But when consumers see Lhuillier’s new 4,500-square-foot Manhattan flagship at 818 Madison Avenue, something else will register: ready-to-wear. Fans include Taylor Swift, among others.
“The goal of moving was to grow the ready-to-wear” said Lhuillier, whose previous store was on a side street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. “It’s very important that we keep the ready-to-wear and bridal together. As a brand, we didn’t want to fragment the offering.”
Lhuillier and husband and business partner Tom Bugbee made a strategic decision to display the designer’s ready-to-wear collection on the first floor of the new two-level flagship, concluding that the high-profile location will bring consumers through the door. The new address has far greater visibility than the townhouse at 19 East 71st Street.
So far, so good, Lhuillier and Bugbee said during a recent tour of the flagship. “Just the flagship’s presence on Madison Avenue is a sign of the uptick in walk-in traffic,” Bugbee said. “It’s a fantastic development. We did a trunk show for bridal and ready-to-wear, and the ready-to-wear was up over 200 percent.”
Lhuillier’s ready-to-wear shoes occupy a wall near the entrance. “These shoes are bestsellers,” she said, picking up a style with flowers immersed in a Lucite heel.
The flagship’s higher profile corresponds to Lhuillier’s growing ambitions as the fashion house seeks to establish itself in product categories, both related and unrelated to bridal. ML Monique Lhuillier is being repositioned as a bona fide contemporary label. “It’s for dressing every day and weekends,” the designer said. “It’s more relaxed. It gives a touch of the brand at a more accessible price point.”
WATCH: Monique Lhuillier Takes Us Inside Her Madison Avenue Flagship
“We’re definitely capturing a younger customer. When it was more focused on evening wear, the customer age didn’t go down. Soon, the contemporary collection will be rounded out with accessories and shoes. With just fine-tuning we could easily double ML sales in three to four years,” Bugbee said. “When we launch accessories and shoes, we’ll double sales again.”
Ready-to-wear isn’t the only product category that Lhuillier is thinking about. Following its introduction to the market in February, lingerie in June will launch at the designer’s flagships, wholesale partners and moniquelhuillier.com A signature fragrance will bow in early 2020.
“We’re stepping into the beauty space in February,” Bugbee said. “That opens the door to lip color and makeup. It’ll happen, it’s definitely something in the works.”
“Travel is an idea — the experiences that go with special occasions such as honeymoons and anniversaries. Honeymoon suites at different places,” à la Giorgio Armani-designed hotel rooms, Lhuillier said.
Lhuillier has an ongoing deal with Pottery Barn to design home decor, bedding and tabletop, and engagement rings, wedding bands and bridal jewelry for Blue Nile and Helzberg. “I recently added thebouqs.com, flowers for every day, birthdays and also bridal packages. I’m excited about resort wear and swim wear. There’s an opportunity there, probably through a license.”
The couple also has international expansion on the brain. “We’d like to open a flagship in London and maybe Hong Kong,” the designer said. “We’re getting more and more requests from people overseas.”
“Direct retail is the way to raise our profile in other markets,” Bugbee said, adding, “We own 100 percent of the company. I’m always willing to listen [to offers]. I’ve talked to people in the past, but it wasn’t right. I hope at some point we’ll find the right one. We’d really like to open more flagship stores.”
The new flagship’s two-story glass facade was designed by Montalba Architects to let sunlight stream into the store. “With the natural light, you can see the details on the dresses,” Lhuillier said, handling the sequins on a display of blush-colored ready-to-wear gowns.
Faux fur and real fur toppers hang on another rack, including a cropped, sheared mink jacket, and beige jacket with flowers incorporated into the fur.
White oak floors painted a custom shade of Lhuillier gray and light gray walls allow the clothing to take the stage. Texture is provided by Silas Seandel’s undulating metal credenza, tactile art by Nancy Lorenz and a two-story tree sculpture with flaming orange and red fall leaves.
Lhuillier is ratcheting up ready-to-wear accessories with a collection of architectural-looking acrylic clutches. A small gold satin flap-front shoulder bag with multicolored embroidery and grosgrain woven chain strap is $2,695.
On the second floor, a row of Ready to Wed dresses that can be purchased off-the-rack without alterations includes a white tuxedo suite, Point d’esprit bustier gown, lace separates of bandeau and skirt, fox coat and mink shrug.
Prices range from $6,800 to $17,000, and one-of-a kind creations, from concept and sketch through final fitting, start at $50,000.
See Monique Lhuillier designs: