Rhuigi Villaseñor is reinstating the codes of Rhude’s DNA.
The designer was reflective backstage as he was getting ready to present his winter 2023 collection in his hometown of Los Angeles. To project forward, he looked back to his past.
“I felt that I was moving so fast, and it’s important to retell the story and show what made me, me, what made the brand so strong in popular culture,” said Villaseñor, who’s been dividing his time as creative director of Swiss-based Bally and heading up Rhude — the luxury streetwear label he launched in 2015.
A reconstructed gas station served as the backdrop of the show, fittingly titled “Rhude Awakening: Fuel My Fire,” both a nod to his childhood and social commentary on rising costs.
“It’s my Harvard,” he said of the set design, inside Hollywood’s Goya Studios on Friday night. “When I look back at the times that I spent growing up with my friends, most of the time we spent was in gas stations and parking lots. It’s where we learned about culture, talked about culture, talked about social things that we were concerned about. And I think that’s what young people need, to slow down and think about the dreams that you want to have. This is where I started the brand. The ideas of where I wanted things to be were [born] in gas stations. It was so cheap. It was a dollar for a bag of chips, some Gatorade.”
Eyeing the collection, he added, “Young people are concerned about the future, gas prices. We’re serving the gas.”
Showcasing the signature Rhude uniform — elevated streetwear and relaxed tailoring — he unveiled a “sandy canvas” of wools, cashmeres and shearlings paired with denim and leather. “This, to me, is what I think young people are wearing and want to wear.”
Front row faces included Eric Nam, DDG, Lucky Daye, Mariah the Scientist, Delilah Belle Hamlin, Christian Combs, Paris Hilinski, Karrueche Tran, Myles O’Neal, Tony Fontana, Sam Dameshek, Moxie Raia and Jayda Cheaves — who stood out in a Rhude look she had customized.
“This is two men’s sweatshirts chopped up,” she said. “I love the brand because it just goes with any side of fashion, you can dress it up or dress it down. It’s my favorite.”
“It was fun and inventive, cool,” Nam said after the presentation, sporting a denim look.
“I’ve never seen a show at a gas station,” he laughed. “What I really like about it is he fuses really bold colors and patterns, and he mixes things that are very classic but also modern and street. He does it so well.”
Villaseñor can’t help but feel influenced by his time at Bally these days, he explained: “I’m learning about all the beautiful leathers and all the resources that we have. It’s only right for me to implement them into my own brand. That’s the gift of having another house to work with, is you’re learning structural things and resources to help fuel the brand.”
Fuel being the key word — the line is a collaboration with Lamborghini. Having previously worked with McLaren, Villaseñor is no stranger to bringing fashion to the world of sports cars.
“It’s my North Star,” he said of the fascination.
“We all wake up and we’re driven by something, right?” he went on. An immigrant kid, he’s come a long way, moving from the Philippines to L.A. at age 11. “When I was younger, my drive was to have nice cars. Those are the tangible things. But, again going back to it, as we continue to achieve things, it’s nice to go back to the foundational things — when I really wanted a car, when I really wanted to start a brand. Now that we have it, we have to remember it and retell the story, because there’s another kid over there that’s a young immigrant just like me, zero bedroom, zero money, undocumented, can’t do anything, and this is for us to celebrate that. Not in a negative way, but to give hope to them. It’s more important now than ever.”
A man of many projects, he was recently named creative strategist of NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. But his work with Zara — he is soon revealing his second capsule in New York — is a chance for him to bring accessibility, he said. “Everything is connected. My younger self, when I saw these things being made, all the fly clothes — everyone was making amazing stuff. But the fact of the matter is, luxury is expensive, and I couldn’t afford it. How can I tell the story of these kids when I can’t even sell it to them? So, for me, it’s important that I share the vision — in an evolved kind of way, in a different sportswear kind of way — and give the kids or that one kid at the gas station, such as myself, an opportunity to be able to buy.”
Villaseñor now has a new interpretation of luxury.
“More than ever, what I’m really seeing is luxury is time,” he said. “I know it’s a cliché thing to say, but luxury is time. Time that I have with the people I want to spend it with. Time that I’d like to have more of.”