Rafe Totengco on Serendipity, Lychee Martinis & the Key to a Great Party
By Alisa Gould-Simon for Notes on a Party
Rafe Totengco (pictured center) is a NYC-based, award-winning accessories designer by way of Manila. His handbag, leather good and shoe designs have garnered him critical acclaim within the fashion industry; not to mention he was the first designer Target enlisted to do a capsule accessories collection. Totengco’s energy is at once laid-back, spontaneous and enlivening, much like his hosting style. Totengco’s entertaining etiquette in his own words:
How would you describe your entertaining style?
Very casual, very relaxed. I like to be totally serendipitous, spur of the moment. I give my friends at the most a week’s notice. I like people to come and relax and not worry. Especially these days, all I want to do is grab a glass of wine and chill.
Name 5 songs or artists that always put you into the party mood:
Viva La Vida by Coldplay, La Vie en Rose by Grace Jones, anything by Stephane Pompougnac, Groove Armada and Thievery Corporation.
What is the best restaurant for dining with a large group?
I really love going to Indochine. It’s big but somehow they manage to make it still seem cozy. You can have a nice long table; I love the atmosphere there. Boqueria in SoHo is also nice because it’s bigger than the 19th Street location and can fit quite a few friends. It’s Tapas, which is easy, and it’s a very relaxed atmosphere. Merkato is also nice. In Miami, I’d recommend Casa Tua or Fratelli Lyon. In Hong Kong: the Kee Club.
What is your staple destination for a boys-only night out?
It would have to be Hero. The last time I was there, the DJ played all of these amazing 80s house songs. It’s funny because you see who is of a certain generation by how they respond to the music—like, ‘what is this?’ or ‘I haven’t heard this in ages!’ 1OAK, Beige and Greenhouse are all fun.
What is your signature drink and who serves the best version in the city?
Lychee Saketinis at Indochine. I’m from the tropics so anything lychee or mango is right up my alley.
Where is the best place to host a birthday party?
My first choice would be someone’s home, because it’s an intimate setting and you can let your hair down and stay as long as you want. I just threw mine here in my showroom, which is big enough to allow for a lot of people. Bubby’s in Brooklyn has a 2nd floor with amazing views of Manhattan and the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. We just threw my Mom a party there and people had the best time.
What is your favorite party favor that you’ve either given or received?
The last time I went to a party the host gave us little silk bags, and inside were worry beads. They’re to alleviate stress, which seems very timely. And they came with a little card that says, ‘Don’t worry, be happy.’
It’s your Last Supper: what do you eat and with whom?
I would love to eat Xiao Long Bao with the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi. I’ve read so much about her and have so many questions about her fascinating life.
What is the key ingredient to throwing a great party?
A good mix of interesting people and a theme. I love a theme party. A mix of people is important because if everyone is in the same industry, everyone talks shop. So, it’s always great to mix in somebody from finance, fashion… even a prostitute, just to throw it off kilter. I think that keeps it interesting.
Where’s a good place to find a prostitute in NYC?
I think there’s a website for that [laughs]. I think it’s called RentBoy. A drag queen would be amazing too. You just need someone to cause a raucous. And, of course, take lots of pictures.
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