Raoul



Raoul is a prominent local fashion brand established in 2002. The brand is found on menswear, womenswear and accessories that are sold in over 30 stores worldwide, and is one of Singapore’s largest womenswear export labels.1 Raoul is managed by fashion company FJ Benjamin and the brand’s products are produced by a team of international designers and consultants directed by Douglas and Odile Benjamin.2

Description
The Raoul brand describes its clothes as “affordable luxury” as it is a bridge label (below a luxury brand but above a premium brand).3 Most of Raoul’s fabrics originate from Europe, but the clothes are manufactured in Asia.4 The brand’s success has been attributed to its affordable, versatile designs and its international outlook.5

Founding
FJ Benjamin already had the intention to create an in-house brand since the early 1990s. However, the company was growing rapidly, so it was only after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the loss of distributing rights for two of its major brands in the early 2000s that Douglas Benjamin, the son of company founder Frank Benjamin, had the time to explore creating a new brand.6


Benjamin recognised the need for a brand that carried affordable, good quality shirts for men after his own personal experiences with poor quality shirts. He therefore decided to create an in-house brand with his wife, Odile, under FJ Benjamin.7 The name “Raoul” was chosen as it sounded international and was easy to pronounce.8 It was also the name of Douglas Benjamin’s son.9

FJ Benjamin had already acquired valuable experience designing clothes for Guess Kids and Baby Guess in the 1990s.10 Nevertheless, the brand initially faced difficulties as the fabric mills and factories it approached were unwilling to produce the small quantities of clothes that the brand needed. It was also difficult to acquire good store spaces as the brand was unheard of at the time.11

Development
The first Raoul store opened at the Millennia Walk mall in 2002 selling men’s business shirts. The store broke even by the first month of operation.12 In 2005, Raoul expanded to carry women’s apparel as this was a major source of revenue for most brands and female customers had requested for it. Two Raoul stores for women were opened: one at Millennia Walk and the other at Suntec City.13


By 2006, Raoul had diversified its selection of menswear to include not just business shirts, but casual shirts and accessories. It also produced a collection of Japanese movement watches.14 In 2007, Raoul branched out to produce fashion wear, as seen in its landmark fall-winter collection that introduced cocktail and party wear for women, as well as accessories. Raoul also launched an online store and opened its first women’s accessories shop in Paragon.15 In 2009, Raoul teamed up with Nokia to produce the Nokia N97 mini Raoul limited edition smartphone.16

Raoul currently has two stores in Singapore: one at the Paragon mall and the other at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) integrated resort.17

International expansion
Since its founding, Raoul has opened over 30 stores in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Dubai, Bahrain and Australia. As of 2012, it has about 30 points of sale in the US and 50 in Europe,18 as well as more than 150 concessions worldwide.19

In 2006, it partnered retailer Apparel with plans to set up 9 stores in the Middle East by 2009.20 In 2009, it made a franchise agreement with a Philippines-based company to open four stores in Manila by 2011. In the same year, it signed a deal with Singapore-born, London-based designer Ashley Isham to have its apparel stocked in Isham’s boutique, Acquaint.21 It also opened a showroom in New York to aid wholesaling of its womenswear line, despite the ongoing recession, as it wanted to signal its long term commitment to the US market.22 Raoul also began to boost its standing on the international scene by hiring international designers and consultants,23 as well as staging shows at fashion weeks, such as those held in Paris and New York.24

In 2013, FJ Benjamin signed franchise agreements with companies based in China and Sri Lanka to open stores in these countries. Raoul intends to open 27 stores throughout China by 2017.25

Achievements
Raoul is stocked in various established departmental stores worldwide, such as Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols in the UK, and Printemps Haussmann in Paris, France.26 It has also participated in various international fashion events, such as New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week, and locally, the Singapore Fashion Festival (SFF), Audi Fashion Festival and Blueprint Emporium.27 Its first show at the SFF was in 2008, featuring its spring-summer collection.28


Raoul’s pieces have been featured within and on the covers of prominent fashion magazines such as Women’s Wear Daily, Vogue (UK, Italy) and Harper’s Bazaar (UK).29 Celebrities such as ex-model Elle Macpherson and actress Zhang Ziyi have also been seen wearing Raoul.30 The Duchess of Cambridge wore a matching blouse and skirt from Raoul during her Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee visit to Singapore in 2012, resulting in those designs being sold out in Raoul’s stores within 24 hours.31

In 2009, the brand was praised by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam for its commitment to expanding internationally despite the ongoing recession.32

Timeline
2002:
First Raoul store opens at Millennia Walk.

