Insider: Rafe for AmEx…Rachel Roy’s Mentor…

Shoe and handbag designer Rafe Totengco dished last week with Insider about his new role as model. The New York designer recently landed a full-page ad campaign for American Express Open business cards. Though he generally lets his designs take center stage, Totengco said hamming it up for the camera in his Soho showroom was an easy venture. “[Most] real people get clamped up and freaked out,” he said of the nearly nine-hour shoot, which included staging a sketching session and mock meetings, “but I’ve done my share of photographs, so I know how to relax my mouth and cheek muscles.” Totengco nabbed the print ads — which hit newsstands in the May issue of Fortune Small Business — after beating hundreds of other submissions at explaining how he uses his card.

Student & Teacher
When it comes to picking a mentor, Rachel Roy goes straight to the top. The designer, fêting the launch of her Rachel Rachel Roy line for Macy’s last week, told Insider she used tips from stiletto king Manolo Blahnik as she pieced together her own collection. “He worked with me from the beginning on my designer line,” Roy said. “He has a very clear point of view, and what I took from that was, if you don’t believe it, don’t do it.” Her diffusion line for Macy’s includes bejeweled flats and graffiti-print booties.

Shoe Split
New York-based Theory has split with footwear partner Camuto Group, according to Camuto sources. Theory’s shoe contemporary collection is currently found at retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale’s. It is unclear if the brand will continue to produce shoes. Theory declined to comment on the future of the category.

All-Around Sportsman

Usain Bolt, the golden boy of Beijing and Puma, got downright sporty in Boston. In town for the running-oriented Puma-hosted Street Meet, Bolt was also seen tooling around town on his bike and throwing out the first pitch before the Red Sox’s 16-11 rout of the New York Yankees on April 25.

New Greeting
Don’t be surprised if at your next meeting you’re met with a friendly nod instead of a kiss. In the wake of growing concern about the spread of swine flu, the Centers for Disease Control are recommending that Americans take a more standoffish approach to greetings. People should stop “giving that little kiss of greeting that they’re used to,” directed Richard Besser, acting director of the CDC at a press conference last Monday. That’s good news to the more germophobic. “I’m so happy to have a medical reason to be rude to people now,” said Kelly Cutrone, owner of People’s Revolution PR agency and a regular on MTV’s “The Hills” and “The City.” The alternative? Simon Doonan, creative director at Barneys New York, said, “It’s all about the Obama fist bump now, followed by a lot of hand washing.”

The Need for Speed
Kitson owner Fraser Ross told Insider that fast-fashion stores such as Topshop and H&M are changing the rules for trend-oriented retailers. “You can’t have [shoe] collections in the store and have them last for four months,” he said. “Topshop is giving an education to people in this country of what you can do to keep the customer coming through [your store].” Ross plans to take cues from Topshop in three new store debuts: Kitson Men’s at the Malibu Lumber Yard in Malibu, Calif., in June; Kitson Kids at Disneyland in July; and a 12,000-sq.-ft. flagship in Tokyo in September. As for rumors that the prince of Robertson Boulevard is leaving The Americana at Brand mall in Glendale, Calif., Ross said it’s not true. “We’re still a tenant in Americana and we’re not closing it,” he said. But gossip persists that Ross may exit or at least scale down the size of the store later this summer.

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