As I stood backstage waiting to interview Monique Lhuillier, I heard the same thing over and over again. “Beautiful!” stylist Mary Alice Stephenson said to Lhuillier, as she embraced her in an effusive hug. “Beautiful!” sighed a group of style bloggers from Atlanta as they asked to take a picture with the designer. “Beautiful!” exclaimed the host of a TV crew from Dubai. And so it went on for 25 minutes, with mild variations.
Lhuillier’s program notes explained that she was inspired by opulence and drama with art deco motifs, but she also took the time to explore three other new things: formal cigarette pants, ankle-length formalwear (almost tea-length), and a full collection of shoes (that is new-ish, as it’s only her second time designing shoes.) She told me, “I wanted to give my women more options for evening. You notice there are cigarette pants with peplums and high-low gowns. I introduced a new length, which is right above the ankle – you can wear it to black tie but it shows off your shoes. I think the length is newer, smarter, chicer, and younger. The ball gown is gone this season.” And it seems like no one missed it. Embellishment was graphical and geometric, imprinted over illusion netting. One particular stunner that raised a round of sighs from the audience was a gold feather lace draped gown with that an ethereal layer of sheer tulle that drifted out from it like a bell. She experimented with 3-D printing in her separates, to give the illusion of heavy jewelry without any of the bulk. And the shoes were pretty great, if vaguely Alaïa-like, crushed velvet booties with slashes of cut-outs and ankle ties to elongate the proportion of the leg. Gowns had abbreviated hemlines, with swingy fringe or layers of sheer, exposed tulle in the front, all the better to show them off. The only distraction in the show was the front row appearance of Connie Briton, whose long, flowing hair mesmerized as many people as the gowns.