Monique Lhuillier’s ‘Fantasy’
Diane Monique Llamas Lhuillier (born 1971, Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines) is a Filipino fashion designer based in Los Angeles. She is of mixed French and Spanish-Cebuano descent. She designs capture the essence of sophisticated luxury by provoking femininity, allure and glamour that have made her renowned in the world of design. Monique’s innate sense of style and understanding of a woman’s desire to look and feel beautiful are prevalent throughout her bridal collections.
Monique’s love for fashion is a lifelong passion. Growing up in the Philippines, Monique’s first experiences of fashion were with her mother whose own sense of personal style and elegance were major influences for the designer. Her mother, also a designer, ran a successful custom high-end collection of children’s clothing. At the young age of 11, Monique would sketch and pick out fabrics and customize her dresses with local couturiers in her hometown. Encouraged to pursue her dream of becoming a designer, Monique moved to Los Angeles to attend the Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising.
At 15, she was an outstanding student in Lausanne, Switzerland and hoped to become successful in the fashion industry. Her parents sent her to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), where she met her now-husband, Tom Bugbee. The couple founded their company in 1996 and launched their first bridal collection. The line was well-received by fashion-savvy brides, editors, and celebrities. Her dad gave her $30,000.00 to start with.
The breakthrough came after Monique designed the gowns for her wedding entourage. These captured the fancy of couture circles. Having had a difficult time finding her own gown, Lhuillier, a 23-year-old newlywed at the time, decided to begin sketching her own line of dresses. Her husband figured this was little more than a hobby, one that she would tire of soon enough. "He thought I had the wedding blues and eventually I’d get over it", she told USA WEEKEND Magazine.
In 1996, Monique debuted her first bridal collection to acclaim from retailers and magazine editors. The following year, Tom joined the company as CEO to turn Monique’s vision to establish a couture design house in to a reality. Their partnership has grown the business into one of the most successful brands internationally which now includes a ready-to-wear collection shown seasonally in NY as well as a tabletop collection for Royal Doulton, stationary and fine paper, and a bed , bath and home collection. In 2003, Monique Lhuillier was inducted as a new member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
In 2005, Monique designed a gown for pop icon Britney Spears for her infamous wedding with ex-husband Kevin Federline and since then designed gowns for Kristen Stewart, Kelly Clarkson, Christine Baumgartner, Sarah Gore, Giuliana DePandi, Allison Munn, Shanna Moakler, and Heidi Montag. Also, one of her gowns was worn by Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story.
Monique and Tom now live in Los Angeles with their two children, Jack and Sophia. Monique’s role as mother is her priority while she continues to lead design for her collections. She also devotes time to philanthropic efforts and is very active within her community.