Handbag designer Rafe Totengco talks favorite destinations, websites and Instagram influencers. Find out how he stays fashionable on his travels
New York-based Filipino accessories designer Rafe Totengco, is best known for his label Rafe New York, which boasts colourful handbags and quirky clutches. If you follow the talented fashion genius on Instagram, you will know that his eye has to travel and that he gets most of his inspiration from his journeys to exotic places.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS
Curious, creative and compassionate.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
The one thing that remains constant about fashion is that it’s always moving forward and as a designer I’m always working on my next collection.
WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG?
I originally wanted to be an architect. I remember drawing houses as a kid but then a relative discouraged me saying it would take years and that I may never see my sketches become reality. So, I pursued fashion instead, and that allowed me more instant gratification.
MUST-HAVE RAFE BAG
My new Pia geometric minaudière is deceptively simple but upon closer inspection it reveals an ingenuity in construction and craftsmanship.
FAVORITE HOLIDAY DESTINATION
Bali. There is something quite magical about the island. Each time I visit, I think it’s the last and yet I keep coming back because there’s always something I have yet to see or do.
BEST HOTEL OR RESORT
El Nido Pangalusian in Palawan is hands down the best resort I have ever stayed at. It is paradise in every sense of the word.
BEST PLACE ON EARTH
I have a house in the North Fork and it’s where I spend my weekends when I’m not traveling. This part of Long Island is so laid back that it allows me to decompress from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.
3 THINGS YOU WOULD PACK
iPhone, Muji sketchbook, Leica D-Lux
YOUR TRAVEL ATTIRE
A well worn slightly frayed heather grey Acne hoodie, a charcoal grey COS T-shirt and black drawstring pants, Nike Roshe sneakers and one of my printed scarves to keep me warm on the flight.
YOUR FAVORITE SPA
The COMO Shambala Spa in Ubud. Every detail is considered from the minute you walk in to the end of the treatment. My favorite part is at the end. You get to drink tea and soak in the gorgeous setting.
HOW DO YOU DESTRESS?
Swimming and sketching get me into a zone where I can focus on just the one thing and nothing else.
YOUR SIGNATURE SCENT
I generally don’t use cologne but when I do I wear Dries Van Noten by Frédéric Malle. It’s a masculine and exotic scent with hints of sandalwood and patchouli.
YOUR BEAUTY SECRET
Laughter is the best medicine but it’s also the best beauty secret because I think happy people are beautiful, laugh lines included!
YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT
Sa Foradada in Deia, Mallorca. This lunchtime spot is perched on a cliff overlooking the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and serves the best seafood paella I’ve ever had. You can arrive by water taxi or by traipsing down a rocky trail; either way, the trip is worth it.
FOOD YOU CRAVE
My mother’s Filipino home cooked dishes. She’s passed on the recipes to my partner who has since mastered a few, so my cravings have been regularly indulged.
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT?
I love to sleep but when I’m in the midst of designing a collection I will stay up a little later than usual to get things done, but I draw the line at midnight. I’ve learned over the years that staying up too late isn’t really going to accomplish anything other than a bad night’s sleep.
THE CHARACTERISTIC YOU LIKE LEAST IN YOURSELF
I have a love/hate thing with Instagram because suddenly I’ve developed a compulsion to overshare my life with my followers. I’m making a deliberate effort to curb my enthusiasm. I know it’s a phase and this too shall pass.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Travel is in my opinion one of the best educations one can have. Nothing can surpass the experience of actually being in a place to see, hear, taste and absorb your surroundings. You can read about it, but it’s not the same. Every year I go somewhere I haven’t been.
ON YOUR PLAYLIST
Can’t Stop The Feeling by Justin Timberlake; Send My Love by Adele; Let Me Love You by DJ Snake; One Dance by Drake, Hymn For The Weekend by Coldplay, Once In A While by Timeflies and La Vie En Rose by Grace Jones
YOUR FAVORITE HASHTAG
THE BOOK ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE
I sketch to relax, so I always have my sketchbook and pen at my bedside. I doodle ideas for my next collection.
SOMETHING YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
A great dessert!
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
My father hung this saying in my bedroom as a constant reminder for me to value my education. “Fine clothes may disguise but silly words will disclose a fool.”
Eat well, travel often.