Designer Rafe Totengco

From stylish celebs to everyday glamour gals, designer Rafe Totengco’s handbags are a staple in many chic closets. Eva Longoria, a longtime fan, asked Rafe to design her bridesmaids’ clutches for her 2007 nuptials to Tony Parker. (A similar style of the one-of-a-kind minaudiere is currently available.)

“I design for a woman who likes to stand out from the crowd, a woman who appreciates fashion but isn’t obsessed with it,” Rafe tells Open Fashion. “She’s got her own sense of style: sexy, individual and confident. She’ll mix vintage pieces with high street and designer labels. She likes to have fun with clothes.”

Open Fashion snagged an interview with the popular designer and peppered him with questions. What’s the must-have bag for Fall 2010? What is the one color handbag that every woman should have in her closet? Read on…

"Orchid" clutch by Rafe

How many collections do you produce each year?

I design 3 collections a year. Fall / Winter, Spring / Summer and Resort / Holiday.

What was the inspiration for your Fall 2010 collection of handbags?

This season I was channeling the unique characteristics and lifestyle of the Brooklyn girl, her edgy, yet relaxed sense of style. Foldover totes and cross-bodies serve as stylish yet functional pieces for perusing a vintage flea market or enjoying a bite to eat at hot spot Dumont. Clutches, minaudieres, hobos and shoulder bags are updated in luxe washed leathers, marbled metallics, pleated snakeskin and crinkle patent leathers. Crystals and beads embellish Italian moiré printed suede while studded fringe adorns buttery soft leather. The Rafe girl is checking out the latest art exhibit at PS1 and moving to the sounds of LaRoux on the dance floor at Deity.

Rafe Ruched Chocolate handbag

Rafe "Ana" foldover tote in chocolate

My inspirations are as varied as the women who wear them. This season’s rich color palette evokes the brushstrokes of artist Francis Bacon with colors that include warm earth tone colors in taupe, grey and brown hues and rich Bordeaux and green shades.

Rafe Studded Grey handbag

What is the one color of handbag that every woman should have in her closet?

A grey bag! Because I consider grey a neutral and it works well whatever the season.

What is the absolute must-have handbag for this Fall?

It would be our “Ana” fold-over tote made of washed lambskin. You can wear it as a cross body or a tote. Two different ways to wear the same bag — who can say no that?!

And now, to copy a question you have posed to other designers: What are your 3 Absolute Style Do’s and Don’ts — and why?


  • Say Please, Thank you and you’re welcome. Good manners are always in style.
  • Invest in good quality shoes, they finish your sartorial sentence and your feet will thank you for them over time.
  • Take a long good look at yourself before leaving your apartment. Sometimes you catch the oddest things about your outfit upon closure inspection. “Better safe than sorry” I always say.


  • Think that just because the 80’s are back, that you should be all over it. Some trends aren’t appropriate for everybody.
  • Under dress ever! Make an effort and you’ll feel better, especially when everybody tells you how fabulous you look.
  • Bother with cheap handbags made of questionable materials, you’ll be sorry when they start peeling against your skin and on your clothes.