Around five years ago, Rhuigi Villaseñor got a phrase tattooed on his head: “Storms Never Last.”
The sentence was intended to remind him of the hurdles he’s overcome since arriving from the Philippines to the U.S. at the age of nine, but it became even more significant as he watched Los Angeles, his adopted home, turn into the national epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We seem to be in the middle of the battlefield,” Villaseñor said via Zoom. “We have to run on a skeleton crew.”
You might argue that his M.O. since last season — modern takes on sportswear staples — reflects those practical restrictions, but the designer’s fascination with all-American role models has always underpinned his brand.
He reined in his oversize silhouettes by tucking extra-large polo shirts into waistbands, and keeping the bottom more narrow. After several seasons of trial and error, Villaseñor nailed the balance between polish and ease with his cool pairing of tailored jackets and coats with leather basketball shorts and distressed denim.
Formula One racing and classic cars were another major inspiration. Rhude partnered with the McLaren Racing team on a capsule collection, including a smart leather racing jacket with V-shaped pocket flaps, and an intarsia sweater paired with flaming red leather shorts.
Speaking of flaming: the video for the collection was set on a wet race track in front of a pristine race car and a screen that projected images of an electrical storm and a burning vehicle. You could read it as a metaphor for the car wreck of this last year, but it might make his Formula One partners wince.
Villaseñor no doubt intended the imagery to reinforce his message of resilience. Despite all the lockdown restrictions, he is consistently expanding his collection.
In addition to presenting his first fully fledged women’s collection, focused on flowing and asymmetric silhouettes in the Off-White vein, he has expanded his range of accessories (both men and women carried oversize totes and small top-handle evening bags).
“I’m an immigrant and I symbolically speak on a place of optimism, and just powering through any adversity,” he said. “I’m betting that when all of this is over, we can be optimistic, that people will want to dress up as if it were the Roaring Twenties — just roar with colors.”