Fashion and leather goods line RAOUL is the brainchild of Odile Benjamin and her husband, Douglas Benjamin. Originally launched in 2002 as a men’s shirt label by the duo, the brand eventually evolved to showcase sleek womenswear, and made its international debut on the Fall/Winter runways of New York and Paris in 2010. Stylish celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and The Duchess of Cambridge have been spotted wearing RAOUL, while Vogue, WWD, and Harper’s Bazaar have sung the label’s praises.
RAOUL launched in 2002 as a men’s shirt label and grew into womenswear and accessories. Tell me about the evolution of this brand.
We recognized a niche for quality men’s shirts at affordable prices back in 2002. Our customers started asking for more options; their wives and girlfriends started buying our shirts and having them tailored to fit them. That’s when we decided to add to our collection by launching womenswear in 2005. We started with basic shirts and quickly grew from there.
You run your business with your husband. How do you divide the design process between the two of you?
My husband is the brains behind RAOUL; he sets the strategies for the expansion of the brand. I am the Creative Director of the brand, and work on the designs and development of the various product categories. We collaborate very closely to make sure that we are both working with one vision.
Accessories are a huge part of your business now. How involved are you and your husband with this side of RAOUL?
At the onset of every season, Douglas and I discuss with the design team what our creative vision is for this category, and we identify accessories that have proved successful, and those that require further development.
A great deal of research is done by our field teams, which travel extensively. We both work very closely with them to make sure that the accessories range is commercially viable whilst complementing the ready to wear collection.
What do you consider RAOUL’s signature accessory?
The Janice bag is one of our key items. We started with this design in Spring/Summer ’11 and we continue to produce variations of it today.
Is the business still run out of Singapore? Is it at all challenging to connect with your US and Europe based clients?
Yes, the business is still headquartered and run out of Singapore. To overcome the challenge of reaching out to our international customers, we opened offices and showrooms in New York and Milan. Both are run by local teams who connect with our customers on a daily basis and give us the feedback we require.
How would you describe the Singaporean fashion industry?
It is a very diverse scene bridging East and West. It is becoming increasingly important as many see it as the gateway to Asia. Starting this year, Chanel has decided to present their Cruise collection in Singapore, and we are the only city outside of Paris, that has a couture fashion week.
Who is your customer?
The RAOUL woman is a multi-facted, mutli-tasking woman. The RAOUL man works hard, but likes to play hard as well. Both understand quality and are looking for a functional wardrobe that offers them timeless yet modern pieces.
Do you have any predictions for Fall 2013 trends?
For FW13, black is making a big comeback. Splashes of bright and fluro colours will be spotted in almost every collection. Technical fabrics that travel well are on everyone’s lips. We will see volume skirts and lots of ruffles.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
This is a challenging question as there are too many exceptionally talented designers and too many style icons I admire. Some are no longer with us, but have left a strong mark and their aesthetic will always influence the fashion industry to some extent.
Where do you see RAOUL in 5 years?
The brand is expanding in many international markets. In five years we hope to grow our presence in many of the key cities around the world, hopefully with mono brand stores. We are also currently known for being mainly a womenswear brand in the international scene: within five years our menswear will also be available globally.