MORE fashionistas in the cities of the Middle East are likely to be donning threads from Singapore fashion label Raoul in the next five years.

The label, part of FJ Benjamin Holdings, is making its biggest push into this lucrative market.

The company announced a partnership with CGR FZE, part of Dubai-based Chalhoub Group, a specialist in retailing and distributing top brands, on December 5, 2013.

It aims to have nine stand-alone Raoul stores in the Middle East by 2017, with the first two in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2014.

This is the third franchise deal signed in 2013, after those for the Sri Lankan and China markets. Raoul’s franchise network in these three areas will grow to 37 stores over the next five years, it said.

Models in Raoul outfits during the Spring/Summer 2014 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Raoul, part of F J Benjamin, has signed its third franchise deal this year, adding the Middle East to Sri Lanka and China. — PHOTO: STARTRAKSPHOTO.COM 

Douglas Benjamin, the chief operating officer of FJ Benjamin Holdings, said: “We were introduced to Chalhoub by a third party and thought that their experience in the Middle East and their brand portfolio fitted very well.”

Raoul already has a presence in the Middle East, distributing to department and speciality stores.

“But we always felt it was a market that was going to be good for franchise stores.”

He is confident that the brand will perform well in the region, based on its performance and experience over there.

One factor that could have sealed the deal, he added, was Raoul’s collaboration with Raphael Young, an up-and-coming accessory and footwear designer, for its pre-autumn 2014 collection of shoes and handbags.

Benjamin said orders for the new accessory line designed by Young are already being taken in Milan and the United States.

“This is a big step for us and the shoes and handbags have already received a lot of positive attention and curiosity,” he added.

“Accessories form a major part of any label’s revenues, typically it could be 60 to 70 percent. Eventually, we could see this too for Raoul but this would be in the long term.”

Meanwhile, FJ Benjamin will continue to work with local retailers and plan for steady expansion, as Benjamin said: “We’re not just rushing to open stores everywhere, that is not what we want to do for Raoul.”

This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on December 6, 2013. For similar stories, go to You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.