Inside The Watch Collection Of Rhude’s Mr Rhuigi Villaseñor
Musicians have their gold discs. Actors win awards. Athletes get a ring, belt or a silver chalice if they’ve done particularly well. But Mr Rhuigi Villaseñor, the founder and design director of the Los Angeles-based brand Rhude, marks his accomplishments with fine watches. “These are my medals,” he says, laying out a selection of watches he’s pulled out of his safe to show us.
Mr Villaseñor has had a lot to celebrate of late. In just the past few months, he has been called the future of fashion by no less an authority than Mr Virgil Abloh, has been included in Forbes magazine’s prestigious 30 Under 30 – its list of, as it says, the “brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada” – and been very publicly celebrated by some of the most stylish people alive (Mr LeBron James and rapper Future among them), many of whom he counts as close friends.
These are clearly impressive, progressive stages in his growth and recognition, yet some of the thresholds he’s crossed are a little more invisible. On a visit to the F1 Grand Prix in Mexico City last October, for example, where he was the guest of McLaren (which has engaged him to create designs for its drivers), Mr Villaseñor was well beyond the VIP velvet rope and deep in the inner sanctum of real movers and shakers. In that (very loud) beating heart of power and access, a famous American designer with a legacy brand spotted Mr Villaseñor with some shock. “He was like, ‘You’re here?’” Mr Villaseñor says now, a little gleeful at causing a sensation just by being present. Well, not that; he was gleeful at belonging in that room and knowing that he belonged. Which, he leaves me to infer, is why the older designer might have felt a bit threatened. “But that’s why [the brands] want me there, because I can code switch,” he says.
This ability to speak to luxury markets and to cool kids — to “code switch” — whether he is bro-ing out with King James or pitching a project to men in suits, is all second nature for Mr Villaseñor. He’s a pretty adaptable guy. When, for instance, he emigrated with his family from the Philippines to Los Angeles at the age of 11, he spoke rudimentary English. Six years later, he was the valedictorian of his Woodland Hills high school. He’s also something of a prodigy who started his company as a teenager in his parents’ living room and vaulted to rarefied air when Mr Kendrick Lamar wore two versions of one of his earliest designs, a bandana-print T-shirt, to the 2012 BET Awards.
Now, at only 27, Mr Villaseñor is already fulfilling a lot of his early promise. He’s become an entrepreneur who is never not working, never not moving, always marketing, making decisions, connecting. And as a businessman who struck gold in his early twenties, blew it all (as he says), and then rebuilt an enterprise primed to go global, he talks about the business side of his industry like a sage elder.
So, what kind of watch do you buy yourself when you are both always on and aiming to become timeless? Well, any kind of watch you want. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to the man himself in our video tour of his amazing watch collection.
Film by Mr Anton Du Preez