GMA awards medal of merit to Hollywood designer Lhuillier
- Aurea Calica () - November 9, 2006 - 12:00am
President Arroyo awarded yesterday the Presidential Medal of Merit to designer Monique Lhuillier for distinguishing herself and for highlighting Filipino talent in the world of fashion design in the US — particularly in Hollywood.

Lhuillier has dressed famous Hollywood stars, including Oscar best actress winners Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Connelly. "Congratulations. It is an honor you have given to our country," the President told Lhullier.

"I am very honored to be welcomed in the Palace and given this recognition. This is one of the highlights of my career," the 35-year-old Lhuillier told reporters.

"I made a special gown for the President and we’ll see it on her shortly. (It’s) for the event on Sunday," she said, referring to the Monique Lhuillier Gala Fashion Show that will take place at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel under the sponsorship of the Ayala Group of Companies.

Proceeds from the fashion show will go to the Bantay Bata and Asia Society foundations.

"I really wanted to dress her. It was a collaboration and we’ll see what we came up (with)," Lhuillier said, who has refused to give hints about what she created for Mrs. Arroyo.

"We just have to wait. It’s very chic and elegant and that’s what the Monique Lhuillier woman is all about," she said.

Lhuillier has dressed celebrities up for the Golden Globe Awards, the Oscars and other red-carpet events. She has also designed outfits for Jessica Alba, Britney Spears, Halle Berry, Alicia Silverstone, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sharon Stone, Lea Salonga, Teri Hatcher, Maria Shriver, Zhang Ziyi, Diane Lane, Ashley Judd, Naomi Watts and Eva Longoria.

Lhuillier also designed Christine Baumgartner’s wedding dress in 2004, when Baumgartner married Kevin Costner.

Lhuillier said she was fortunate to have worked with these Hollywood celebrities and establish a growing business abroad, though she said the accolades were just a bonus: "Lately I have been sitting back and I am very proud of what we’ve done."

She has been very passionate about fashion since she was a child growing up in Cebu and enrolled in a fashion design school after graduating from high school.

Lhuillier made her first bridal collection while searching for her own wedding gown as a young bride at 22: "I realized I could bring something new to the selection."

She started her wedding gown business in the fall of 1996, and added ready-to-wear and evening gowns and dresses in 2002.

After 10 years in the business, Lhuillier, now a mother of a nine-month-old boy, has established numerous boutiques across the United States known for elegant bridal and evening gowns and dresses that cater to high-end customers.

Although it was tough for a young designer like her to break into the fashion industry and be taken seriously in the US and Hollywood, Lhuillier said she persevered and the hard work has paid off.

Mrs. Arroyo conferred the medal on Lhuillier in a simple ceremony at the Malacañang Reception Hall.

Lhuillier is the only Filipino to have received the 2001 Glamorous Bridal Designer Award, the 2002 Avant Garde Bridal Designer Award, and the 2003 Designer of the Year Award from the international Wedding Dresses Magazine and the bridal industry.

In 2003, she became one of the newest members of the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).

Lhuillier has been featured in Time magazine, CNN, O, Vogue, Vanity Fair and other leading international publications, including The Los Angeles Times, which called her "The A-List Fashion Designer" and Newsweek which described her as "Hollywood’s Hottest Designer."

A-LIST FASHION DESIGNER ALICIA SILVERSTONE ASHLEY JUDD AVANT GARDE BRIDAL DESIGNER AWARD AYALA GROUP OF COMPANIES BANTAY BATA AND ASIA SOCIETY FASHION LHUILLIER MONIQUE LHUILLIER MRS. ARROYO
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