Singaporean label Raoul is riding high (literally) in the fashion world thanks to a series of consistently impressive collections in the last few years. And now, thanks to recent preview of their AW12 (Autumn/Winter 2012) collection, Raoul has got the fashion world in a tizz with its racing and riding theme. Think jockey silks, knee-high skirts and lots of leather. Phew. Where's my riding crop?!
For too long, this highly desirable label was only available to buy in the top London boutiques and department stores. But no more. As a born and bred Mancunian, I'm pleased to see that Raoul is now 'riding high' in Manchester too - reflecting the growing popularity of the label with sophisticated shoppers north of the capital.
So why is everyone, including the more sophisticated celebrities, getting so giddy about Raoul? Well, the label was set up originally as a stylish men's shirt design house in 2002 by dynamic husband and wife duo Douglas and Odile Benjamin, of the LK Benjamin clothing empire.
Recognising that clients appreciated the high-end quality and cut of their collections, the Raoul duo decided to expand in to women's wear and, gradually, what is now their very successful accessory line. If you haven't yet checked out their beautiful, minimalist satchels and purses, do. They are mini works of art.
Raoul's since employed some very forward-thinking, young, creative, fashion design visionaries to boost the label's youthful appeal. Thus, the collections often use references from retro-cool movies (think Blow Up, Two For The Road) and film stars with an iconic sense of style from the 60s and 70s (think Hepburn, Streisand, Farrow and Dunaway).
I was first introduced to the Raoul label through leading London high-end boutique, Press, in Primrose Hill. The creative energy that's behind the 'hottest shop on the hill' is Melanie Press and what she doesn't know about design and style, is not worth knowing. London's top celebs and fashionistas flock to her shop, as they know too, she has her finger firmly on the fashion pulse.
Melanie is a former St Martin's School of Art fashion design talent. After graduating, she was in hot demand internationally. She elected to work in New York for almost a decade for Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs. She later became Creative Director for Whistles before launching the Press boutique. Melanie's fashion acumen and connections are enviable so, when selecting new collections for her boutique and prestigious clientele, she casts a very discerning and extremely knowledgeable eye.
She explained to me that she stocks Singaporean label Raoul - not just because of its popularity with the more refined shopper - but because of the clever cut of each design and the overall futuristic-meets-retro blocking styles, appealing to young shoppers too. The famous Raoul 'Kate dress', she adds, has been a runaway success with customers.
Like me, Melanie was very pleased that the powers behind the label have embraced Manchester's fashion scene too. It is a sign that the city continues to be taken seriously by top designers.
Raoul was initially launched at Manchester's superb city centre Selfridges back in February where I was kindly invited along to a very impressive exclusive show of the SS12 collection. What a delight. Well done the team at SKV Communications.
Not only was the wonderful Joy Yaffe herself there (Milan-based Yaffe is very important fashion fixer). A global brand consultant, Yaffe is hugely respected fixture at all the international Fashion Weeks and she herself has Manchester roots. She was joined by the gorgeous Kim Hersov - Editor at Large of Harper's Bazaar and the talented Jordan McDowell - a top fashion blogger and a man with a real passion for style. Together, we were treated to a mini-catwalk in the refined surrounds of the store's restaurant, Aubaine. Very classy - very Raoul.
The Spring Summer collection - available now - has something for everyone, with its hot pinks, leather panels, animal prints, edgy blocking and the very popular daisy collar detailing. The prices are sensible and won't require a stiff drink afterwards, I promise!
Go and see for yourself. Excitingly Raoul has also recently launched at prestigious top Manchester fashion store, Flannels too. The store is a big favourite with the region's style conscious ladies, Cheshire chicks and of course, premier league footballers. You'll find Flannels in the very smart luxury shopping hub The Avenue in the city's Spinningfields area.
So, Singapore, New York, Paris... or Manchester - it's all rock n Raoul - enjoy.
Follow Collette Walsh on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ColletteWalsh