The L.A.-based designer levels up heritage pieces for a new capsule collection to celebrate our multi-year partnership with the NBA
When in conversation with Rhuigi Villaseñor, creative director of Los Angeles luxury streetwear brand RHUDE, you’re inclined to notice rather quickly that the designer exists on a different plane. Spellbound between youthful optimism and a matured sage wisdom, the 28-year-old is refreshingly free of any artifice. When chatting, he likes to flit between temperaments—a little mischievous, assuredly confident, and millennial one minute, and then on second breath, philosophical, reflective, and lost in thoughtful humility. He mentions more than once he’s an “old man,” yet his design approach has seismic energy and creative expression level.
That duality is intriguing, not just for a brand that has seen a meteoric rise in only five years, but in the enigmatic young man behind it. Having immigrated to Los Angeles from the Philippines, he was obsessed with basketball and learned how to speak English by watching Kobe and Jordan in post-game interviews. Once a teenager, he started his graphic t-shirt and hoodie operation out of his garage, taking cues on patterns and silhouettes from his mom, a working tailor. Kendrick Lamar wore his bandana t-shirt on stage at the Grammy’s; Jay-Z sported his gear courtside at a Laker’s game. Ellen has called him; Diane Keaton tried to buy the jacket off his back (literally). He’s shown in Paris; has started working on womenswear, and he outfits NBA greats with his luxe loungewear.
No doubt, Rhuigi is tracking in the right direction— all directions. Ideas don’t seem to have an end point. His allegiance to American style is almost as boundless as the American dream, two things he cites as inspiration for his California cool collections and takes on new luxury. Advancing into new territories is the vibe he’s after, but maybe don’t praise him for it. The Filipino immigrant still thinks he has a long way to go. “I still feel like an infant in this business,” he says. “I’m pretty level-headed, and I have a firm understanding of how to push us to our full potential, but I won’t extend the growth of the company before it’s ready to be there.”
We love ambition, and while it’s been thrilling to watch RHUDE from the bench, we knew we wanted to get him on our team. To celebrate our multi-year partnership with the NBA, we collaborated with RHUDE, coming together on a capsule collection that honours our heritage. Continuing on our commitment to functionality and craftsmanship, the Canada Goose & NBA Collection with RHUDE collaboration features our classic styles reimagined by Rhuigi. Inspired by our archives, and using our legacy Arctic Tech fabric, this four-part collection features a distinctive colour palette and new silhouette we haven’t attempted before. Upsized and boxy, the distressed, vintage look of each piece is distinctly driven by the RHUDE aesthetic. The Portage Jacket features our new vintage washed camouflage Arctic Tech fabric with the RHUDE patch and signature chevron design. The Chilliwack Jacket features colour-blocking in vintage hues and bright pops, with an oversized bomber shape, rib-knit cuffs, and the bold branding of both NBA, RHUDE patches on the sleeve. The Freestyle Vest offers versatility in colour, from Klondike Gold and Monarch Orange, while providing ultimate comfort and layering ability.
For more on this highly-anticipated collaboration, continue reading our conversation below.
Why partner with us?
“It was a no-brainer to partner with Canada Goose. While we had some sku’s in outerwear that were very successful, we had little to no experience with the garment’s technicality and respect. Canada Goose has decades of development under its belt, and we wanted to honour that and give it the platform it deserves. It made sense for us to partner with a brand that is the best in outerwear.
I think I had the most fun just talking about the process with Canada Goose. For one, I have so much respect for the brand. It’s not even fashion—it’s science. There is so much problem solving that has been done with the brand, and only time, considerable time, can answer those issues. I think that’s what fascinated me most about the brand—the years it’s worked towards solutions, and I feel that’s where I stand as a designer, too. This partnership woke me up to what legacy do I want to leave behind.
Post-pandemic, trust me, I will be first in your archives room with a bulletin board asking you all the questions. I’m fascinated by the functionality of Canada Goose products and the problems you solve. I’ve only had five years in this business, so I have to ask as many questions as possible so I can grow as a designer.”
Can you speak about your design process?
“Living on the west coast, I only know what I’m surrounded by, and it can only be so cold in California. So, in some ways, I brought this naivety and innocence to the table when designing. To me, it was about using textiles and creating products that felt lightweight enough for comfortable 70-degree California weather but can still go into the deep, deep winters.
When I was designing, I put the temperature in the office super-cold, so I was mentally prepared. That’s how I got into the zone: I can’t create outerwear if I don’t know how it feels to wear it in a cold environment.
I also knew that I wanted to make the Canada Goose emblem much more extensive—why hide something so significant and vital for the brand? I love the product, and I must share that love of this product and its heritage with the kids who love my brand. I kept implying that we needed to make sure it felt Canada Goose forward. People needed to recognize that it was Canada Goose first with subtle RHUDE details.”
