Having just locked up an Upper East Side location for her first New York bridal boutique, Monique Lhuillier is already scouting another one in the neighborhood for her ready-to-wear.
Aside from simplifying shopping for brides-to-be, the designer’s two-store uptown plan is meant to remind shoppers that she makes wedding dresses, as well as cocktail dresses and evening gowns. Now in her 15th year in business, Lhuillier started out catering to brides and layered in eveningwear and rtw about eight years ago. During a phone interview, she said, “I have always wanted to open a store in New York. It was just a matter of having the right space being available.”
The 2,000-square-foot bridal store at 19 East 71st Street will open in October, and if all goes according to plan, a Madison Avenue shop will soon follow.
Lhuillier has developed a robust roster of celebrity clients. In late March, Reese Witherspoon wed in a blush-colored gown by the designer, and last month Rachel McAdams turned up at the “Sleeping Beauty” premiere in high-waisted raw silk pants and a nude-colored sequin top from Lhuillier. “More than anything, the red carpet helps build brand recognition,” Lhuillier said.
Opening freestanding stores for bridal and rtw should make shoppers more aware of the depth of the designer’s offerings. “Opening more stores in other cities and other countries is definitely a focus of ours right now. Our current stores are doing really well. The other stores that carry our line are more selective in what they carry,” she said. “We also have a lot of pieces for daytime dressing. We want to give women more options. With our own stores, we can do that.”
There is also a freestanding bridal and rtw store in Los Angeles, and another one in Edina, Minn. The latter caters to the loyal customer base developed through what were once Dayton Hudson stores, she said.
With a diffusion label, ML Monique Lhuillier, up-and-running and burgeoning home and gift collections, Lhuillier plans to build all three of those areas. She continues to focus on design while her husband, Tom Bugbee, handles the financial side of the business. And they intend to remain sole owners of the company. Asked if she has had many offers to sell the company, she said, “We are always being introduced to people but we’re happy with how things are. We want to keep things that way for as long as we can.”
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