Accessory Designer Rafe’s NYC Secrets


Rafe’ Totengco came to the Big Apple from the Philippines and soon after started his eponyomously named handbag and accessory collection in 1997 (Rafe New York). Since that time he has recieved numerous accolades from the fashion industry and in 2010 was named creative director of Nine West Group, overseeing their massive business. His mother-of-pearl minaudieres, (from Rafe’ New York) with emblazened cheeky words, are a favorite of celebrities. Rafe’ is a world traveler and adores exploring global cultures and although his childhood roots are in the Phillipines he is a tried and true New Yorker. Below are his favorite spots in gotham.

Favorite restaurant?
Indochine was one of the first restaurants I ate at when I moved to New York and it’s still one of my faves. I love their Lychee saketini, steamed Vietnamese raviolis and Amok Cambodgien filet of sole. It’s a downtown institution that consistently attracts a chic crowd and that is always a good thing.
430 Layfayette Avenue.

Post Shopping Reboot?
Café Select in Soho is a great spot for a little nibble and a coffee. In the Meatpacking District I like going to Soho House where I can just sink in to one of their plush sofas and order some tea.
Cafe Select 212 Layfayette Street

 Big city guilty pleasure ?
Growing up in Philippines where my family had a sugar farm I naturally grew up with a sweet tooth. When I’m in the city on weekends I will always find an excuse for a Cupcake Run at Billy’s in Chelsea. I love their red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes.
Billy’s Bakery 184 Ninth Avenue

The best place to get Filipino food?
Whenever I crave a taste of home I head to Maharlika and Jeepney in the East Village. Nicole Ponseca has singlehandedly put Filipino cuisine on the map with both of her restaurants. It’s cool to see so many non-Filipinos eating “kamayan” (eating with bare hands) at Jeepney. Not everybody gets the technique right but I suppose that’s part of the fun and the mess.
Maharlika 111 First Avenue
Jeepney 201 First Avenue

Gotham Sushi?
En Japanese Brasserie has a kaiseki tasting menu that is delicate and delicious. You leave satiated but never stuffed. They have private rooms that you can reserve with a group of friends where you can get a little boisterous without having to worry about the other diners. 435 Hudson St, New York, NY (212) 647-9196

What do you love about New Yorkers?
So many people travel far and wide to New York with a dream. Every one that I’ve met is driven by passion and ambition. When people ask me why I love it here my answer is because “I met me in New York”. This city has a way of bringing the best out in people and it pushes you to the limit to see what you’re made of.

New York Post, Daily News or New York Times?
New York Times. I look forward to the Travel section the most because I’m always dreaming up my next wanderlust adventure.

Favorite Patch of Green?
The Japanese Hill and Pond garden within the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is an oasis amidst the chaos of the city. During Cherry Blossom season the garden transplants me back to Kyoto.

Post Work Cocktail?
The Metropolitan Museum’s Roof Garden is the perfect spot to watch the sunset in Manhattan and enjoy a cocktail. The view of the city from the roof is spectacular and not to be missed.

Hidden place for coffee or tea?
Café Minerva in the West Village is the quintessential neighborhood cafe. It’s tucked away on a quiet street and serves up strong coffee along with free Wifi. There’s always an interesting cast of characters working away on their laptops inside. 302 W 4th St, New York, NY  (212) 242-4800

Shopping—keeping it in the  neighborhood
I like to shop in small neighborhood shops. One of my favorite is Story in Chelsea. Every few months the store gets a whole new look and merchandise so it’s always worth checking out plus the selection is always fantastic. Rachel Shechtman has a knack for storytelling that keeps people coming back for more. For their holiday concept they selected some of my Rafe clutches to feature in the store. Story 144 Tenth Ave nr. 19th St. ( 212-242-4853)

Another favorite is John Derian in the East Village has great gifts ideas and unusual finds. He has three stores all in a row and each one is beautifully curated with an eclectic mix of furniture, home furnishings, ceramics from Astier de Villante and prints from Hugo Guiness. You can’t go wrong with his vast collection of decoupage printed paperweights or plates. Choosing one is the challenge. 

Go-To eatery for a dinner out?
Chopshop in Chelsea has become my second dining room. I can walk in on any given night without a reservation and still get a table, which is rare in this city. I crave their Thai fried rice and Penang chicken curry on a weekly basis  254 10th Ave, New York, NY  (212) 820-0333

One of the best things about living in New York is the theatre and I try to go see as many new shows as I can. Recently I saw Allegiance, a musical starring George Takei and my friend Lea Salonga.

Art Gallery Galavanting?
I’m quite fortunate that I live in Chelsea so all the galleries are within walking distance. On Thursdays all the galleries open late so checking out the latest exhibits is a nice pre-dinner activity. I always go to see what Jack Shainman, David Zwirner and the Gagosian has on exhibit.

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