Not content to dominate the bridal category, Monique Lhuillier has continued to prove her talent with a series of ready-to-wear collections, dazzling audiences with her decadent creations and becoming a celebrity favorite on the red carpet. Her fascination with fashion began at home—more specifically in her elegant mother’s closet— and Lhuillier pursued her design dreams at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, where she focused on evening and formal wear. After graduating, the newly-engaged Lhuillier began the search for a wedding dress and saw an opportunity in the market for the fresh, fashion-forward takes on classic bridal designs that she was unable to find. Success soon followed and Lhuillier became a household name for brides who sought out her brand of glamorous luxury. The decision to expand her fashion empire beyond white lace and tulle was a natural one, and colorful evening options soon gave way to sophisticated separates, accessories, shoes and jewelry. With each collection, the designer has stayed true to the signature design elements that got her noticed in the first place: romantic touches, exquisite embroidery and masterful construction.
How do you switch gears from bridal to ready-to-wear?
While there are differences between bridal and ready-to-wear, at their core my collections are about luxurious construction and the highest quality craftsmanship. The bridal line is full of fantasy. Each dress is designed as a stand-alone gown, and they are ethereal, whimsical and romantic. The ready-to-wear collection is more modern. It is for a different chapter in the Monique Lhuillier woman’s life.
Did you always want to design dresses?
I love the fantasy and glamour surrounding special occasions, so I naturally gravitated towards evening wear while studying at FIDM. However, it wasn’t until I was looking for my own wedding dress that I was truly inspired to design my first collection. I was really surprised by the lack of fashion-forward bridal options, and so I debuted a collection of bridal gowns the year after I was married and have since evolved the brand into ready-to-wear, handbags, shoes, accessories and more.
What inspired your fall collection?
I’m always inspired by travel and art and architecture. The fall 2017 collection is decadent, yet sophisticated. There are a lot more separates like trousers in varying fabrics and silhouettes, as well as blouses in silk lamé and poplin, in addition to the special occasion gowns with elaborate details like embellishments, appliqués and embroidery.
What trends are you looking forward to seeing this fall?
I am looking forward to seeing the trend of relaxed elegance continue, especially fluid fabrics, romantic floral prints and statement separates for more versatility.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
It’s been wonderful to create a true lifestyle brand that encompasses ready-to-wear, accessories, bridal, jewelry and home décor. Global expansion is also a big focus for the company now, and the spring/summer 2018 collection debut in Paris during Couture Week this July was an exciting milestone.
What’s your own go-to for a formal event?
I like to wear something that sets the mood, so it varies depending on the occasion. I like to keep my look sophisticated and elegant. A classic silhouette in a bold hue or vibrant print is an easy go-to for evening.
How does living in Los Angeles influence your designs?
I love that there’s this youth, energy and excitement that has been building in the city. LA has always allowed me to keep my own perspective and voice because the city is so diverse and segmented. It’s such an honor to be able to produce my line here and to support the LA manufacturing industry.
What is your favorite celebrity style moment?
I couldn’t choose a single favorite. I always love seeing my designs on strong, confident, beautiful women. Dressing Drew Barrymore and Sophia Bush among others for the Golden Globes and dressing Demi Lovato at the Vanity Fair Oscars After Party was a great way to kick off 2017.
What would our readers be surprised to learn about you?
I enjoy traveling with my husband and two children, especially being able to visit new contemporary art galleries. I love interior design and beautiful gardens as well as collecting modern art. I also love to be outdoors and active with my family. When we’re at home in Los Angeles, we hike and take walks on the beach.
Shop Monique Lhuillier at:
Saks Fifth Avenue, Greenwich, 203-862-5300
BACK TO THE FUTURE
France is having an effect on Alithia Spuri-Zampetti. The San Diego-born designer spent her childhood in Rome and studied at London’s Central Saint Martins, but her latest work for Parisian fashion house Paule Ka pays homage to her current French home. In order to create something new for a city of women who already know how to dress well, Spuri-Zampetti dove into the fashion capital’s history for inspiration. From there, she distilled everything from Baroque extravagance to the exaggerated silhouettes worn at Versailles into a collection that is both modern and wearable. Dressed-up separates are polished with playful details while evening looks show off a mastery of lace, metallic fabric and sophisticated embellishments. In a palette of rich jewel tones, they become a fantasy wardrobe for winter fêtes. Before taking the reins at Paule Ka, Spuri-Zampetti honed her expertise at Bottega Veneta, Valentino and for six years alongside Alber Elbaz at Lanvin. As their new visionary, she’s already proven herself worthy of taking the contemporary label to new heights while respecting the legacy of the beloved French brand.
How did you get started?
I used to love Japanese Mangas when I was a teenager and I used to draw the characters and dresses for the girls while creating stories. Little by little, I ended up only drawing dresses. It became a true passion for me and I decided I wanted it to become my job.
What inspired your new collection?
Strolling through history in search of the ornamental and the structural, I draw inspiration from the first impression that Paris leaves on any visitor: a marvel of opulent architecture, where past and present live under the golden glow of chandeliers and streetlights. History becomes a mirror that reflects the movements and figures that made Paris the epitome of style for centuries, but also an everlasting beacon that guides to its future. Likewise in fashion, from the courts of Louis XIV to the liberated garçonnes of the roaring twenties; from the rise of the couturiers of the fifties back to the exuberance of the Napoleon III era, she considers—without an ounce of nostalgia—the wealth of the past and the purity offered by a page yet to be written.
