Monique Lhuillier, Fashion Designer

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'A lot of my friends have been celebrating milestone birthdays, whether it’s 40 or 50. Two years ago, when I celebrated my 40th, I rented a penthouse suite, brought in a black dance floor, and set up a station for palm reading. It was really good! My husband surprised me by getting Chris Isaak to sing. Now for the rest of my friends, we get together and go on amazing trips—we end up going to Madrid a lot, actually. You stay up late, you’re together with friends, and everyone’s just having a great time dancing and eating.

For my husband’s 40th, I did a dinner and as soon as everyone was done eating, they pulled the velvet drapes and go-go dancers in little shorts with my husband’s name written on their butt came out . It was so fun, they were shaking and dancing and kept telling everyone, 'Come on the dance floor!' Thank goodness for Uber, that’s all I’m going to say. [Laughs]

THE WORK/PARTY BALANCE

The thing is with me is, I have two kids and a brand I’m very protective of and involved with. I usually go into the office every day and come home by 11pm at the latest. I have my tea, check my Instagram and my emails, and make sure everybody has what they need before looking at my schedule for the next day. I’m in bed by 11:30pm—midnight the latest. Though when there’s an opportunity to go out and celebrate, I like to experience new things. I stay out later, especially when I’m in New York. Now that I'm older, I have this ‘You Only Live Once’ attitude, so I'm open to more things. It’s freer.

I like to go to museum events. LACMA is very near to my heart, and the Hammer Museum is close to our home in LA, so I go to a lot of their openings. If I'm out late, it's usually a lot of things that have to do with the community and charitable dinners. Though I design evening wear and see a lot of my pieces on the red carpet, I feel like it's so much behind-the-scenes work that I don't like to go to the events during award season. I like to be home watching the award show with friends. I don't have to get dressed up and can see how my dress looks on the red carpet from the comfort of my home. I remember when I first started designing evening gowns, after so many years of doing bridal, Angelina Jolie was one of the first people to wear my gowns. I was blown away that that's how my first red carpet debut was made.

With my line of work, there's this whole fantasy of getting dressed up, transforming yourself, and getting excited about what the night has in store. I still enjoy that. Growing up, my father was a diplomat so we used to entertain a lot. I would always watch my mother get all glamorous and be a wonderful host. And now, it’s nice because I’m starting to have that experience with my own daughter. She’s five and loves makeup, but doesn’t really put it on. She loves looking at me put it on, and she’s like, 'Oh the gloss! When can I wear makeup?' She’s very curious and has just started to love sparkle. She plays basketball but with a sparkle clip and sparkle shoes on.

STYLE

I always wear heels because I'm petite—I'm only 5 feet 2 inches. When I'm getting ready to go out on a Friday night, sometimes my 9-year-old son comes to me and says, 'Oh Mommy, you look so nice!' I like how he has an eye. He'll ask me, 'Is that new? Did you design that?' And then if he watches a fashion show of mine, he'll say 'Oh, the red dress I like—the green one not so much.' He's my best critic.

I do wear other designers, but I also wear a lot of my own clothes. I don’t only design for myself because there are things I can’t wear, but I still love the way it looks. My approach is to design clothes for different women with different body types with the aesthetic I like. I like to make clothes that are wearable. I don’t put things on the runway just for the editorial aspect.

Designing for weddings is also a big part of my style. I did that for seven years before I moved on to evenings gowns because I needed color in my life. I've worked with many beautiful brides throughout the years, though if I went to every wedding I was invited to, I'd be triple-booked on Saturdays every week.

SKINCARE PREP

I did a mask this morning for the day. The SK-II ones are the best. I heard a makeup artist talking about how great they were, but it wasn't until they sponsored one of my shows like four seasons ago that I actually tried one of them on. I was hooked. Every time I wear it, people can tell. I also love SK-II Wrinkle Specialist Moisturizing Serum. I put that on my forehead. Also, when I turned 35, I became a little more conscious of the sun, so now I wear a hat with SPF 50 to protect myself outside. I used to never be that way, but now it’s against us.

MAKEUP

My makeup takes maybe 15 minutes. When I do lashes, it takes a little longer. I don’t do individuals—I do a strip lash because I’m better at that, and it’s faster. I buy these Andrea Strip Lashes 10 at a time at the drugstore. I didn't really hear about them, but it was more like I needed lashes one night, decided to try these, and liked them. I do like to leave my house looking very polished—not overly done, but polished—because I never know if a last minute thing will come up, I have to go straight to an event after work, and there’s no time to come home. I’m not one who likes to touch up all day. When 7pm comes around, I can just put a lip on and maybe a little more mascara, and I’m out.

I use Jouer's Luminizing Tinted Moisturizer every day and a dark brown liner—either Charlotte Tilbury Rock 'n' Kohl Iconic Liquid Eye Pencil in Barbarella Brown or the Bobbi Brown Smokey Eye Kajal Liner in Black Coffee. The Bobbi Brown is a little darker, so I like to use it at night. Then I use a little brown shadow like the ones in Charlotte Tilbury’s Luxury Palette Color Coded Eye Shadow in The Dolce Vita to blend that in followed by a lot of Bobbi Brown Everything Mascara because it doesn't clump. I prefer a light lip—I used to experiment when I was younger and ask myself, ‘Hmm do I like the red lip?’ Then I would take it off, but now I know that doesn’t really work for me. I don't feel as comfortable in it, so I don’t even try it. I just go straight to what I’m comfortable with, which is a very light lip. Sometimes it’s lip gloss, sometimes it’s a nude, barely pink lipstick. But when my outfit is a little more playful and girly, I’ll do a pink cheek. I use Charlotte Tilbury's Cheek to Chic Swish and Pop Blusher in Love is the Drug. I’m OK with a little bit of bright color on my face.

HAIR

It’s normally down, and it’s normally straight. When I do go out, if I didn’t get a blowout, I’ll straighten my hair because that’s the only thing I know how to do. I like Moroccanoil Luminous Hairspray—it gives my hair a nice, sheen finish.

COMING HOME

I come to my kitchen and have mint tea. I check on my Instagram, look at my emails, text, and all that stuff. That’s my designated time to do that, then I turn off my phone, go upstairs, and then it’s my time. I think it also makes me sleep better when I do that. It’s unwinding.

I take off my eye makeup, my lashes, and the glue—all that stuff—and wash with Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser. I really like my skin to be clean, clean, clean when I go to bed, so I use a Clarisonic brush with it. I use Sisley Black Rose Precious Face Oil over my face, neck, and my décolletage. It just relaxes your skin after you wash it—it’s just so soothing. Then, I apply the Facial Treatment Essence from SK-II. Once my face is really clean is when I start putting moisture back in. I use the SK-II Essential Power Rich Cream, too. I follow up with Elizabeth Arden’s Eight-Hour Cream on my hands, lips, and sometimes around my neck and décolletage—not so much around my face.

I never fall asleep with my makeup on because I feel so guilty the next day. A long time ago, before I had kids, I maybe have done it once or twice, but it’s so bad for your skin that I haven’t done it in such a long time. No matter how tired I am, when I come home, I do my little routine even if it’s really late. Oh, and I shower, too, because I can’t not shower before sleeping in my nice sheets.”

—as told to ITG

Monique Lhuillier photographed by Tom Newton. For more Top Shelf After Dark, click here.

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