Latest Stories

Backstage Pass

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


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.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: fashion , Lifestyle , People , Rafé Totengco

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  6. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  9. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  10. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  7. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Suspected militant, son killed in Thailand’s south
  • Iran mother spares life of son’s killer after campaign
  • Japan to hunt fewer whales in Pacific this season
  • Deal brings no immediate change to eastern Ukraine
  • China says one-fifth of its farmland is polluted
  • Sports

  • Pacquiao shorts in Bradley fight sold for P1.7M in LA auction
  • Ryu pitches Dodgers past Giants
  • Alonso sets the pace in Chinese GP practice
  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Can Spurs get back at Heat? Can they survive West?
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Business

  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • Technology

  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • DoH denies Filipino nurse no longer positive for MERS virus
  • WHO warns vs spread of MERS-Cov, urges vigilance in taking precautions
  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • A ‘time-travel’ production of ‘Les Miserable’ at Stanford