“You have to put your heart into the things you love or we would just be producing products. I think of Rhude as a family and I want everyone to feel as close to the brand as I do.”
You can learn a lot about Rhuigi Villaseñor, the young designer at the heart of Rhude, by looking at the work he’s produced since the brand’s founding in 2013. Fueled by little more than a dream and the desire to infuse the streetwear world with timeless, long-lasting pieces that blur the line between luxury clothing and ready-to-wear fashion,Villaseñor has managed to take his brand from a raw idea to one of the hottest and most beloved fashion labels on the scene. These days, the brand gets serious celebrity shine — rocked by the likes of Michael B. Jordan, Justin Bieber, Nick Jonas, Kendrick Lamar, LeBron James, Kelly Oubre Jr, and even Ellen DeGeneres.
Part of Rhude’s insanely wide appeal comes from the fact that unlike other streetwear labels, Villaseñor isn’t so much concerned with the trends of the day but rather where his head is at during any given moment. He follows his own compass.
“My goal when designing is not to create barriers or distinctions, but opportunity for freedom of expression,” Villaseñor says. “Rhude offers something for everyone regardless of gender or style and I think people appreciate that.”
This isn’t just brand speak. From the jump, the designer has had Rhude in a state of continual evolution. It’s gone from a t-shirt label to a full-blown design house, with everything from dope clothing to next-level furniture.
Now, Rhude is kicking off 2021 with the launch of their latest Autumn/Winter collection — featuring pieces inspired by Formula One racing made in partnership with McLaren Racing, and the debut of Villaseñor’s first womenswear line. We linked up with the designer just before the launch to talk about how his upbringing inspired the brand, how Rhude will continue to evolve in the year to come, and what he hopes to see change in the fashion world as we enter a new decade of streetwear.
Los Angeles is such a hot spot for great streetwear and design labels right now, what is it about the city that you think is resulting in such a high concentration of great designers?
LA culture is unlike anything else in the world, there is such a mix of creatives — from celebrities to artists — and somehow it all works. For me, I find such inspiration in the nature and the atmosphere that LA offers. There really isn’t another city that I have visited that offers as much as Los Angeles.
Since Rhude’s beginnings, the brand has expanded to offering sneakers, furniture, and now a womenswear-focused collection. Is there anything you don’t have an interest in designing? What’s your dream Rhude product?
I never want to limit my own design capabilities or the future of the brand. Every season I work on pushing boundaries and my personal limits. I want to try everything. There are so many things that are just waiting to be brought to life and I will continue to strive to bring something new and fresh every year.
There really is no limit with Rhude.
What made you want to expand into the world of designer furniture?
Furniture isn’t much different than clothing – you’re still creating a piece that will ultimately be very personal to someone. When I design I am already thinking of the person I am designing for. What car are they driving? Where do they find comfort? What’s their aesthetic? So why not go a step further and create furniture for this person.
A lot of Rhude designs are rooted in classic American iconography, and I read that you studied art history briefly, how does that influence the brand’s aesthetic and what about the past do you find so resonant?
Everything that I’ve learned in some way goes into the Rhude aesthetic. The brand is a continuation of my journey, a merge of the cultures that shape who I am. American Iconography plays a huge part in the Rhude design because it’s important to pay homage and celebrate the past.
When I’m designing, I find that I reach into the past often, both what I’ve been taught classically and my personal history, to gain inspiration. Within that, there are certain symbols that stand out to me.
I read that after you moved from Manila to Los Angeles at age nine you learned English through watching basketball and steeping yourself in the LA culture. How did that experience influence Rhude?
You can find references to basketball and many other American sports throughout the brand. When I was growing up, these are the things that I was introduced to and was immediately obsessed with. With sports, it’s not just what they are wearing while they are playing, but before and after the game as well. Basketball specifically, in my mind, is one of those sports that allows players to have their own style on and off the court, through the skills they’ve mastered and their sportsmanship.
This idea of dressing for this occasion is definitely planted in the Rhude brand.
In my opinion, Rhude is redefining what luxury clothing looks like in real-time. What do you want to see as we enter this next decade of fashion?
With everything that has happened this year, the word “luxury” in regards to fashion has changed. My goal has always been to create a new view on luxury fashion and by building on my streetwear design roots, I feel I have formed this kind of new genre for fashion. So my hope for the future is that we, as creatives, begin to create timeless pieces that are innovative but also practical.
For the next decade of Fashion, I want to see brands really focus on the consumer’s needs. We are in a time in our lives where needs outshine temporary wants. Pieces should be timeless and speak to the consumer now. Most are working from home so what does the new suit look like and how can we create product that is functional for our present situation? What are things that we can look forward to in the next era, and what can we create now to bring with us?
In 2020 you linked up with Courvoisier Cognac and the National Urban League and spoke at the Small Business Entrepreneurship Summit. How did that partnership form and what insight did you bring?
Without a doubt, this year has been tough on everyone – but minority small business owners have been hit the hardest by COVID. Courvoisier acknowledged that this community needed help and partnered with the National Urban League to provide support directly to those who need it most. Courvoisier is a brand that values action, and that’s really important to me when choosing a partner.
Courvoisier kicked off the partnership by sponsoring National Urban League’s virtual Small Business Entrepreneurship Summit, and I participated as a panelist in a roundtable discussion about the importance of pivoting marketing and social media strategies during COVID to navigate a new business reality. That was a really humbling experience for me because I was able to share the challenges I’ve faced while building and growing Rhude, and how we’ve had to adapt like everyone else this year. I also spoke about how important it is to have passion for what you do and stay true to your vision as a creator and entrepreneur – that’s been my guiding principle throughout the last few years.
You put a lot of your own personality, strife, and hardships into Rhude, more so than other young designers I’ve spoken to. Why do you feel like fashion is such a powerful medium of expression for you and what are the strengths you’ve found approaching fashion as an art form more than a consumer good?
The Rhude brand is an extension of my personal story and much of what I design comes from my past and the mixing of the cultures I have experienced. You have to put your heart into the things you love or we would just be producing products.
I think of Rhude as a family and I want everyone to feel as close to the brand as I do.
What can we expect from Rhude in 2021?
Last year has definitely been a learning and growing experience for the Rhude team and I think that will show in the collections to come. We are learning to be more conscious of our environmental footprint as we continue to produce, and switching gears as the need for comfort in clothing is in higher demand.