she knew once it hit the big screen it would be a timeless design that would live forever.
We’ve looked at past bridal gowns from Lhuillier, now let’s jump ahead to see what’s in store for next season! Lhuillier’s Spring 2021 Bridal collection is all about Spanish flair paired with California ease. The collection features tons of lace, flamenco-style skirts and long, dreamy trains. Plus, did you see that angel-like cape above? AMAZING!
Lhuiller’s Spring 2021 Bliss collection is very traditional but utterly romantic. The stretch Mikado fabric looks extra sleek and clean with added elegance. Plus, secret pockets will be a huge hit for the contemporary bride!
We’re getting serious garden vibes from the ML Monique Lhuillier Spring 2021 collection where elevated day fashion meets luxurious evening. Structured silhouettes, delicate pleating and bold laces will add a flair of modern sophistication to any event. We honestly can’t choose our favorite—we love them all!
If you’re looking for desert-chic, look no further than Lhuillier’s Runway Spring 2021 collection. Botanical prints will lead the collection through relaxed caftans and pajama sets. We’re also digging these bold coloured gowns! This collection definitely has a great mix of flirty-refined and relaxed-feminine selections.
Looking into the future, Lhuillier plans to open more retail stores and would like to expand internationally. Her ultimate goal is to have more stores around the world and for people to know her brand stands for beauty, femininity and making women feel beautiful in her clothes.
She cried the day her daughter was born, knowing that one day she would get to design her wedding dress—a designer’s dream come true.