Accessories designer Rafe Totengco, known for blending uptown sophistication with downtown edge, has taken his aesthetic to the Philippines.
This story first appeared in the April 28, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Rafe New York opened a 300-square-foot boutique last month in the designer’s home town, Manila.
“I was blown away with the reception I got from customers, who came in droves to congratulate me, shower me with affection and support,” New York-based Totengco said about the launch party.
The day before, the boutique was opened for women who didn’t want to wait a day for fear of losing out on their favorites. Totengco said the store only carries a few of every style to keep the market exclusive.
“After all, most of my customers all know each other,” he said.
The boutique, located in the Greenbelt section with neighbors that include Paul Smith, Balenciaga and Marc by Marc Jacobs, features the same color scheme as the New York showroom: baby blue damask patterned walls, rich chocolate brown floors and an eclectic mix of Asian antiques and vintage furniture.
The Manila store is owned and operated by Ricco and Tina Ocampo, the husband-and-wife team behind the multibrand fashion boutique Mix. The Ocampos have been supportive of Totengco from his earliest days as a designer.
Tina Ocampo, who is also the designer of the Celestina range of minaudières, fine jewelry and other accessories handcrafted from indigenous Philippine materials, said Rafe has a strong following in his home country.
“Rafe’s been loved by young Filipinos since the Eighties, when he started designing a line of hip outfits under the label Schizo,” she said. “Now he is more loved because he brought pride to the Philippines with his Rafe bags.”
The freestanding Rafe store was a natural development. Mix had been carrying the line for years and sales have been
robust. Ocampo attributed the success to several factors, among them the well-known Filipino love for bags and shoes.
What sets the line apart, she said, is “the way Rafe’s bags address the need to acquire a hip-looking bag and a useful one at the same time.”
“What I like most in Rafe’s bags is that it consistently provides space that will fit everything that one needs to carry during the day,” Ocampo said. “His loyal customers around the world, likewise, love his well-thought-out compartment details in his bag. To be able to find exactly where your phone, pen, lipstick, gum and keys all are is just incredible.”
Totengco said opening a store in his homeland 13 years after launching his namesake brand in New York was particularly satisfying.
“I’m so proud,” he said. “My life has really come full circle.”