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Meet Rhuigi Villaseńor, The New Face of Menswear

For Rhuigi Villaseńor, June 22, 2019 was much more than a 12-minute show. With 10 years of work building up to that day, the evolution from a single bandana T-shirt has led to a global cult following of his brand Rhude, including notable athletes, artists and tastemakers such as Lebron James, YG, Takashi Murakami and many more. 

“There needs to be a new narrative. A new energy,” says Villaseńor, founder and design director of Rhude, one week prior to his debut presentation in Paris at the famed Lycee Carnot – which has held presentations from some of the biggest fashion houses in the world such as Givenchy and Celine. Villaseńor, typically a calm and collective individual, was noticeably different. Whether it came off as nerves or excitement, he was aware that this moment was going to be special.

Villaseńor, originally born and raised in the Philippines, moved to LA when he was 11 years old. Through dealing with the challenges of growing up in a new country and learning a new language (not to mention just being a teenager), he quickly began to embrace his new city and developed a newfound love for fashion.

Today, Villaseńor sits as one of the most exciting designers joining the high fashion arena. We had a chance to sit down with him at Milk in Los Angeles one week prior to his debut show to hear his unique story, take a first glance at the new collection, and how this is only the beginning for what is to come – so watch and listen.  

Rhuigi, I don’t think people realize that you have been in the game for a minute.

Bro, with no co-star. Just pure work.

Back then LA was barely on the map regarding cities with any fashion influence. I remember seeing a photo on tumblr of you, Guillermo Andrade in early 2012. Do you remember that photo? Weren’t you all on a car?  

It was on a [Jeep] wrangler. With Travis [Scott]. It wasn’t even our car. It was one of Travis’ homies. We would all be hanging out together and just talking about our goals. That was a golden moment. Kids will never know that this wasn’t overnight. It took a collection of people coming from different cultures to come together.Fast forward seven years, and now having your first presentation to be shown at Paris Fashion Week, what’s going on in your head?

There needs to be a new narrative. A new energy. Right now, it’s a subculture thing in high fashion where they are digging designs up through sub-cultures. Whether it’s skating, basketball etc. There needs to be a representation of the actual culture that they are taking from.Being an individual who embraces Los Angeles, what does this moment mean to you?

If I could show this presentation in LA, I would. But systematically it is just the way it is. You can’t revolutionize the medium. Regardless of where it is, there is just a foundation here that is just. Paris has been an institution to where it’s where you show your collection. To me as a kid, I wanted to show in Paris. When I started making t-shirts, I wanted that to be on that platform. To be able to show kids that it is possible to come from another country, from no training and still advance in the fashion world.

What are some pieces you are most excited for within this collection?

The knitwear, everything is hand-knitted. It has a raw feeling, and to me, that is what’s missing. That is what we have been driving home with items such as foot wear, pants etc. 

I was speaking to my design team about my love for human error. To me, with the digital world and technological advances, human error is the most golden treasure. Even something like a typo. When in the design stages of a piece, I made an error on the spelling the word tobacco. My team asked me if I want to change it and I said no. To me it creates the feeling of this collection. I don’t care if it’s not perfect. I think the fact that we made the mistake is the best thing because that essentially the silver lining.Being self-taught, what are your current thoughts about education and a proper foundation to build a brand?

This is a good conversation because I am dealing with that with my little brother Rhayaden. I was telling him that guidance and a proper foundation is necessary. My brothers mind runs wild, and that is okay, but you just need some direction. As long as you know you are supposed to walk straight, it’s okay for you to make some mistakes and try things. But I think kids lack direction and that is what education still brings. Not necessarily the next level of elite education but the foundation of art, history, and more is really important. These are essential things you should know to be able to function and have cognitive thinking. As a designer, it is your task to have your say and never compromise, but also understand there is a commercial aspect to a brand which you always need to consider.

With there being so much anticipation with this show, do you feel like this moment has been long overdue or is the timing perfect? 

I believe the timing is perfect. I have taken a lot of risks in my life. After the Off-White show last season, Virgil was doing an interview and responded to a question followed by him turning to me saying he was waiting on me to show. At the time, I was overwhelmed and didn’t think I was ready to show. After that show, I went to lunch with my team, sat on it and realized it was time. 

We need to give back to the people that have supported the brand and show them there is a new energy. To me, the greater the risk, the greater the reward. I rather make the decision to do this, knowing that if I fail, it was my decision.What is something you hope the guests and the media take away from your presentation?

I am telling the story where my sister and I grew up. How difficult it was for me to leave, to learn the language, for my family to keep the lights on and the glory from all their risks that they have taken. This is a community thing. This is for them. I just want to tell their story.

Images courtesy of Anthony Cabaero

Stay tuned to Milk for more on the new generation that is taking over fashion.

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