2005: Expanded to carry women’s apparel.
2006: Expanded to carry casual wear and accessories. Agreement to set up stores in the Middle East.
2007: Expanded to carry fashion wear.
2008: First show at the SFF.
2009: Collaborated with Nokia to produce the Nokia N97 mini Raoul limited edition smartphone. Franchise agreement with Philippines-based company. Agreement to have apparel stocked in Acquaint. Opened New York showroom.
2012: The Duchess of Cambridge wears Raoul during her Singapore visit.
2013: Franchise agreements with companies based in China and Sri Lanka.



Author
Jan Yap




References
1.  Imran Jalal. (2012, October 19). Happy birthday, Raoul. The Straits Times, pp. 20-21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Lui, J. (2012, February 13). Hands-on fashion czar. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. RAOUL. Retrieved from http://www.raoul.com/index.php; Warden, G. (2010, December 6). Tipping point. The Edge. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
4. Imran Jalal. (2012, October 19). Happy birthday, Raoul. The Straits Times, pp. 20-21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Lui, J. (2012, February 13). Hands-on fashion czar. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Lui, J. (2012, February 13). Hands-on fashion czar. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Lui, J. (2012, February 13). Hands-on fashion czar. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Cheah, U-H. (2002, November 16). Putting his shirt on Raoul. The Business Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Boey, D. (2006, April 6). Shirt tales of success. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Lui, J. (2012, February 13). Hands-on fashion czar. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Clothes to make the man. (2007, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 109. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Cheah, U.-H. (2002, November 16).  Putting his shirt on Raoul. The Business Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Kerk, C. (2005, March 26). FJB’s Raoul to finally get a lady partner in May. The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Boey, D. (2006, April 6). Shirt tales of success. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Tan, J. (2007, May 28). Walk on the Raoul side. Today, p. 24; Bling it on, Raoul. (2007, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 118. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Koh, L. (2009, October 24). Let’s talk fashion. Today, p. 71. Retrieved from NewspaperSG;
17. RAOUL. Retrieved from http://www.raoul.com/index.php
18. Teoh, L. (2012, February 6). Raoul’s silk road to Asia. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
19.
Imran Jalal. (2012, October 19). Happy birthday, Raoul. The Straits Times, pp. 20-21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Chen, G. (2006, February 14). FJ Benjamin has high hopes for Raoul menswear. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Tay, M. (2009, January 23). Hats off to 2 local fashion brands. The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Warden, G. (2010, December 6). Tipping point. The Edge. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
23. 
Warden, G. (2010, March 1). FJ Benjamin’s Raoul brand comes of age, attracts celebrity following. The Edge. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
24.
Warden, G. (2010, March 1). FJ Benjamin’s Raoul brand comes of age, attracts celebrity following. The Edge. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
25.
Lee, N. (2013, July 5). FJ Benjamin signs deal for Raoul franchise in Sri Lanka. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
26. RAOUL. Retrieved from http://www.raoul.com/index.php
27. Koh, L. (2010, February 13). Roaring success; local brand Raoul is rocking the international fashion industry. Today. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
28.
Tay, M. (2008, February 21). Famous faces at S’pore Fashion Festival. The Straits Times, p. 61. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Lee, I. (2010, January 22). Raoul on the rise. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Warden, G. (2010, March 1). FJ Benjamin’s Raoul brand comes of age, attracts celebrity following. The Edge. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
31.
Imran Jalal. (2012, October 19). Happy birthday, Raoul. The Straits Times, pp. 20-21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Tay, M. (2009, January 23). Hats off to 2 local fashion brands. The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 29 January 2014 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Organisations