Singapore fashion label Raoul closes boutiques to focus on wholesale business

Started as a men's shirt label in 2002, home-grown brand wants to 'focus on wholesale business in the United States and Europe'

Once considered one of Singapore's most promising fashion brands, Raoul is the latest casualty of the current tough retail climate.

In February, it shut its Paragon store, the last remaining one in Singapore for the brand. Owned by fashion and lifestyle group FJ Benjamin, its closure came after M)phosis, another home-grown label, also shuttered all its stores here last November.

When contacted, FJ Benjamin's chief operations officer Douglas Benjamin would only say: "We didn't want to keep the Paragon store open and pay the rents that were being asked. Right now, we are focusing on our wholesale business in the United States and Europe."

Raoul, which started as a men's shirt brand in 2002, now has only a concession space in Robinsons where it carries only womenswear. It is also available online at www.raoul.com. Menswear was discontinued late last year.

While its retail space here has downsized substantially, the brand still maintains a physical presence worldwide. According to a spokesman for the brand, it recently opened a boutique in Doha in Qatar.

We didn't want to keep the Paragon store open and pay the rents that were being asked.

MR DOUGLAS BENJAMIN, chief operations officer of FJ Benjamin which owns Raoul, on closing its store. The label was worn by Kate Middleton (above), the Duchess of Cambridge, when she visited Singapore in 2012

Raoul also sells through a number of resellers and department stores in the US, Europe and the Middle East. These include Kadewe in Berlin and Harvey Nichols in Kuwait.

Selected merchandise is also available at online retailers such as neimanmarcus.com, harrods.com and saksfifthavenue.com, adds its spokesman.

Prices are about $270 for a blouse, about $360 for a dress and around $1,000 for a gown.

The label, run by creative directors and husband-and-wife team Douglas and Odile Benjamin, was once touted as one of Singapore's biggest womenswear exports.

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and likely the brand's most famous customer, wore an outfit from Raoul's pre-fall 2012 collection when she visited Singapore that year.

Other well-known fans of the brand include Hollywood stars Rebecca Romijn and Viola Davis.

The brand has also set up a showroom in New York in 2009 and in Milan in 2011. These are open only during these cities' official fashion weeks.

Administrative manager Lily Ang, 49, who used to shop at Raoul, says: "I like the dresses from Raoul. They are casual yet feminine and easy to wear. At least I can still find them at Robinsons, but since it was a big local brand, it's quite sad it doesn't have its own stores here anymore."

Fashion designer Sabrina Goh, 31, of home-grown brand Elohim By Sabrina Goh, is sad to hear of the news. She says: "Especially since Raoul has always been seen as a sound brand with years of industry experience, and financial and production clout. It really just illustrates how tough the current Singapore retail market is."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2016, with the headline 'Raoul shuts last store in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe