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Monique Lhuillier Adds New Categories

Monique Lhuillier, like many of her designing counterparts, is on her way to building a luxury lifestyle brand.

CHICAGO — Monique Lhuillier, like many of her designing counterparts, is on her way to building a luxury lifestyle brand, and plans to introduce handbags, home furnishings and fine china with Royal Doulton.

“They all will have the Monique aesthetic — chic, feminine, modern,” said Lhuillier during a stop here to accept an award from the 51st Annual Gold Coast Fashion Award Show Oct. 5.

Lhuillier, who won the 2005 contest in which attendees vote on their favorite designer collection, said her handbags, currently in the sample stage, will be a mix of evening, everyday and special occasion clutches and hobo bags in satin, leather and exotic skins such as python.

The Monique Lhuillier for Royal Doulton collection is set to make its debut in spring 2007 featuring fine china, tableware, stemware and giftware.

Home furnishings, bedding and towels could come to fruition within the next two years, along with a fragrance or shoes, she said. Next March, Lhuillier plans to open a 4,200-square-foot boutique on Melrose Place in Los Angeles, and this past June she joined with Mattel to introduce the limited-edition Monique Lhuillier Bride Barbie Doll.

“It puts new life in my business,” Lhuillier said of all the brand-building opportunities.

Lhuillier, who launched a bridal collection in 1996, expanded her assortment in 2002 to include ready-to-wear and evening gowns, which have since been worn by Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone, Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Jessica Parker.

“Dressing a celebrity is like doing a fashion show for all the world to see,” she said. “You can dress one person and it [the picture] is printed everywhere. It helps build the brand.”

And Chicago has always enjoyed Lhuillier’s work, the designer said. “It was one of the first cities that embraced me when I started in the bridal business 10 years ago,” she said.

Last year, Lhuillier was voted audience favorite from a field of eight designers, including Wayne Clark, Doo.Ri, Alice Roi and Milly, at the 2005 Gold Coast Fashion Award Show.

This year, the award went to Dennis Basso, who presented fur creations and eveningwear from his fall-winter 2006 collection. Some 1,500 people attended the event, including designer Gilles Mendel, who was in town for the opening party for his J. Mendel boutique on Michigan Avenue.

After the designer segment, which highlighted fashions from Brian Reyes, Thakoon Panichgul and Marchesa, among others, audience members voted for their favorite, which was announced at the end of the afternoon event at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. This year’s show raised a record $475,000, which benefits the Children’s Service Board of Children’s Memorial Hospital.

Past Gold Coast Fashion Award Show winners include Bill Blass, Carolyn Roehm, Anne Klein, Pamela Dennis, Donna Karan and Chicago designer Maria Pinto.