Friday, February 23, 2024

Rhuigi Villaseñor Kept His Foot On The Gas

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I interviewed Rhuigi Villaseñor five years ago, right after he appeared on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List. He made the list that year because of his successful streetwear brand Rhude.

After coming to the United States, at 11 years old, and grinding away at his dreams, he finally made it.

He had the most famous athletes and artists in the world wearing his clothes, his sales numbers were incredible and after our interview was done; I heard him on the phone ordering a Ferrari.

He was living an amazing life and it would have been easy for him to put the business on cruise control and to sit back and enjoy his life.

But he didn’t.

He kept his foot on the gas for the last five years and never let up.

Rhuigi is now the Creative Director of the luxury brand, Bally.

He also has his own athleisure line at Zara. And if that’s not enough, he’s also the Creative Director of the Phoenix Coyotes and the Sahara Casino.

Rhuigi said, “When I started the brand (Rhude) all I wanted was a bed. Then you get a room. Then you get a place. So, you’ve got to have your North Star, which was always my larger vision.”

Part of that vision was working with an iconic fashion brand. That finally happened last year, when he was named Creative Director of Bally.

It was the perfect choice: A 100-year-old fashion brand, with a great history, that has slid under the radar.

It was a place where Rhuigi could make a major impact.

He said, “People shouldn’t just go where they want to go. They should go where they’re needed. And I felt that I was most needed there. I felt that was a place that I could really make a difference. A place where I could look back at it, like, ‘This is a house that I really built.’ This is also something very different. Rhude is the story of an immigrant kid who had the American dream for myself. And Bally is my European dream of what the luxury is.”

Since he joined Bally, Rhugi is spending more time traveling and he gets inspiration wherever he goes.

He said, “The more I travel, and see everything, the more I realize that my job is to just log in data. I’m a data logger in what people are interested in, with a selfish beat underneath it. I’m just writing down what I’m hearing, in clothes form, from people. And adding a couple of my own lines and a beat. And that’s all it is.”

One of his other new ventures is as the Creative Director of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Rhuigi comes from the world of streetwear and premium brands. He’s at Lakers games, hanging out with artists and players. So, an NHL team didn’t make sense to me at first.

But he quickly explained why it was a perfect fit.

Rhuigi said, “You go where you’re needed. You need to have a balance. If you look at the 2000s, it was a prevalent time for football, for hockey commercials, and racing. You can now see the curve. And now I’m looking at hockey, and seeing that coming in soon, so why don’t we come in and have that conversation? And here we are and the puck is here.”

I think that’s part of the reason for Rhuigi’s success. He doesn’t make the traditional moves that you’d expect him to make. So, when he drops something, people notice.

Look at his recent collab with Zara. Again, it seems like an odd choice at first.

He sells $600 Rhude t-shirts and $1,000 Bally shoes. So, why would he make clothes that you can buy at the mall?

But he doesn’t look at it like that. He can make clothes for different audiences.

Rhuigi said, “When I was a kid and saw everyone getting fly and spending all of this money on clothes, I felt so not a part of it. But it gave me roots to go thrifting, etc. It’s like all the great wines. The best wines come after a really dry spell because it forces the grape to extract extra water from the soil. And if I was a grape, I didn’t have the water sources, so I really had to extract it from the soil.”

Rhugi never forgot about his early days. He still thinks of those kids who might not be able to afford a Rhude t shirt but still want something fly to wear. He’s got them too.

And that’s pretty cool.

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