First Look: Raoul Spring/Summer 2014

Raoul SS04

The Sixties vibe is unmistakable, the conceptual strength sturdy. But hardly the front of the pack, how did Raoul come to this? That’s not quite obvious.

Just two days ago, on Friday the thirteenth in New York, the day after Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week ended, Singapore’s much-lauded label showed its SS2014 collection. The static presentation at the Highline Stages, a multi-studio space in the Meatpacking District, offered what, at first sight, could be Raoul’s best offering to date.

Silhouettes associated with Twiggy and prints vaguely recalling the graphic designs of Dutch typographer Jurriaan Schrofer (but are, in fact, influenced by Brit artist Ben Nicholson) form the backbone of the collection. The shifts, shell tops, tunics, and pyjama-styles reflect tight editing. There is a certain simplicity that is alluring as well and, at the risk of sounding trite, modern. But Raoul was not always like this.

Most press coverage of the line in the past has attributed Raoul’s aesthetic to its design director Odile Benjamin, who, together with her husband Douglas Benjamin, often took to the catwalk at the end of stage presentations. When the women’s collection was launched some 10 years ago, it was positioned as a take on the men’s, which appeared first in 2002. Looking at the show photos of the SS 2014 season, it may be hard to believe that not so far back Raoul was variations of the shirt before moving on to dresses not quite on the right side of the fashion track. The line was build on feminine construction that was classic rather than innovative, and it escaped a Burda-esque image mostly through savvy marketing.

About four years ago, New York-based stylist Haidee Findlay-Levin came onboard as a consultant. It was then that Raoul started its journey towards trend-led collections, and on the way, picked up accolades when celebrities and actresses started wearing Raoul very publicly. Ms Findlay-Levin’s influence is discernible, more so when you consider her reach with designers, stores, stars, and the media, connections so vital to the visibility of brands today.

The biggest achievement for Raoul came in September last year, when the Duchess of Cambridge, during her visit to our island, wore a silk outfit to the Rainbow Centre at Margaret Drive, effectively ranking Raoul alongside her favourite labels such as Jenny Packham and Erdem.

Exactly how much creative input Mrs Benjamin offered in the making of recent Raoul is not certain. Alone or with a lieutenant, the captain may be marching Raoul to the right evolutionary beat.

Photo:; Mireya Acierto/Getty Images North America

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