Off the heels of Rhude’s Paris Fashion Week debut last month, Los Angeles-based designer Rhuigi Villaseñor commemorated his upcoming collaboration with Puma by throwing a party at Kith on Saturday evening.
“I wanted to celebrate silhouettes that already existed, but amplify that and bring it to an audience that doesn’t necessarily understand the heritage of Puma, while incorporating my own twist,” said Villaseñor in a sit-down with Kith’s Ronnie Fieg inside the Los Angeles location of the trendy retail store on Sunset Boulevard. “I’m in a space where I feel like I can concur that. It’s for the new age.”
In front of an audience that included singer Miguel and former New York Giants player Victor Cruz, Villaseñor shared that he wasn’t initially sold on the idea of working with the sportswear company. A conversation with Puma’s global director of brand and marketing, Adam Petrick, changed his mind.
“It was about –– just life and what’s happening in society, and I felt that he took a stand,” said Villaseñor. “It’s important to take a stand…We talked about gun violence and different things that I personally care about…I thought it was larger than just a partnership of products. It’s about ethics.”
“Sometimes, people sitting at the top of most of these corporate companies can’t identify what it is that we do,” he shared with Fieg. “A lot of people don’t understand, when they see product or collaborative product, that there are a lot of conversations that are had. When you share the same thoughts or vision, that’s what makes it easier to work together. That gives you a reason to work together. We only like working with like-minded people, right?”
“Of course,” agreed Villaseñor.
Select footwear from the collection is being sold exclusively at Kith now, while the rest of the items –– which include unisex T-shirts, hoodies, coats and tracksuits — will be available online and in store at Puma, as well as at select retailers on Aug. 3. They’re priced between $100 to $225.
“We’re not at the stage where we have hundreds of designers doing stuff,” said Villaseñor. “I’m hands-on with every product. Every graphic is touching my laptop.”
The designer, who was born in the Philippines, moved to L.A. from Manila at the age of 11.
“I was a big fanatic of pop culture, but I couldn’t really participate just because of socioeconomic status,” he shared of his initial interest in fashion. “I created an item at the time, which was a bandana T and that gave me the capital to start the business.”
The brand was born after a friend had invited him to stop by a photo shoot for rapper Snoop Dogg: “He’s like, ‘Come through,’ and I wore this T-shirt, and everyone was like, ‘I need that T-shirt.’ I didn’t even have a brand at that time. I just, like, came up with it from the top of my head. I was like, ‘It’s Rhude.’”
Kendrick Lamar wore that bandana-print T-shirt to the Grammys back in 2012. Today, The Weeknd, LeBron James, Justin Bieber and Post Malone, to name a few, can be regularly seen in Villaseñor’s designs.
“It started out as an L.A. thing, and now it’s in New York,” said Fieg. “It’s starting to grab that global attention…It’s that moment when things start to snowball.”
“I just want to be wise like Ronnie and make sure it grows correctly, that the snowball doesn’t turn into dust,” responded Villaseñor, turning to the audience.
He has ambitions of “becoming a household name,” and his proudest moment so far has been seeing passersby donning his designs, he shared: “When I see someone wearing my stuff, and they don’t know who I am, to me, that’s the strength of the brand and product. It’s bigger than me. I always wanted to create something that was way bigger. What’s the Ralph Lauren of our time –– or Apple?”
“I wanted to create a product that could live on its own, so when I see someone wearing my stuff, I do this s–t where I’ll circulate around them for a little bit when I’m on the phone, and if they don’t talk to me or anything, that makes me so happy,” he continued. “That, to me, is impact.”