There’s a particular theme of fluidity in the products you made for Canada Goose in that they don’t follow gender-specific rules. Why was that important to you?
“The reoccurring theme for this entire collection has been breaking barriers and redefining the new norm. The modern woman or man has no limitations. They buy from high-low; they wear womenswear to menswear. It’s the full look that is the most important thing now, not whether it’s female or male-specific. With this collaboration, I think one of the things I got off on was encouraging a guy to wear a women’s jacket because to me, that’s good. It’s a sign of the times now.”
RHUDE is still a relatively new brand in fashion-years. How do you manage the pressure to perform?
“I feel a ton of pressure to perform and expand. Many lives rely on my decisions, and this creative liberty can also equate to someone else’s success in life or contribute to a downturn. Knock on wood, that doesn’t happen, but I guess this is where the immigrant in me kicks in. I’m a fighter—I solely believe in what I feel, what I know, and what I have learned. So, when I’m making decisions, it’s based on that firm foundation of growth. Everything seems fluid to me with RHUDE when I think about what we’ve done with the company and where we want to go.
Experience isn’t something I can fast forward to, and that’s where I pay all of my design respect to Canada Goose. I’m sure there were many more wrongs than there were rights, and I appreciate that experience comes from testing and time. Sometimes, when I look back at some of my earlier interviews, and I see that my imagination and hunger are there, but my wit and experience wasn’t.”
In what part of the design process do you feel most fulfilled creatively?
“This is probably the worst answer, but it’s the crunch time. I’m a basketball guy, and I get this real thrill for the crunch time. I love the design process, but more so when someone is wearing my garment and understands every finite detail I’ve added in. To me, that’s more than enough. One of my mentors said to me once: “I don’t need you to wear what I make seven days a week; I just need you one day of your week,” and that’s stuck with me ever since. Making meaningful clothes that can be worn for a long time is what interests me.”
RHUDE’s celebrity endorsements weren’t something you aspired to, but the love for the brand grew organically—and fast.
“I still don’t believe it, and this is my mother kicking in, but she’s a sort of skeptic, and instead of just embracing the fact celebrities are into wearing my designs, I can’t help but think, but why do you like it? I think that’s what keeps me so grounded because I appreciate every celebrity in the same way I appreciate every customer. None of it is forced, it has all been very fluid, and that’s a lesson I tell the guys in my office all the time: Wherever they go after RHUDE, whatever they want to do in life, it’s about having this conviction and confidence in what they make and do.”
What does RHUDE stand for as a brand?
“I used to say this is an American luxury company, but the more I evolve, the more it’s about the American dream. It’s about myself, as an immigrant, coming to a new territory and building an opportunity for myself. I’ve created a company that’s a reflection of what I believe is luxury. I grew up watching Ralph Lauren creating such a lifestyle brand and studying specific American life iconographies that people have forgotten—this Golden Age of the American Dream. I’m trying to replicate that and bring it back into consciousness again.”
Social media has become a massive platform for brand awareness and consumer engagement. Would you consider it a creative outlet as well?
“Yes. I’ve started using my Instagram account almost as a live journal, and it evolves as we do. When I started this brand five years ago, Instagram being this kind of marketplace seemed like such a primitive idea. Back then, we were posting about what we were eating and how the sky looked—we were still trying to figure out what the evolution would be. I took advantage of that, and, in some ways, I was kind of the guy who was fighting guerilla-style in the guillotine. I had the conviction to turn it into where I wanted it to go—away to paint a lifestyle.”
Does it make you feel like you have a social responsibility to your consumer?
“In a way, yes. There’s a part of me that feels like the age of reason is dying. My generation exists within this algorithm that calculates kids’ minds, so they only know what they want to know based on what they’re fed. I look at my little brother as my beta test, and he’s part of my brand-building in a major way. To create a brand without social awareness would be living in the past, you know? You have to take a stand for what you believe. If you don’t, who will?”
How far ahead do you look into the future for your brand? What do you see?
“In another interview, I remember someone asked me what I considered my “greatest hit,” and I didn’t have an answer. I haven’t designed The Chilliwack yet! I don’t have the iPhone in my portfolio, and that’s where I want to go. I want the brand to become indispensable, a need like Xerox. It’s about creating a timeless product that goes far beyond me and my team, something that, in the future, the consumer will cherish for life. I want people to recognize RHUDE without having to see a logo. When you see a Canada Goose jacket, you immediately know what it is. That effect of being able to create that excites me. I learned optimism through Canadians—I feel blessed. I’m alive, I’m breathing, and there’s a lot of things to be excited about.”