Raoul was born in a time when it was taboo for a man to sew, but even that could not stop him from becoming a successful couturier.
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he recalls being raised mostly by his mother and paternal grandmother. On a visit to his great grandmother’s house in the country, he could only watch as she sewed on a foot pedal-powered machine. He was impressed by her ability to construct garments for herself and others without relying on patterns.
While his great grandmother was visiting church one day, Raoul, home alone, collected several fabric scraps and began sewing his first stitches. When she returned, his great grandmother noticed her sewing machine needle was broken and questioned the young Raoul. While he was reluctant to respond, she leaned over to him and said, “Okay, I am going to teach you to sew, but don’t tell your father.”
Aside from learning the art stitching, Raoul built a foundation in classical visual design. As early as age seven, he began to sketch designs in the back of his notebooks during class. After early years of self-study, he attended the Luchetti Art School where he trained in painting and drawing during his high school years.
Upon finishing high school Raoul enrolled in Elia Rocha’s school to learn pattern-making, draping and sewing. Under her guidance he graduated as a professor of pattern-making, focused on a step once skipped by his great grandmother. He also began to build a following of private customers.
Raoul was introduced to Carlota Alfaro, the designer who taught Raoul the principle techniques of haute couture. Then came Raoul’s first major success. His design, worn by Mrs. Rose Perez, was entered into Elizabeth Arden’s “Cup of Elegance” competition. Their entry won. Raoul was invigorated for greater challenges, so he moved to New York in the early 1980s.
In New York City he started working as a freelancer for designers Julio Espada, Stephen Sprouse and Adrienne Landau. Jean Rosenberg, vice president and buyer for Henri Bendel who recognized Raoul’s excellence, became Raoul’s first major sale and later sold his designs to stores such as Lillie Rubin, Peggy Peters, Betty Bass, among others. Raoul worked alongside many prominent designers in NYC, most notable among them...Liz Claiborne.
After nearly a decade of commercial success, Blanco returned to the tradition of his grandmother, this time opening his design studio in Napa, California, to make individual garment with patterns determined by the women who wore them. “My preference is working directly with the ladies who wear my designs,” he noted.
Blanco moved to New Orleans in 2002, first opening on St. Charles Avenue. In 2004 he was commissioned to make the suit and gown for the inaugural celebrations of Louisiana’s first woman governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (of no relation). After the storm of 2005, Raoul relocated his studio to the expanding North Shore, while still serving clients worldwide.
Beginning the year 2020, Blanco began working from New York, place where his career began some decades ago. Blanco is available by appointment, and he loves to visit his clients at their place of choice. All for the FLAIR of good fashion, exquisite textiles, fabulous embellishments and great taste...