With a New York flagship set to open this month, Monique Lhuillier said now is a good time to launch footwear.
“Over the past six years I have worked with other fashion houses to make runway shoes,” the designer said of her eponymous ready-to-wear, eveningwear and bridal collections. “I always wanted to do it myself. It just took a while to find the right time and partner.”
Lhuillier has teamed with the New York-based Ask Alice LLC showroom, headed up by former Casadei USA President Sebastian Marzaro, for the spring ’13 launch. Ask Alice will handle production, wholesale and distribution. “I come from a long history of luxury licenses, and Monique fits [with my area of expertise],” Marzaro said. “It’s pretty, it’s luxurious, and it has big potential to become a diversified lifestyle collection.”
The Italian-made footwear will start with 20 to 30 SKUs, consisting of slender-heeled booties and pumps in delicate lace, suede, silk, snakeskin and metallics, retailing for $595 to $1,195. Like Lhuillier’s apparel offerings, a focus on femininity is at the core of the footwear’s aesthetic.
“[The clothing] and shoes work really well together,” Lhuillier said. “You can see from the detailing of the footwear and also the materials I chose, it is all a reflection of my [entire] collection.”
Even after 16-plus years in the fashion industry, the designer noted she faced a few difficulties in developing shoes. “The biggest challenge so far has been the amount of time it takes to make the prototype and how many times we have revisited and redesigned the heel and last to make it look unique,” she said. “I wanted to make sure the look wasn’t already in the marketplace. I didn’t want to just put my label on something.”
Long-term plans for Monique Lhuillier footwear include adding pre-fall and pre-spring collections, plus two bridal offerings each year, in addition to expanding the main seasonal lines, for a total of six footwear collections annually. The shoes are slated to debut in the Monique Lhuillier New York flagship and its branded stores in Los Angeles and Edina, Minn., as well as on its e-commerce site. In addition, Lhuillier aims to cultivate a robust wholesale presence.
“I want [the line] to evolve into a large [brand] that stands on its own,” she said.
Monique Lhuillier grew up in the Philippines and later moved to Los Angeles, where she studied at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She launched her first collection, a bridal line, in 1996, and has since expanded to include ready-to-wear and home goods.
When designing footwear, textiles and textures come first, said Lhuillier. “I always start with interesting materials,” she noted. “That could be an exotic skin or beautiful lace. I put it against my foot and I ask, ‘Is that flattering?’ It’s always about making the foot look lean.”
Laura Halabi, owner and president of Shoe Craze in Calgary, Alberta, perused the Monique Lhuillier footwear collection at FN Platform last month and liked what she saw. “We are looking for something completely new,” she said. “We are very excited [about the new line].”