Monique Lhuillier Bridal Spring 2020

Monique Lhuillier is pushing ahead with her first store at South Coast Plaza, opening in the fall.

The 7,000-square-foot space will offer the Los Angeles designer’s bridal, ready-to-wear and accessories lines, as well as the brick-and-mortar debut of the ML Monique Lhuillier contemporary collection, previously only sold online.

The designer has been looking at the shopping center since the beginning of the year, according to her husband and chief executive officer Tom Bugbee, who admitted the pandemic did give them pause about opening a store. “But at the end of the day, it’s the premier indoor mall in the U.S., and for many of the brands it’s their top location outside of Fifth or Madison Avenue. So we said let’s go for it and set up for growth immediately, as opposed to seeing what happens in the retail climate,” he said.

With the flagging department store business, “Controlling our own retail and our own destiny” has become a top priority, he added. “Neiman Marcus is our biggest customer. Fortunately, we didn’t get really burned like some others, but it does make you question a long-term strategy of exclusively relying on department stores and wholesale partners.”

The new flagship brings the Monique Lhuillier store count to three, including Melrose Place and Madison Avenue locations. New York is the brand’s biggest market, followed by Southern California. Bugbee began looking at South Coast Plaza to better service customers who were traveling from San Diego and Orange County to shop at the L.A. boutique.

Located adjacent to Saks Fifth Avenue, the South Coast boutique will be the brand’s largest with six fitting rooms, and ample space to socially distance and showcase all categories, including a forthcoming lingerie collection bowing next spring in time for the company’s 25th anniversary.

Lhuillier has been in expansion mode this year, launching her first fragrance in February, and broadening her partnership with Pottery Barn with the addition of a lifestyle collection for PBTeen. Last week she released her spring 2020 bridal collection (mixing “Spanish flair with California ease”) via an online look book, and has seen success selling it through online trunk shows, Bugbee said. “We sold quite a few styles; the customer wants newness. Even if it’s a small collection, it’s something to get them excited.”