10 things that make a Rafé

- Paula C. Nocon () - December 26, 2002 - 12:00am
Rafe bags have been described as beautiful to look at, but also very wearable and very practical. They grab your eye while they’re on the shelf, and as you use them and study how they work, you can see how much thought is put into every detail. His design philosophy is exactly about that, and his research usually begins with product-testing on the female assistants he works with.

Rafe Totengco showed us one of his best-selling creations, the "Tina" from the Brompton collection, and we asked him what thought process he underwent in creating it. The handbag was inspired by and named after fashion maven Tina Maristela-Ocampo, and is available at the Mix boutique in Greenbelt 3.

Then there is the "Myrza" bag inspired by fashion model-turned lifestyle journalist Myrza Sison, Cosmo Philippines editor-in-chief and Summit Publishing editorial director.

1. Women as inspiration.
"It starts with a woman’s needs. The first thing is, who are you, what do you need, what are you going to use it for, where are you going to take it, what are you going to wear it with?

"Women now have new careers. A homemaker who’s into charity. Doctors. Photographers. Professional students, taking their masters. Yoga instructors. A fashion executive who works out of her home.

"Women who come to mind are New Yorkers. They’re really tough on their bags. It’s got to work. It’s got to be easy. They have to find their stuff in there, and still make a statement. A point of view.

"So it’s a challenge. How can I do the same thing and yet do something different? How do I romance you into buying and spending for something that you don’t really need, but something that you want? That’s what makes the fashion world goes round. That’s the most fun part."

2. The color.
"For me, orange is a neutral. It doesn’t go with anything, but it goes with everything! It’s so vibrant. And it’s got that yummy factor. Like baby blue, for instance. The sky goes with everything, so how can blue not go with everything? So it’s a classic bag, but it’s the color that gives it that un-classic twist."

3. The leather.
"I used pebblegrain calf leather from Italy. It’s great! It doesn’t scratch easily, it’s very durable."

4. The size.
"This is part of the Brompton collection, which comes in many shapes and sizes. But this one works. No matter what I do, it just sells. There’s something about the way it looks, I guess. It’s the proportion. The size is in-between. Not too big, but it’s small enough to go with a suit, or for weekends. You can’t overstuff it, and so you have to edit! People actually appreciate that. When you use it you’re not schlepping!"

5. The shape.
"The shape is soft. I don’t like boxy bags. This is sexier. Bags can’t be as sexy as, say, shoes, but I think they can still reflect a woman’s idea of what sexy is."

6. Hand-held or shoulder-slung?
"French women love handheld bags. Shoulder bags break the shoulder, the jacket. So French women would rather hold a very big tote than break the line by slinging something over the shoulder."

7. If the bag fits...
"This bag can fit a notebook, sunglasses, your Palm Pilot, keys, cell phone, makeup kit, a little bottle of water. That’s why I put all these pockets inside. Women consider their bag a private sanctuary of sorts – they put all sorts of things in there, some of them very private. Think tampons and medicines, what-have-you."

8. The lining.
"This khaki lining has my logo – it comes in black as well. It’s a very good material – it never frays. It’s khaki, so you see your stuff, especially in the evening. Isn’t that very important?"

9. The hardware.
"I chose nickel instead of gold, because I really think that it makes the bag look less formal, less dressy. It goes with more things that way. I also find women who prefer silver or sterling to gold jewelry. And they’d want the hardware of their accessories to go with that."

10. The makings of a classic.
"I study vintage bags all the time. They are the best. Nobody makes bags like that anymore. I love bags from the Seventies – that was when women started working and became more career-oriented. That’s when they started schlepping!"
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