2004 Aug Issue
Cover Story
Inspired Raoul-out
Other Stories
Security & Fire Prevention: Human-techno collaboration - for better fire safety & securitye
Big rise in use of CCTV surveillance, access control in India
Franchising/licensing scene in Asia gets boost
Successful debut for Hong Kong's Summer Sourcing Show 2004

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Cover Story
Inspired Raoul-out

When fashion-and-lifestyle retailing group FJ Benjamin first hit on a plan to create a stylish full-service boutique for Raoul, its first in-house label for men, it chose to work with Kingsmen. Yoki Wong tells the story of how Kingsmen's creative team conceptualised and successfully implemented the roll-out of Raoul as a total shopping experience for the male gender.

In his project brief to Kingsmen, Douglas Benjamin, managing director of FJ Benjamin, said:
"We want Raoul to have an environment that is inviting, comfort- Iable and contemporary. Ultimately, we want a store that attracts men, is not overpowering but simply lets the stock speak for itself."

Roy Ong, creative director of Kingsmen, took Benjamin's vision and translated it into reality. The first store was opened in September 2002 in Singapore? Millenia Walk and, within a span of 22 months, the group rolled out 12 Raoul boutiques across the region, with four each in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. More are in the pipeline.

Ong tells RETAIL ASIA: "Our role here is to express this message in a physical form by creating a fresh, contemporary and comfortable boutique environment that will relate to its
ideal customers, [make them feel] as if they are in their own home and, most importantly, [give them] a lifestyle-shopping experience."

In developing the concept, Kingsmen first created a profile of the ideal Raoul customer, or "the man of Raoul" whom Ong describes as "extreme and career-minded yet a fun-loving individual who looks for a no-frills and noconfusion approach to everything he does"

Raoul seeks to cater for such an individual and thus "Change the shopping experience for men" he says. It should project "sense of space and clean simplicity" that appeals to the male shopper.

One of the considerations of creating a new store concept is that the designer needs to understand the merchandise.

"As with all new brands and product lines, the retail design was developed at the same time as the merchandise range. This initially created some constraint, especially in the understanding of the merchandise as it was not fully developed then?" says Ong.

The most challenging aspect of the project for Ong and his team, however, is to ensure that
the concept is applied consistently regardless of the location and country.

As every store designer knows, it is not possible to apply a single idea to all outlets, cookie-cutter style. "Each store, and each location, is different and should be treated individually. We must constantly adapt and improve and not run the risk of watering down the original concept," asserts Ong.

He then explains: "Each store in every city/country represents an evolution of the brand concept, and each site presents fresh challenges. In some stores, for instance, the team had to work within extremely small and tight [confines] and so had to maximise the available wall area."

Kingsmen created the original Raoul boutique, located at Millenia Walk, in four months, taking three months to perfect the concept and one month for the fit-out. Subsequent stores took about two months, from design to fitting out.

As the stores continue to roll out across the region, it is clear that Kingsmen's creative team has managed to transform a vision into reality for FJ Benjamin.

Benjamin points out that when it comes to fashion trends, Asian men are becoming more adventurous. "They want to experiment yet feel relatively secure. They want to look good without looking silly," he says. Raoul is designed to meet these needs. "We feel there is a
niche in the market for a store such as Raoul."

FJ Benjamin's first inhouse fashion brand for men, Raoul competes with international labels for the same customers - from men in their 20s to those in their 50s. The concept has taken off so well that FJ Benjamin is now talking to various parties to franchise the label internationally.

Indeed, since its introduction less than two years ago, Raoul has already made a name for itself on the competitive menswear scene. The Raoul boutique stands out from other stores for its simplistic, no-fuss approach to the decor, designed to attract its ideal customer - the 'man of Raoul'.

"We have received a lot of comments from our customers who tell us they like Raoul and are comfortable shopping there. It's very comfortable and very bright in the store. You can see all the merchandise without being hampered by unnecessary pieces of furniture and fixtures," says Benjamin.

He believes that it is a combination of good design, use of quality material and small yet significant touches in the display and setting that makes Raoul a hit with the savvy man-about-town.

Walk into a Raoul boutique and you will see a display accented by a hightech weather barometer or a quirky window showcase featuring a refrigerator displaying shirts and ties on its shelves.

The comfort of the shoppers and their companions is also very much part of the store concept, as is evident in soft touches like the inclusion of a potted plant, an inviting couch and piped-in music, along with welcoming yet nonintrusive service on the shop floor.

A unique characteristic of Raoul is that the music played in the store changes throughout the day to give customers a different experience each time they are at the store - fast-paced in the morning, jazzy in the afternoon and chilled-out at night, says Benjamin.

If the customer hears something he likes, he can buy it on the spot at the music corner in the store, which carries a carefully selected range of the latest music, mostly from Acid Jazz, Chill Out, Jazz and Ambient.

As the appointed designer for FJ Benjamin, Kingsmen has so far worked on 20 outlets, with more on the drawing board. "Our experience working with FJ Benjamin, one of the leading retailers in this region, has been both challenging and rewarding," says Ong.

How a store is designed will have an impact on a shopper's experience. The design of a store - particularly a highend fashion boutique - can enhance the customer's total experience.

"When conceptualising the design of a store, we take great pains to ensure that all the components work towards creating a seamless shopping experience through a fluid, open environment," says Ong.

Kingsmen applies this core philosophy to all the projects it handles for retail clients such as FJ Benjamin, with which it has a long and synergistic relationship.

As Douglas Benjamin affirms: "We have worked with Kingsmen for many years and we feel comfortable working with the company. It interprets our needs and translates them into realities."

About FJ Benjamin

The FJ Benjamin Group has, over the past four decades, been an industry leader in managing the retail and distribution of fashion and lifestyle products. Its portfolio encompasses exclusive internationally renowned brands in fashion apparel and leather goods, luxury timepieces and home accessories.

The Group, which has its head office in Singapore, maintains a strong and vibrant presence in the Asia-Pacific, with 50 retail outlets and active distribution channels in many markets in the region. Its fundamental business thrust is in the licensing of its apparel and fashion brands.

About Kingsmen

Kingsmen () is one of the leading three-dimensional communications design & production groups in Asia Pacific catering for retail and office interiors, exhibitions and museums, events and environmental graphics.

It has 15 offices across Asia Pacific and Middle East delivering one-stop shop solutions: Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Jakarta, Tokyo, Osaka, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Dubai.


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