Backstage Pass

Rafé Totengco—why he hates fragrances, loves printed shirts and goes with his design gut every time

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RAFE Totengco

Rafé Totengco is one Filipino who has put the Philippines in the international fashion scene. He’s bagged numerous honors, including Best Accessories Designer (the much coveted ACE Award) given by the New York-based Accessories Council.

Fourteen years after his gutsy move to New York, his namesake company now includes shops in New York and Japan, and distribution at department stores and boutiques throughout the world.

A look into his tastes, loves and guilty pleasures, as vibrant and varied as his designs, is enough to excite and give us a sense of inspiration for the coming new year.

PEVONIA Soothing Propolis Concentrate

I decided to veer away from designing classic and monotone handbags because… I love colors, patterns and textures. I love taking classic shapes and updating them with new details and materials and giving them a new attitude.

Some materials I’m fixated with now are… embossed ostrich, pebble leather and printed snake—all in one bag! You can look for the Suze tote, the Tina tech clutch and the Monique mini cross body from my latest collection, now available at Rustan’s.

The thing I love most about New York is… not only is it home, it’s also where I met me. Moving here was the one of the best decisions I ever made, and living here is a dream come true.

If there is one valuable lesson I’ve learned as a designer, it’s… go with your gut! If you truly love the design, other people will love it, too. There’s something for everybody. Design and the creative process has no rhyme or reason, it’s instinctive and emotional, so I always go with it.

I have a deep appreciation for travel because… it’s the best education. I’ve learned so much about other cultures and have met the most amazing people as a result of my wanderlust. As Diana Vreeland famously proclaimed, “The eye has to travel.”

AesopMoroccan Neroli Shaving Serum and Post-Shave Lotion

If I could collaborate with someone famous it would have to be… Damien Hirst, because I love his audacity and sense of humor. He’s great with prints. I would love to use some of his prints on my bags.

I have a regular compulsion to buy… printed shirts. I’ve always loved prints and I can’t seem to have enough. There was a brief period when I stopped, then I realized how sad I was, so I’ve come back with a vengeance.

When traveling, I can’t be without my… Leica D-Lux camera, iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air and Muji sketchbook.

The skincare products I have on my dresser right now are… Aesop cleanser and shaving cream, and Tata Harper moisturizer.

My childhood bath soap was… Ivory. I didn’t wear cologne because my father wore so much, it turned me off wearing any scent, forever. You could smell him a mile away. I don’t mind smelling it on people but not on myself.

Tata Harper RebuildingMoisturizer

My grooming guilty pleasure is … a facial every few months.

(Rafé New York is exclusively available at Rustan’s Makati and Rustan’s Tower Shangri-la Plaza.)

Top tip

We all know that cleansing plays a very important role in keeping skin looking young and vibrant. So Totengco’s guilty pleasure is definitely one of the best ways to take care of our skin, especially when it’s given by an experienced, knowledgeable aesthetician.

A facial cleans, exfoliates and nourishes the skin, promoting a clear, well-hydrated complexion, and can help your skin look younger.

Rafe TinaMixed Media Tech Clutch in blue

For first-timers, try a Pevonia Restorative Water Lily Facial at The Spa (P1,800). This luxurious facial treatment includes exfoliation, whitehead and blackhead extraction, deep-cleaning wash and a hydrating masque.

This corrective treatment has the calming and repairing benefits of Water Lily, Green Tea and Chamomile, which desensitizes and hydrates the skin.

Call The Spa at Bonifacio High Street at 8565858, 8566868, 8563035. Visit www.thespa.com.ph or www.pevonia.com.ph.

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