Monique Lhuillier doesn't trade in fashion for mortals—the sorts of people who stoop to wear snow boots in the front row. Instead, she designs for clients
whose earliest obligation of the day arrives around cocktail hour; she outfits women who feel most themselves at red-carpet events.
It's only minimally confounding that these women don't really exist. Even VIP show attendees Lydia Hearst, Bridget Moynahan, and Connie Britton probably have to take out the garbage at some point. The secret to Lhuillier's success is that for every awards show beauty who slips into one of her gowns, there's a mother of the bride in Texas searching for a dress that comes with its own sense of magic.
This season, Lhuillier found inspiration in a piece of malachite. The gemstone's deep green striations appeared at the end of the runway as the show opened with a series of winter white looks. Digital prints of feathers looked like knitwear on a floor-sweeping gown, without the weight. "It's kind of like stepping into heaven a little bit," said Lhuillier.
Concessions to daytime ended there—on to cocktail hour. A roomy A-line dress came pebbled in copper sequins before the embellishment disappeared in favor of printed takes on Baroque beading. A few close-to-the-body lace dresses hit a new length for Lhuillier, ending just above the ankle, a hemline the designer said "feels newer" (it's also an ideal way to showcase her shoe collection, now in its second season). Lace catsuits with beaded dusters and cigarette pants with high/low tops offered convincing eveningwear alternatives.
But we're really here to talk about the gowns. Saturated malachite prints on chiffon and faille cried out for red carpets. The lace across the back of a fluted black gown made the model look tattooed with a giant spiderweb (the gown is already on hold for an event). Black jet beading traced Art Deco trails over the nude chiffon body of another stunner. The second half of the show felt like a parade of potential Oscar gowns.
All the detailing could get a little heavy. A purple silken-fringed gown teetered on the edge of dowdy, but the red version had the dynamism and allure of a flame. Minimal, it's not. But that's never been Lhuillier's goal. She has both feet firmly planted right where they belong: on the red carpet.