Welcome to E!’s Tales From the Top, our series on women who are leaders in their fields and masters of their craft. Spanning industries and experiences, these powerhouse women answer all the questions you’ve ever had about how they got to where they are today—and what they overcame to get there. Read along as they bring their resumés to life.
There was a time when people couldn’t say Monique Lhuillier‘s name. Now, it’s a household one.
But before she became the empress of evening wear and synonymous with wedding gowns (even Britney Spears was a client!), the Philippines-born budding designer was a bride-to-be herself—and not exactly thrilled with the options for her big day.
“I went to the bridal salon and I tried some things over there, but everything was either too traditional or like big leg-of-mutton sleeves and lace and very heavy, or the extreme was happening—it was very minimal,” she recalled in an exclusive interview with E! News of the options she found on hand in the ’90s. “I just felt like neither one was me. And I couldn’t believe that I was the only one feeling this way. So, that’s when I thought there was an opportunity in the marketplace that I could fill.”
In a way, it was fateful reassurance for Lhuillier, who was getting ready to graduate from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising around the same time of her engagement. But, first, she had a telling final project, one that helped plant the seeds for her career to come.
“There was going to be a runway show,” she recalled. “We all had to present a mini collection. And for some reason, I chose to do a wedding scene.” At that point, everything in her life was pointing to bridal. “As I was putting that collection [together], I was like, I really want to have my own collection. And I was thinking of the label and all this stuff. And then, I also got engaged at that time and I started to look for a wedding dress, and that’s when everything started to fall into place.”