Monique Lhuillier’s opulent gowns are enough to make a girl feel like a fairy princess. And now, after 16 years in business, fairyland has an East Coast address. Last month, Lhuillier finally opened her dream New York flagship on the Upper East Side, a milestone she officially celebrated yesterday evening with an appropriately luxe soirée. She and husband Tom Bugbee (the company’s CEO) discovered the 1890s townhouse two years ago and have been renovating it ever since. “We combined what was an existing retail store on the street level with a gallery that was available upstairs, then bought a one-bedroom apartment in the back, and somehow put it all together,” Lhuillier said of the 3,000-square-foot space. “All of the nooks and crannies make the experience private, like you’re discovering something, which is different from my very open store in Los Angeles.” (Not to mention from her unexpected third store in Edina, Minnesota.) Appointed with gray suede walls, jewel-box vitrines, and Lhuillier’s own Waterford crystal chandeliers (comparable models from the Monique Lhuillier Waterford lighting collection for sale, for the curious), the New York location greets guests with accessories and ready-to-wear on the ground floor, while the bridal collection, which makes up about 60 percent of the label’s sales, is stationed upstairs.
“Upon opening the store, we instantly saw just how ready people here were for us, and that’s a great feeling,” explained the designer. Despite setting up shop in the Big Apple, Lhuillier will keep most of her operations based on the West Coast, where the Hollywood set can’t seem to get enough of her red-carpet-ready frocks—or frock. Recently, Nicki Minaj attracted tabloid attention when she arrived at the American Music Awards in a chartreuse gown that Julie Bowen had already worn to collect her Emmy. “I had no idea Nicki Minaj was going to turn up in that Resort look, and I loved how over-the-top she made it—completely different from when Julie Bowen wore the same one at the Emmys.” One had to wonder if somewhere, a publicist’s head had rolled for the double loan. “Nicki and her stylist actually went into the store and bought it,” Lhuillier said. “So, no, everything you see on those girls isn’t always borrowed.”
Monique Lhuillier is now open at 19 E. 71st St., NYC, (212) 683-3332, moniquelhuillier.com