We all know that choosing the right handbag is a fine art – just ask accessories designer Rafe Totengco. A favourite with celebrities including Amanda Hearst and Eva Longoria, Rafe has just launched his latest holiday collection and we love his unexpected mix of materials, bold use of colour, handcrafted details and original prints.
Rafe grew up in Philippines, but moved to New York where he attended the Fashion Institute of Technology. He has been based there ever since and as such the city and its stylish women have served as an inspiration for his designs. He describes her as a “confident woman who likes to stand apart from the crowd. She’ll wear something old with something new and she’ll mix high street with designer fashion. She’s interested in fashion but not obsessed with it.”
Describing his aesthetic as “eclectic, vibrant and polished,” Rafe injects his handbags with special details and thoughtful functionality. Natural materials are a signature and can be traced back to his Filipino roots. “I’ve always preferred working with natural materials because I love how they feel against my skin. I especially adore working with shells because no two shells are the same. You get slight variations in each piece and that makes it truly unique,” he says.
Rafe has been designing his own line since 1997 but his latest collection, which is available at Lane Crawford, proves he’s still got it. Inspired by Art Deco architecture and the flamboyant flappers of the 1920s, there is a strong black and white story in styles including the Maryanne and Dawn minaudieres which are handcrafted from a variety of different shells. The Sarina and Celia clutches are a bit more rock ‘n’ roll and come in patchwork snakeskin, hand beaded satin or studded leather.
Our favourite however are the iPhone cases. The perfect gift for any woman, they feature a similar shell inlay technique used on the minaudieres and are super chic. Apparently Rafe says he wants to develop a costume jewellery line too. We can’t wait.
By Clea Chen