Designer Rhuigi Villaseñor is a good talker. Even when he talks about how anxious he is for his first show for the Swiss luxury brand Bally, which takes place on Saturday afternoon in Milan, his voice is like cream under the caramelized sugar of a crème brûlée: I’m nervous,” he almost purrs, in a video call about a week before his show. “It’s the main stage, you know. I better sing my ass.
The 30-year-old Los Angeleno designer launched the Rhude brand in 2015, translating sweet images like Marlboro ads and Coca-Cola logos into sumptuous leather loafers and sexy leather jackets. “Rhude was an exploration of what American consumerism is,” he says. Now, having uprooted much of his life to Switzerland since being appointed to Bally in January this year, “I’m really letting myself go to this lifestyle of Switzerland, Gstaad and Europe, and what it means to be truly luxurious in that sense. .”
At Rhude, Villaseñor’s work sparked a phenomenon among a cohort of fashion-savvy young men, helping them understand what luxury means beyond celebrity logos and outfits. Instead, Rhude proposes, luxury can be a kind of communal connoisseur.
“Community geek” — to be clear, that’s my phrase, not Villaseñor’s — could be a mind-blowing way of saying streetwear, which is a category Villaseñor is often lumped into. Of course, his mission goes beyond that, as his debut at Bally declares: he is ready to conquer women’s wardrobes. “Menswear has gotten a little crowded over the last ten years, I would say,” he says. All American designers, such as Virgil Abloh, Mike Amiri or Villaseñor, have taken Paris by storm. “What I do with Bally is not to take away men’s business or my know-how in menswear. It’s really more to follow this beautiful journey that I learn about myself, to know it -making and Bally’s legacy. I think the challenge here is really [to answer], what is Bally’s new distinct identity? And how do I create this new Bally woman? »
Even the most fashion-conscious women may not know Villaseñor. Men’s fashion fanaticism in recent years, with teenagers and 20-somethings following creators as if they were bands or sports teamsis almost an hermetic world of women’s fashion.
I’ve long wondered if a menswear designer might try to import some of that energy into womenswear. But that doesn’t seem to be what Villaseñor has in mind. Bally presents a unique challenge: it’s not a major fashion player and frankly needs a serious, bubbly overhaul. Consumers tend to interact with the brand most often through its airport duty-free shops, where very few clothes are even sold. The feeling that it is synonymous with a rigorous and contemporary definition of luxury belongs to Villaseñor.
The designer takes a more sophisticated approach: “It’s about creating a celebrated woman. It’s effortlessly sexy. I really think that to really sell luxury, it’s women who take the lead. Women’s fashion has the bandwidth to create something flowing. Something that can reinvigorate the brand, you know?
To scale this Matterhorn, Villaseñor called on stylist George Cortina, whose taste is notoriously fabulous if meticulous; he is known for dropping the mention of a single frame from an obscure Italian film as a reference for a photo shoot. “It’s a legend,” says Villaseñor. Cortina is on hand to style the show, which further hints at the universe the designer is trying to create. “I think he understands how to make a woman feel sexy in a simple white shirt,” says the Cortina designer, adding that it’s a stylist skill he’s been studying for some time.
The word that Villaseñor uses a lot has fallen into oblivion in women’s fashion: sexy.
“I think we all want to feel sexy,” he says. “As a designer, my duty is to connect with our time, right? Like, where I think the spirit of people is, where is the spirit of my consumers, where is the spirit of the community that I bring to the table. With the way I design and the people I surround myself with, I kind of absorb this idea that we all want to feel celebrated and sexy, you know? Something liberating and refreshing, right? »
The debut will focus on classic sportswear, with costume jewelry and cocktail dresses and Villaseñor’s first try at a handbag. He describes the clothes as “crazy, beautifully designed ready-to-wear pieces with sultry silhouettes.” He also wants to get into swimwear, sunglasses, and other categories. He thinks that if a person posts five to seven articles daily, they want to “conquer” one to three articles.
“I think he’s going to be a famous, confident, beautiful human being,” he says of his new wife Bally. She sounds like a sweet operator.
Rachel Tashjian is fashion news director at Harper’s Bazaar, working across print and digital platforms. Previously she was QGfirst fashion critic of, and worked as associate editor of GARAGE and as a writer at vanity lounge. She has written for publications such as Reading forum and art forumand is the creator of the invitation-only newsletter, Opulent Tips.