Rhuigi Villaseñor Brings His Enviable Personal Style to Bally
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.
A few hours later, once the clothes had arrived and Future had taken his front row seat, Villaseñor’s new flavor took shape on a runway under street lights erected for the occasion. The set design was intentionally cheeky: “For all of my career, I hear that I’m a streetwear designer, so I wanted to play a subtle nod to that term,” Villaseñor said earlier. What followed was streetwear for the streets of Zurich or Lugano or Como: velvet trousers paired with snakeskin babouches. A sleek reptilian peak lapel blazer, paired with trim jeans and dusty pink suede loafers. Leather shorts, with the racey paneling and zippers you might find on a vintage moto jacket. And a parade of louche, monochrome double-breasted suits paired with gleaming leather Mary Janes and money-green slip-ons—a tax haven uniform, sexed-up for a modern movie star.
In a week where a lot of the menswear on display looked overcomplicated, like designers were packing 30% too many ideas into their garments, seemingly in order to keep up with the rapid evolution of men’s style, Villaseñor’s message was all that more clear and direct, and reflective of the seasoned hand of stylist George Cortina. (It was also very, very expensive looking.) As he explained before the show, he didn’t overthink the men’s looks. “It’s about really making things that are part of my wardrobe…It’s what guys my age and my friends want to wear and go out in,” Villaseñor said.
Friends like Jay-Z, whom one can picture turning the new Bally tailoring into the uniform of the modern mogul. Speaking of: all week there had been rumors that Beyoncé was in Milan to perform at a Moncler event following the Bally show. The rumor started thanks to some fans who had sleuthed that Jay’s private jet had touched down in Milan several days earlier. But it wasn’t Beyoncé who had arrived for a big show—it was Villaseñor. A bummer for the fans waiting for a surprise performance in front of the Duomo later that night, but undoubtedly a win for the rest of us.
Sore muscles from an intense workout, a stiff back from a poor night of sleep, tech neck from a…