Friday, 3 February 2012

Raoul, an Asian Invasion

I love a good surprise. If I’m off to the press day for a new brand that I’ve never heard of I try my best not to pop their name into Google. I like to come to the table with a clear head and take the clothes as they come. I’d never heard of Raoul when I stepped into the Aubaine restaurant at Selfridges but when I stepped back out, I had a new style crush.

As well as being introduced to Singapore’s latest import (I’ll get to that in a minute!) I also got to have a coffee and a chat with Kim Hersov, editor-at-large of Harper’s Bazaar and Raoul’s Joy Yaffe, an international style-lady with her roots in Manchester! Kim is known for her style. A Californian girl at heart who paid her dues at American Vogue in NYC before up-sticks and moved to London, Hersov is a champion of British design and works with the British Fashion Council. However, today Hersov was endorsing an Asian brand, set to take over the womenswear departments across the UK’s Manchester and London Selfridges stores. 

Before I tell you about the girl’s stuff, I have a confession. You know I said I try not to Google a brand before I go into a press day. I lied. Well, I didn’t find much out... I just had a quick glance at the brand’s virtual look book.... The menswear is a dream. Think super sci-fi, 1984, Bladerunner – you could be a futuristic robo-cop in this minimalistic look. BUT, as Kim pointed out to me, it’s also tres tres ‘90s! Perfect, should go with my new hair do!

Raoul Men's AW11 Catwalk, Singapore Fashion Festival

Raoul began it’s life in 2002 as a men’s shirt retailer. Douglas Benjamin (son and heir to the F J Benjamin conglomerate) bought some expensive shirts in London only to find they fell apart after a few washes. He made a vow to good quality at a good price there an then and began the first F J Benjamin own-brand, Raoul. Since 2002 the brand has expanded to include womenswear, accessories and footwear. 2012 marks its first step outside London and into the other UK markets.

I was visibly stunned at the collection. I’m such a useless fashionista, I’m supposed to wear dark sunglasses and not care but my face was a picture and even Joy said, ‘I can see you’re convinced’.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking but for more on the collection click here to read my piece for Manchester's Finest. Scroll down for more of my chat with Kim and Joy.

Eclectic Silk n' Leather Dress

The Racer Dress

Cascading Gown

Lace Shift Dress

My chat with Kim and Joy was lovely. I was the only press member there for a while so I got to know a lot.

fR: Is Raoul of the moment?

KH: Very much so of the moment, because I think it really is in the proper price range and it captures that ‘90s minimalism but in a much more modern interpretation.

fR: Is this sophisticated, chic look something you personally shop for?

KH: I’m not sure, I think I’m eclectic.

fR: I think you are (I’ve been looking at your back catelogue..)

JY: You can see both of us with a piece of Raoul on, what’s interesting is that we’re both people who mix n' match. Raoul sits within an accessible luxury, certainly not an inexpensive one, it’s not a Zara or a H&M...

KH: No, because it’s about quality and I think that’s important to stress...

Some how, we came to the subject of Manchester

JY: Girls know how to club here! This is clubland, I used to be out five nights a week! Manchester has always been cool.

KH: I think British fashion in general is about true style. It’s so eclectic.There is such a freedom to the English way of dressing. I think right now in time looking at fashion it’s about a mix. High and low, vintage and new, that is what keeps it fresh. People don’t wear top-to-toe looks anymore.

I wear Calvin Klein Shirt, Kim wears Raoul Pumpkin Buttonless Extended Vest

fR: No, well you can’t afford to buy into just one look anymore.

KH: It’s also the mood of the moment, people are reacting against always buying the new thing. I mean I love it, working in fashion I’m always going to want to buy something new but its about mixing it up with something that might already be in your wardrobe.

JY: There is defiantly an inverted snobbishness toward someone who walks into a show wearing a top-to-toe look, well apart from when supporting a brand...

KH: There is a role in the industry for that and it’s respected...

JY: Generally we don’t appreciate someone being top-to-toe, It eeks of not having your own style or knowing who you are.

To read more of this interview visit The Fashion Network here