Rhuigi Villaseñor bowed out for his first Bally show wearing a smart double-breasted pinstripe suit which he happily shared afterward he had picked up from Celine. “I had it modified to fit it,” he added. Both endearing and exciting, Villaseñor is a fashion dreamer who built his own energizing home in Americana, Rhude, through the lens of the stranger from his own arrival in Los Angeles at the age of 11. from the Philippines. Now he’s looking to repeat the trick, at the invitation of Bally CEO Nicolas Girotto, but this time applied to the fusty codes of Euro-luxury from his hyper-conscious LA perspective.
As a second big debut today in Milan, Villaseñor was under scrutiny: supportive scrutiny, but scrutiny nonetheless. Future, Laura Harrier, Skepta, Ghali and powerful local fashion baron Francesco Ragazzi of Palm Angels were among the overcrowded crowd here to see him step up a split. As Luka Sabbat said backstage afterwards: “Rhuigi started very small and built Rhude from scratch – I’ve known him since we were teenagers. And now he has a whole community of people behind him and supporting him. My messages were flooding in from people who couldn’t be here. And it’s really cool that he is.
First, a few practical caveats: Villaseñor’s two new categories, jewelry and swimwear, have gotten a bit lost in the mix. There was a women’s shoe – heeled to reflect a Swiss toy-making motif that the designer presented less awkwardly elsewhere – that was clearly difficult to walk on.
Next, the atmosphere. After clarifying who he wore, Villaseñor described his program with this collection as follows: “being about opulence and sexiness. It’s about what I want to wear when I go out, and what my friends want to wear when they go out, and what I think other people want to wear when they go out.As a little dig into that tired old “streetwear” debate, his set was lit by streetlights.
Monochromatic tailoring and python-accented casual wear, Monaco-ready, dominated by men, whose looks were in the slight minority. They served as the backdrop for an ambitious, refined and stylish women’s offer, anchored in the classic contemporary codes of luxury, with a few invigorating twists. A fitted black knit dress with a cut-out thong at the lower back was one. Another came via double B moto jackets with candy-colored metallic finishes.
Much of the offering was perhaps a little too respectful of the literal codes of luxury that we hoped this collection would highlight through loving interrogation. Sometimes it was a mix of late Ford x early Giannini Gucci flavored with accents from Ralph Lauren. That’s not to say it wasn’t what Villaseñor was aiming for—opulent and sexy—because it was. And you can see this designer’s personal momentum and inherent punch in these pieces that make them highly sought after. Once he loses his temper and settles a little more behind Bally’s big desk, it would be great to see Villaseñor importing more of himself – and his playfulness – into this new and old world of luxury. The next curling capsule (yes, really) should deliver that spirit in spades. So far, it was a debut album that delivered a lot and promised even more.