What’s your favorite part about designing a new collection?
I love to think about the whole story of the collection first, from the character of the girl to the idea of the setting in which I will present it. As soon as I have the right story in mind, I research and develop fabrics around it and I start working on shapes with my team of designers and modélistes.
Do you have a favorite piece from the collection?
The half/half white dress. When I saw the study for it (we always develop half side first to validate the volume), I decided to keep it as it was and put it in the show.
How has the brand evolved to meet the needs of modern women?
I think it’s evolved since my arrival as the vision of the woman has evolved. We went from a dated service of ceremony dressing to a contemporary selection of products for every occasion of a women’s life. From the perfect suit for the office, to a romantic weekend trench; from a well cut dress in a luscious color to a jersey pair of pants that are comfortable on a plane—but still chic—every piece is thought from a woman-friendly point of view. For evening, the design is more emotional, and it’s based on making the wearer feel good and unique.
You’ve lived all over the world. Which cities inspire you most?
London inspires me a lot, since my time there as a student. I haven’t stop visiting for inspiration.
How does living in Paris shape your work?
Paris is a very inspiring city and living here is a great inspiration for my work. The beauty of the buildings, the energy on the street, the multicultural influences and the sophistication of the language are all aspects of my daily life that I cherish.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
Working with Miles Aldridge on the artistic direction of the FW17 Campaign with Anna Cleveland. I always dreamed to do a shoot in which the model looked like she was scanned on an X-ray machine, and the difficulty was to not make it look gimmicky. I succeeded because I had the chance to work with some of the most professional artists in the industry: Miles, Anna and Vincent Olivieri, who made the set design.
Who’s the Paule Ka woman?
The Paule Ka woman is a contemporary cosmopolitan girl with a busy agenda. Work, cocktail, weekend, travel…The Paule Ka woman wants to be chic and comfortable in every occasion of her daily life, without giving up feminity and style.
What’s your go-to when you need to get dressed up?
Shop Paule Ka at:
Richards, Greenwich, 203-622-0551
Landing Bergdorf Goodman as your first stockist is the stuff of fashion designer dreams. And given that her days are spent whipping up fanciful concoctions for society swans and movie stars, it may seem like Elizabeth Kennedy is living in her own fairy tale come true. But the young designer has relied on hard work—not a fairy Godmother—to get here. Her résumé includes stints at Donna Karan, J. Mendel, Max Mara and Isaac Mizrahi, where she became head designer at just twenty-two. When it came time to start building her own line, Kennedy knew she had the skills from years of crafting couture gowns to execute her vision for evening wear: a fresh take on classic silhouettes, with drama derived from sculptural draping and graphic color combinations. Along with splashes of sequin sparkle, the gowns in her latest collection feature feather embellishments, a nod to the exotic birds that inspired her fall creations. And for those who’ve embraced the return of the pantsuit, Kennedy offered a formal version; a look that stood out in a sea of voluminous skirts. The bold move speaks to the designer’s continued success at pushing the boundaries of evening wear with a signature style that is both powerful and feminine.
How did you get started?
I grew up in Yardley, Pennsylvania, a little over an hour from Philadelphia. When I was eighteen years old, I moved to New York to attend Parsons The New School for Design. Throughout school I held a number of internships, my favorite being at Zac Posen. After graduating with a BFA in fashion design, I landed my first job as an assistant designer in the couture division at Isaac Mizrahi. Shortly after starting, I was fortunate to be promoted to the head designer for the collection. I worked alongside Isaac for the next three years designing both runway collections and custom couture for clients all over the world. I was sort of thrown into the deep end but learned a tremendous amount from it. In terms of starting my business, I always knew I wanted my own brand, even before college. In 2012— after years of working for a range of inspiring businesses—I thought, why don’t I just do this for myself? I had been building a portfolio of work that was all pointing in a similar direction, so I just followed my instincts. It is where my path led me.
Why are you so drawn to evening wear/dresses?
I felt disappointed by the couture/evening wear options that were available in the market. I wanted to change how evening wear was perceived.
What inspired your new collection?
The AW17 Collection is an abstract interpretation of some of the world’s most colorful and tropical birds. Elements were inspired by the color composition of the Golden headed Quetzel and Raggiana bird of paradise, as well as the texture of the Apo sunbird.
What trends are you looking forward to seeing this fall and on the red carpet?
Bold jewel tones and over-the-top embellishments—especially feathers—were incorporated into a lot of the fall collections. In the past, evening wear has been clean and more paired down. Maximalism is making a comeback and I am excited to see it on the red carpet this fall.
Who is the Elizabeth Kennedy woman?
I grew up idolizing the 80s and 90s supermodels; Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss are still “it” for me. There are also always Old Hollywood beauties like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly who are mainstays.
What is your favorite red carpet moment?
Laverne Cox at the 2016 Golden Globes. This was my first big red carpet moment and we developed the gown just for her.
What do you love to do when you’re not designing?
I love having friends over, making dinner and drinking wine on the couch. My husband and I also like to go gallery hopping. And of course, we love to travel. We own a beachside cottage in my husband’s hometown, Montenegró, where we like to spend the summer.
What’s next for the brand?
There are a lot of exciting things in the works, though I do believe expansion should be organic in a gradual and meaningful manner. We recently launched a fine jewelry capsule, as well as evening separates and suiting, both of which have been received well. Ready-to-wear and accessories are in our future as well, when the timing is just right.
Shop Elizabeth Kennedy at:
Bergdorf Goodman, New York, 212-753-7300