Saturday afternoon, Rhuigi Villaseñor strode quickly into the Milanese warehouse where he was set to show his debut Bally collection in a few hours time. Wearing a dark denim set and Visvim sandals, he dropped a well-traveled Hermès HAC duffle bag on the ground and looked around for a coffee. He was, he admitted, feeling nervous. How could he not be? He’d been given the keys to a well-resourced luxury house, and tasked with turning the old boat around. Or, more specifically, with bringing some of the magic he’s conjured at Rhude, where his cleverly branded riffs on Americana—racing jackets, penny loafers—have earned a growing cult following among young, fashion-obsessed men. A simple assignment, maybe, but not an easy one to pull off.
Another reason for his nervousness appeared to be the fact that there were no clothes at the venue just yet. They were still, I was told, in transit from another location. But a mood board leaning against a wall at the back of the house previewed the attitude he wanted to bring to the Swiss leather house. “I’m LA. I’m Rhuigi. I’m from Hollywood. I want to make movies. I want to make iconic things. I want to make things that were iconic in American movies,” he said, gesturing at taped-up cutouts of a young Elvis, James Dean in a cowboy hat, Basquiat wearing a suit, and a leathered-up Lou Reed.
The assemblage didn’t represent direct inspiration for the clothing so much as a mission statement: “I’m here to bring that flavor into European luxury,” he said. Much has been said about how Villaseñor’s appointment represented a win for “the culture,” meaning the people traditionally shut out of the luxury system, but whose creative and commercial instincts the luxury system adopts. But it’s also worth noting how cool it is that a guy with impeccable taste in fashion and an enviable personal style gets to establish a new identity at a historic label. “Rhude has been an adventure on my immigrant story and my perception of American luxury. And now this is my perception of global and European luxury,” he said.