Rafe New York's Fashion Ad Campaign for Global Market Shot in Siargao
New York-based designer Rafe Totengco brings his elegant minaudieres to the beach.

New York-based Filipino designer Rafe Totengco designs his minaudieres as keepsakes. As a designer, he doesn’t care about keeping up with trends. Instead, he entices women with unique creations, pieces poised for long-term use without going out of style.

He strategically designs his Rafe minaudieres as versatile companions a woman can choose to wear with a tailored and modern getup or a bohemian and romantic ensemble without having to switch from one bag to another. Confidently, he adds, “Trust me, you’ll get a lot of mileage with one of my beauties.”

For the Rafe New York spring/summer collection, the designer explored the unhurried provincial life by the beaches of Siargao for his campaign. He tapped a local surfer to model his chic minaudieres and matched them with elegant pieces by Rajo Laurel.

We spoke to Totengco about his new collection and how this cool campaign came to be.

What was the inspiration for this collection? 
Spring/summer is about spending days in the sun and the sea. Growing up in Bacolod, our family would always go to the beach on weekends and I have the fondest memories of those times. Ever since I moved to New York, I’ve been obsessed with going to as many beaches in the Philippines whenever I’m back home. This campaign is all about Siargao and its laidback lifestyle. The sunrises and the sunsets were stunning! Looking at these photos transports me back there. I can’t wait to go back.

Surfer Ikit Agudo with the Rafe Sirene solid shell minaudiere

Bilbao minaudiere

Can you walk us through your creative process for this collection?
The beginning starts with the end. I start with the deadline. Market week dictates when I can show my collection to buyers and press so I work backward from that point on. The rest of the process is quite organic but I do have weeks of intense design work to meet my deadlines to give my factories enough time to develop my samples. I take so many photos, so I have an extensive library of images of which to pull from. Then there’s research I do online while I’m planning the collection. Sometimes I’ll see an exhibit and see more work from an artist and then discover other artists as a result. There’s a method to the madness but I can’t say there’s a roadmap for it.


What sort of materials did you use? Did you work with anything new this time?
My minaudieres incorporate a vast variety of materials from different kinds of shells, as well as brass and stainless steel. I’m fortunate enough to come from an archipelago with seven thousand plus islands so I have no worries of diminishing supply. This season I added hand-woven buntal to my collection. I’ve used this material in the past and it’s always been well-received because of its ability to be dyed in vivid colors. 

Azura asymmetrical minaudiere in gold, and black, white, and gold

Bilbao minaudiere in gold and silver

Why Siargao, of all places?
The vibe in Siargao is so chill and life is unhurried. It’s not overdeveloped and the beaches aren’t crowded. I first heard about Siargao from my nephew who went a few years ago and could not stop talking about it. 

Coincidentally, while I was planning my trip back to Manila for the Rafe/Bench collaboration launch, I found out that my long-lost friends from Bacolod, Sandy and Tonichi Lopez had opened up a small boutique hotel called Sandy Feet Siargao. I booked two villas and decided it would be the perfect location for my spring/summer ‘17 campaign. I borrowed clothes from Rajo Laurel and styled the shoot myself, while my brother-in-law Michael Girman, an excellent photographer, shot the campaign. While we were there, my friends took us on their boat to neighboring islands, where we shot undisturbed with the place to ourselves. We shot for two days and we had the best time.

Maryanne facted minaudiere

You found your campaign model through Instagram. What was the story behind that?
I found my model, Ikit Agudo, while I was looking at photos of Siargao on Instagram. She’s a local surfer girl and I loved the photos on her feed. I sent her a message and we proceeded from there. She isn’t a [professional] model so I had to direct every shot. On dry land, she was literally a ‘fish out of water’, shy, and a little awkward. But as soon as she stepped into the water she came alive and moved with confidence. I love how the pictures turned out.

Pia geometric minaudiere

Sophie straw clutch in turquoise and navy

Rafe New York is available at,, and Rustan’s department stores.


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