The New York-based accessories designer says that the team-up celebrates craft and color.
Fashion brand and design house Rags2Riches has long championed environmentally ethical products while supporting their community artisans. This time around, they’re partnering with fellow Filipino and globally acclaimed accessory designer Rafé Totengco.
Founded in 2008, Rags2Riches made a name for itself with its use of upcycled and overstock fabric and has gone on to be featured internationally. With designer and entrepreneur Reese Fernandez at its helm, the Filipino brand is now a major player in the growing push toward sustainable and environmentally conscious brand ethics.
In an interview for British Vogue following a partnership with the brand Anthropologie, Fernandez described starting the brand as a “specific solution to a specific problem.” The idea to launch the brand came to her after a visit to Payatas, one of the poorest communities in the Philippines, where she discovered weavers struggling to get by on their craft. The brand has since helped over a thousand artisans across Manila.
The collaboration, which is now available in Neiman Marcus, ushers in a fresh new perspective that pays homage to Filipino culture and the design ethos of both brands. Totengco and Rags2Riches both share backgrounds infused with altruistic intent.
Totengco is also a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America or CFDA, the organization behind the Vogue Fashion Fund. Created alongside Anna Wintour in 2003 to help support the design community, the fund has since launched the careers of Alexander Wang, Altuzarra, Rodarte, Prabal Gurung, and Phillip Lim among others.
In an interview with Vogue Philippines, Totengco says that this exclusive collection tells the story of synergy, and is a “celebration of craftsmanship and identity.” It explores the concepts and applications of sustainability, a shared love of the two brands.
“I design accessories that make people happy,” the New York-based designer tells us. “Whenever I see someone smile while they wear a Rafé bag, that’s the ultimate compliment and to know that I made that emotional connection. I hope that these Rafe x Rags2Riches bags elicit that feeling of joy.”
Totengco tells us that the collaboration happened rather fortuitously, after he reached out to the Design Center of the Philippines, curious about a new material, and was connected to Fernandez. “I really appreciated her company’s ethos and thought it would be interesting to collaborate together, so I put the question out there. If you don’t ask, you don’t get right?” He says.
“I have always worked with sustainable materials in my collections but now more than ever I am more thoughtful about how and why,” the designer explains. “It’s a complicated issue and it’s so easy to throw the word ‘sustainably sourced’ around. The beauty of this collaboration is that the bags also use materials that are otherwise discarded.”
The Rafe x Rags2Riches line is described as using a “new style of weaving” to customers, which makes use of macrame techniques; a style that has its origins in the 13th century with close ties to DIY culture. “This collaboration was all about bringing it all back to my childhood,” Totengco says. “The macrame idea was really a throwback to my mother’s love for hanging plants. I remember her going to the garden every morning to talk to her other ‘children’.”
“I knew that Rags2Riches would be able to utilize their capabilities to come up with a multi-color open weave for the bags,” he says. “I am always drawn to pieces that celebrate craft and color. These bags just make you smile and who can resist a happy bag?”
Interview by Karina Swee.