Wedding Week Fashion Fling

So far we’ve selected jewelry and bubbly libations for our royal wedding week. But what about a little fashion fling? If I were attending the wedding or a party celebrating it, I now know what accessory I would carry.  It all began at the Architectural Digest Home Show when the fashionable Maybelline Te, co-owner of Snug Furniture, wore a fabulous beaded bag that started a huge buzz both in real life and on twitter. As everyone enquired about it, we learned it was from the line of Maybelline’s close friend Joanna Lhuillier. From there, I was hooked.

photo by Mike Jo

Joanna Maitland-Smith Lhuiller comes by her creative genes honestly. The daughter of designers Diane and Peter Maitland-Smith, founders of the well known, eponymous furniture and accessories company, Lhuiller was exposed to international design at an early age. Born in London, she was raised there, in America and in Hong Kong and now lives in Cebu, in the Philippines with her husband and three sons. After earning a degree in Interior Design, Lhuiller worked in the United States, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

But it wasn’t until 2001 that she started her own business. After receiving a beautiful beaded hand bag from Paris as a gift from her sister-in-law, Lhuiller was distressed when it fell apart after only several wearings. It occurred to her that she could do better and that’s exactly what she did. Through word of mouth, she found local Filipino craftspeople to make her bags for personal use. But as compliments turned into orders, the demand grew organically and a store was opened at the Shangri-La, Mactan. Now sold in stores around the globe, her creations are worn by stylish women everywhere.

Lhuiller’s first bag, that has become her signature and best seller, is the three tiered Flamenco bag, named after the skirt used in the Spanish dance.

The collection now contains many other designs but only a few of each are made. Quality control is hugely important and Lhuiller checks each bag personally. She takes great pride in the artistry of the artisans she employs and insists her business will never get so big that it requires mass production.

Each beaded bag is handmade, with materials sourced from around the world, requiring an average of three weeks to one month each to make. The Pansy bag (above) has an intricate design, of leather sequins, Swarovski crystals and a variety of Japanese and Czech beads, that takes 24 days to finish. Or take a look at the workmanship of the beautiful Daffodil bag below made of Pukol fish skin with gold octopus applique.

And Lhuillier is proud to point out that “A signature thing about my handbags is that when you open one, it’s just as beautiful inside as it is on the outside. Where do you buy a bag that’s beaded inside? Lift the skirt and it’s beaded. No corners are cut.” Lhuillier also will consider custom orders, as long as she feels the request is something within the aesthetic parameters of her line. “As long as I like the colors that they choose, I can work with it. If it’s something that I would never do, I won’t put my name on it. I’ll just have to excuse myself and say I’m sorry I can’t work with that.”

In 2007 she added accessories to the line such as cuffs, neck ornaments and a few pieces of fine jewelry like these pendants below.

photos by Mike Jo

Lhuillier hopes to expand the line to include shoes and clothes. She has already started experimenting with tunics that for now are just for her, but judging by the genesis of the company, I would expect it won’t be long before they are available for the rest of us as well. The most important aspect of her business is that she feels fulfilled and Lhuillier explains that after ten years, she is still enthralled with the process. “The excitement has not dwindled at all. I get up every day with a passion to come to work. That’s very important. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it, at least not this long.” Lucky for us!!

31 thoughts on “Wedding Week Fashion Fling

  1. Beaded bags that last are definitely a rare commodity! These are just beautiful and are really works of art. I’m looking forward to the tunics

  2. Absolutely gorgeous–and I am not even a bag girl (shoes on the other hand…) but I would take all of them happily!

    You always have the info on the best, brightest and newest.

    Have a great day today! :)

  3. What a work of art! I think that if I was not using it for an occasion I would just sit it on a table and stare at it. I must follow up on this gal. I can’t take my eyes off the octopus closure on the one handbag…brilliant!

  4. Another wonderful recommendation! I love the Pansy and the octopus applique is fantastic. The cuff is a gem, too! Would love to see more! ox

  5. The workmanship and the creative passion are amazing. I’m curious to see how the jewelry line develops-I would love one of the cuffs. The turquoise and rock crystal necklace is also gorgeous.

  6. I love the pure “serendipity” of her experience. . .the germ of an idea that spawns a unique, artistic business. . .all from a gift sent by her sister-in-law! This is the icing on the cake. . .we never know what’s around the corner!

  7. Gorgeous! My favorite is the daffodil bag…can’t wait to see her clothing line…I think she would do a fabulous job! Take care, Caroline

  8. Those bags are like little pieces of art! I love them all but the one I have my eye on is the three tiered Flamenco piece. So STUNNING! Have a great Thursday morning, my dear

  9. WOW so happy to see my beautiful bff on your blog. Glad you got to know each other through this process :-) It was my pleasure to share all this gorgeousness!

  10. I love the part about being just as beautiful on the inside as the outside. That is so important to the feel of quality and how you yourself would want to be when stepping out for an occasion! XO, Kelly

  11. How Awesome!! I went to the AD show, not sure how I missed these. Guess I was too focused on stuff for the Montauk house. I love the bag with the octopus!!

  12. Stacey your blog post about Joanna Lhuillier’s rare beaded beauties above have me dreaming of the day that I could possibly own my own fabulously designed Lhuillier clutch. These bags fit in nicely with all of my other champagne wishes and caviar dreams! They’re exquisite and so was this creatively written post! ~ Thank you!

  13. Oh, they are gorgeous. They’re jewelery, really. I can’t think of a more beautiful thing to carry. And I think they would be just as perfect and stunning as a statement with jeans, a white shirt and heels as they would with a little black (or blue, or red, or green) dress!

  14. Love this! These little beaded bags can go anywhere and be appropriate can’t they. I’m going to do a post showing an entire ensemble suggesting the perfect outfit to wear to the Royal Wedding, from top to toe. Someone told me the guests must be in place at Westminster Abbey at 8:30AM, awaiting the wedding. Wowzers! Imagine how early one would arise to get there on time. We are having a girl’s party beginning at 3:30AM, come in pj’s, to watch on TV. Not even sure I want to do this. xx’s

  15. Talk about one-of-a-kind treasures, these really strike me as pieces of art, I can see them under glass and on shelving in a gallery. I love that she individually inspects each one, that is the only way to protect the quality and brand, good for her.

    Thank you for introducing us to another remarkably gifted designer and her work!

  16. These are exquisite and are like rare little jewels! I must start saving for one! I wonder what the price point is..going to use my imagination on this one……$$$$ they are stunning works of art. Thanks for the introduction, good design is certainly in her blood. Absolutely fabulous!

  17. I am just in love with Joanna’s bags. They are exquisite! I adore that you have given us the background of how she made her dream come true!

    Art by Karena

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