When one’s fashion show doesn’t begin until 7:30 PM at the end of a very long day, one has to get really creative if one wants any response from the audience other than polite clapping and a collective yawn. This isn’t Monique Lhuillier’s first trip to Lincoln Center, though, and she came prepared with enough surprises to keep everyone guessing and even generating audible oohs and ahs from a fashion weary crowd.

Ms. Lhuiller is expected to bring a bit of sophistication and elegance to her runways. Her bridal collection is extremely popular and her ready to wear line typically follow suit, providing appropriate clothing for mothers of brides, brides maids, and others with an obligation to  wear something not quite off-the-shelf. We expect tulle and crinoline, large skirts and modest silhouettes. Total refinement is what one expects from Monique Lhuillier.

We were surprised. Not in the sense that Ms. Lhuillier  strayed from her usual elegance, but that she brought to that elegance the use of contemporary fabrics, including metallic, in ways we never would have expected. Here was some much needed and much appreciated innovation that steps up the game for high end formal wear quite dramatically.

Monique started with white applique flowers, first on a skirt, then the bodice, and then the collar, very tasteful to be sure, but dramatic in the sense they brought a 3D effect to the garments that was quite unexpected. Bead work we’ve seen, but this was much more substantial and visually different. The petals were just large enough to waver in the breeze as the models walked past.

Ms. Lhuiller also played a bit with smokey sheer plastics; not to the point of being immodest, mind you, Models were quite sufficiently covered at all times. Still, any kind of plastics, and especially a smokey sheer as we saw here is truly innovative. One piece that produced a cape trailing behind the dress was dramatic almost in super hero proportions.

Silhouettes were mixed up a little with Monique opting for a few minimalist designs, something I don’t recall seeing in her repertoire previously. While she didn’t dabble in that field too terribly long, the few pieces she did present were beautifully done. One can only wonder if we might see more of this work in subsequent seasons.

Perhaps the most surprising element was the shimmering translucent metallic with a rainbow effect, both opaque and sheer. While the material has been around for several years and made appearances off and on in various daywear brands, I feel rather safe is saying this is the first time we’ve seen the material put to use in such an elegant and formal manner. The technicolor effect was nothing short of amazing and was quick to elicit a favorable response from the audience.

Monique returned to more traditional fare for her last few looks, resplendent in the incredibly detailed beadwork for which she is well known, yet somehow managing to maintain the sparkle and shine she had established with previous looks. Topping everything off, shimmering strips of translucent confetti fell from the ceiling through the finale walk, wrapping the whole show in a ribbon of celebration.

Being successful in fashion is challenging. One has to find new and exciting ways to stretch, to challenge not only themselves but the whole industry. I do believe Monique Lhuillier achieves that goal with this collection. Certainly,her peers should be on notice that the same old collection of tulle and crinoline just isn’t going to work any more.

Photo credit: Valerio Mezzanatti

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