November 30 2011
It’s funny how certain brands enter your consciousness without your ever being sure how they got there, and then suddenly everyone is talking about them. I seem to have been on nodding acquaintance with the Asian label Raoul for ages, but it can’t be more than three seasons since I first found myself drawn to its designs, online at Matches and also at stores that stock it well, such as Fenwick. I have never seen Raoul advertised anywhere, yet now I find many others in the business citing it as a good-value, insiders’ secret brand and I’m a little miffed to find that others know about “my” discovery.
Raoul’s appeal for me is its ability to get the season’s shapes and colours right without exaggerating them, so you can move pieces gently on into the following year without looking as if you’ve lost touch. The brand also has an exemplary quality-to-price ratio on fabric and finish – based in Singapore, it has attention to detail that’s typical of a good quality south-east Asian brand.
My last summer’s dress – sage green cotton, generously full-skirted and longline – could be anything from 1950s (current) to 1930s colonial (next summer) in influence, depending on how I accessorise it. For winter, the look is slightly 1960s in detail yet contemporary in shape, and I love the idea of outlining fabric in contrasting soft leather, or vice versa. I was sorely tempted by Matches’ black A-line midiskirt with leather trim (£220, also in tan, second picture, and burgundy) but, unable to budget for more than one piece, fell heavily for a topical tunic in soft black leather, with trim and sleeves in navy silk (first picture, £298) – a subtle and sophisticated combination that’s so versatile I may have worn it to death by the end of winter.