Rafe New York founder Rafe Totengco is among the many designers using the summer holiday to multitask with travel and trunk shows. Totengco, who founded his company in 1997 with a few clutches, small bags and some belts, found a niche with his shell-inlay minaudières, which he introduced in 2009.
The bags, handmade in his native Philippines, retail for $650 — $1,200 at neimanmarcus.com, his own site and Les Suites in Paris, Tryano in Abu Dhabi, Rustan’s in the Philippines, Masari in Indonesia and Harvey Nichols in Dubai and Kuwait among others.
“I have always done a mix of leather and exotic in my collections. These past several years I concentrated on the shell-inlay minaudières because it was a point of differentiation and a category that isn’t saturated,” said Totengco during his first Los Angeles trunk show, held at a private residence in Brentwood.
“I find that meeting the customer and being able to explain the process and the product makes a huge difference in their decision to buy or not buy. My sales online have been healthy but there’s nothing like a tête-à-tête experience,” said Totengco, who also traveled to North Carolina this summer and was toying with a stop in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
“It’s always flattering when customers offer to open their homes for trunk shows, and if it is a city where I don’t have retail distribution, it is a great way to start relationships with new customers,” he said.
For summer, the Rafe New York range includes straw minaudières for $295, and for spring 2018, Totengco will introduce a capsule collection of leather bags produced Italy.
The designer, who also headed design at Nine West Group for five years before leaving a year-and-a-half ago, said he got burnt out designing accessories based on price point. “It feels right to concentrate on my signature line right now,” he noted. “It’s more risk, but it’s more fulfilling creatively.”