Los Angeles designer Monique Lhuillier opened her first flagship in Los Angeles some 22 years ago.
Now, the bridal and ready-to-wear dress designer, who started her self-named brand in 1996, is traveling across the pond to launch her first European store in London later this spring.
“London was always our goal in terms of the international market,” said Tom Bugbee, the brand’s chief executive officer and Lhuillier’s husband. “It is an easier gateway to Europe. The ways of doing business there are similar to the U.S., and there is no language barrier. From our wholesale accounts [such as Harrods], we knew it was a market for us.”
Bugbee said the company started scouting retail locations in London around seven or eight years ago. The brand found a great space, but that deal fell through. Then the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the retail business into hibernation for months.
“When things were slow, this is when we started putting out feelers. We knew we wanted to be in the Mayfair area of London. There was never a doubt about that,” the CEO said.
In the end, Monique Lhuillier and her crew settled on an older building located in the heart of Mayfair at 69 South Audley Street. The building’s interior is being renovated for a planned opening around the end of May. “We fell in love with the space. It is a completely different vibe, more old world, traditional and ornate than we would have chosen, but the bones are really good,” Bugbee said.
The 2,100-square-foot location has a lower ground floor, for the brand’s bridal collection, and a ground floor for ready-to-wear dresses and accessories.
This is the L.A. company’s fourth and smallest outpost. Its first flagship debuted in Los Angeles in 2001, later moving to a larger 4,200-square-foot location in 2007 at 8485 Melrose Place in West Hollywood. Celebrities including Kristen Bell, Becki Newton, Rebecca Gayheart and Maria Shriver were on hand to celebrate the opening with the Filipino-born designer, who studied at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles.
The company later had a New York outpost on East 71st Street, which later moved to Madison Avenue.
During the pandemic, South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California, reached out to Monique Lhuillier about establishing a presence at the luxury shopping center, which houses several high-end stores including Saks Fifth Avenue, Max Mara, Chanel, Bottega Veneta, Gucci and Ferragamo.
So, the company opened a 7,000-square-foot location there in September 2021.
Now with the London store established, there is a possible Monique Lhuillier store on the horizon in Paris. “We would love to open a store in Paris,” said Bugbee, noting that the designer’s grandfather was French. “But first, we want to see the traffic pattern in the London store and where customers are coming from. Are they European or U.K.-based? When we answer those questions, I think Paris is one of the targets on our list.”