L.A. fashion founder fuses immigrant journey with streetwear

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This story is part of Image issue 5, “Reverence,” an exploration of how L.A. does beauty. See the full package here.

“I want to reinstate the new modern American dream,” says Rhuigi Villaseñor, the 29-year-old founder and creative director of luxury lifestyle and streetwear brand Rhude. “What is the new luxury? What is the modern suit? What is this person drinking or doing?”

In the Rhude universe, the notion exceeds a suit. It is an atmosphere awash in a Mediterranean breeze lapping the terrace of a stately Italian villa, the waft of an expensive cigar tapping ash into a gold-rimmed ashtray or the adventures of a Rhude Boy (as the brand often refers to its high-profile customers) casually driving a McLaren through the winding streets of Monaco. For Villaseñor, clothing and accessories appear to be secondary. Rhude is a feeling first, and its creator embodies it through his personal style.

A photo of Rhuigi Villaseñor.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Rhude is the lifestyle Villaseñor envisioned for himself when he moved to Los Angeles from the Philippines as a 9-year-old. (He has been building his brand since 2015.) Marlboro ads and vintage bandanna prints signaled Americana to him, as did Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson.

Villaseñor, who lives in Bel-Air and runs Rhude out of downtown L.A., is shedding the traditional narrative of the American dream. He’s shaking it up to reflect his own journey as an immigrant, one that started with a single T-shirt and now entails partnerships with the world’s biggest luxury brands and friends and fans like Jay-Z, LeBron James, Saweetie, BTS and Kendrick Lamar.

Villaseñor explains more about the expanding world of Rhude and why the San Fernando Valley will always have his heart.

A photo of Rhuigi Villaseñor.

In this look: Rhude Leather pants, Prada Leather jacket, Audemars Piguet watch and Lanvin sneakers.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

What’s a perfect L.A. day?

The sun’s out. It’s cloudy after the rain. There’s a nice breeze. It’s almost like the morning after Thanksgiving, which is one of my favorite days of the year. The day goes slow, and I go to the diner and get some food. I drive my car. The most luxurious thing in life is to do absolutely nothing, and it’s the slowest of days that inspires me. It’s why I didn’t want to live in New York. It’s too many ideas in one place.

What’s your favorite area?

I love the Valley. I love the Valley. It’s where I grew up and where my family still lives. Those are the bus rides I took; those are the Goodwills I hunted through. I still drive to the Goodwill where I referenced the bandanna shirts from.

I remember I would listen to the Jay-Z album “Reasonable Doubt” almost every day after school. I’d rest my head on my backpack and then just walk. We lived in a really small apartment, and being home wasn’t the easiest. I would go to Goodwill, listen to the album and decipher the words. That album made me want to be a businessman.

A detail photo of Rhuigi Villaseñor's clothes and jewelry.

(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

What’s the significance of yellow in your line?

Yellow is super prevalent in a lot of the branding, the boxes, in the underbrim of hats. I just feel like it represents me. There’s also a reference to the yellow sun in the Filipino flag.

A photo of a man smoking a cigar.

In this look: Rhude denim bomber, T-shirt, Rhude F1 podium hat, denim, Lanvin loafers, and a Patek Philippe watch.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Describe your personal style.

It’s modern-day American dream. But what is the American dream? It’s been so tarnished now. I stand for a much larger dream. I came to the U.S. undocumented, worked hard, and now I give jobs to people. I spent my first big check from Rhude to pay for an immigration lawyer. It was a slow burn, and I thought it could all fall apart. But not once was I scared, because I came from nothing.

A photo of Rhuigi Villaseñor sitting on the floor near a couch.

In this look: Levi’s denim, Rhude Rolex loafers, Rhude spring/summer 2022 runway blazer and button-up and an Audemars Piguet watch.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

To whom or what do you attribute your level of hard work and determination?

I can coin it to my parents, but I think it’s also really just having grown up in a different world. I had preconceived ideas of how I wanted to live my life in America. In my mind, I wanted to be one of those big brands, a household necessity. These big companies in the U.S. stood out to me, and it’s not hard to see where the common ground is. It definitely takes real mental stability, but you have to believe in it so much. You keep punching this wall, and there’s gold right behind it.

Rhude has been a lot about divine timing, I guess. If you really laid it out in a timeline, it was the birth of e-commerce. We were basically on the verge of digital revolution and social media — all of it. Music and fashion were leaning more into West Coast references. I caught that early. Also, a big part of it was strong social studies and the fact that I was really submerged in the youth culture. And as part of youth culture, your opinion is part of the voice that needs to be heard.

Rhude is a testament to the fact that style is not just about clothes but also about how we live. Describe your interior-design aesthetic.

Aesthetically, I used to love Midcentury, but after these Italian trips I’ve been taking, I love a villa. I want my own — maybe somewhere experiential, a physical manifestation of Rhude. Everything you consume and touch is my world. I think that might be my next venture beyond clothes, but building something timeless takes time.

A photo of a man in mauve suit in a windowsill.

In this look: Rhude suit, Brioni sandals and aviator sunglasses and a Patek Philippe watch.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Where do beauty and grooming fit into the world of Rhude?

I think it’s perfect synergy for the lifestyle that we’re creating. The man or woman wants to feel complete with the garments and the lifestyle, and if that’s something we feel we can provide, then there’s something coming.

How do you practice self-care?

I use Barbara Sturm products. I exfoliate. I wash my face with cold water. Drink a ton of water, and most importantly, I get the proper sleep. It’s important that you, as a person, start your day at 100%, like a phone.

A photo of a man on a couch.

In this look: Levi’s denim, Rhude Rolex loafers, Rhude spring/summer 2022 runway blazer and button-up and an Audemars Piguet watch.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Are there any spots in L.A. that you are loyal to when it comes to grooming and maintenance?

I’ve got my barber, Jose, who is the only person who cuts my hair, and the spas. I leave that up to my partner to choose what she feels is right.

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