Rhugi Villasenor is a 21-year-old designer mastermind, that you may already be familiar with. It was his now famous bandana tee that was sported on Kendrick Lamar at the 2012 BET Hip-Hop Awards. It’s his gear that’s been seen on the likes of Justin Bieber, Tyga and more in recent months and it hasn’t been a year since he launched his apparel brainchild, RHUDE. Because of Villasenor’s affinity with style and stimulating design aesthetics, he sits at the forefront of the youthful movement in men’s fashion. Just recently, the L.A. native was featured as part of XXL‘s Freshman Designers package—the same issue that his buddy and 2013 Freshman coverboy Travi$ Scott is featured on rocking all-RHUDE— and here the RHUDE-boy speaks to us about his come up, inspiration and Cali pride. —Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)
XXL: On our 2013 Freshman Class cover, Travi$ Scott is draped in all RHUDE gear. Were you aware of that?
Rhuigi Villasenor: Yeah, ’cause Travi$ called me like, “Nigga, I’m tryna rock yo’ shit.” And I was like, “Alright, cool. It’s only right.” We’re both coming up.
You garnered a lot of attention last year, when Kendrick was spotted wearing your now famous bandana t-shirt at the BET Hip-Hop Awards.
Kendrick rocked that. His people called me like, “Yo, K. Dot wants to wear that shirt.” And what they told me was he was just going to wear it for like some little press thing and I was like, “That’s fine with me. I wear it. I don’t care.” Come to find out it’s the fucking BET Hip-Hop Awards, where he wins best rapper and shit. I was sitting at home just watching it and I got a text from Rockie Fresh and he’s like, “Yo, that’s your shirt right?” It’s just a crazy experience because that photo with him in the bandana tee is what a lot of ‘em reference Kendrick with. Like if they use a Kendrick photo, they use the bandana shirt. And I’m pretty happy to capitalize on the first ever thing I’ve put out. ‘Cause some companies take years just to break through.
How does that feel, to experience that break so early in your career?
It just shows the time that we’re in right now. It’s internet-based world and if it’s great, people will love it. And the thing with the internet is like, people will easily bash it if they don’t like it but if they love it they’ll ride with you. So that’s what’s happening with me right now. You see all these kids and older—I have crazy demographics, it’s like fashion people and then I have some streetwear kids that wanna buy expensive stuff. So the variety is little rude boys and stuff. So I’m building a cool following.
That must of been some kind of feeling for you that night because not only did K. Dot score his first major award, but it was marked your official debut.
I felt like I was fucking Kendrick or something. Kendrick had his shine and then L.A. was just loving me for that day. You don’t understand. When I say L.A., I mean I saw my following just grow that day. L.A. top heads in fashion and stuff were hitting me up like, “Yo, you’re next.” For a kid that literally just came out of high school and just didn’t really know what to do, to see that I was like, “What the fuck? I don’t know if I’m really next.” I kind of just made what I wanted. I never saw myself as “next”. I saw myself as a force to be reckoned with but I never thought that these fools would get in contact with me and be like, “I got this.” Even now it’s still crazy to me.
So you still haven’t soaked in the feeling of being “next”? Because you are the next up, especially with the rising popularity.
I’m still—before I did this I used to run around and be one of the guys behind the T$SA movement. I was one of the guys that was running around and really holding it down for L.A. But after awhile, I figured out there wasn’t going be any money for me here and this isn’t really for me. I’m not trying to be the guy that stresses and then goes home and gets back to real world. It’s still the same thing. So I pretty much did that and the kids kind of looked up to me when I was younger but now it’s kind of getting scarier. And I’m not that type of flashy guy that likes all that. I just make clothes and thank you for loving it. I want people to feel like they can do it too. But not everyone. It’s always that guy running around thinking he can do it too and it’s really, he shouldn’t.
And usually, their hearts aren’t in it.
Exactly. There’s a lot of people that want to enter because they just want the love and stuff like that. There’s too many brains with too little creativity. What’s happening in the world right now is too many people want to create brands and they have the money to do it. They all have the formula and the money and it’s like why do it if it’s not going to affect the culture?
But, that’s where you come in.
Yeah, I literally started with nothing. I came and I was like, “I’m gonna create the sample and see who likes it” and I made it work. Now I’m here designing my first big collection.
The RHUDE wave is big on the West Coast and is now branching out over on different coasts, especially here in the East.
It’s growing. I got a pretty crazy East Coast following and it’s goes to 40oz Van helping me out. Van is like a good friend of mine and he’s helping me pave my way into it. At this time we were really getting close and everyone knows Vans’ hats. The 40oz Vans caps are crazy. And are the new wave of the design field. Well 40oz is a little bit more street. For like Rhude and Watts are in the same playing field. But what’s best is I’m the youngest. Literally, I think, the youngest that’s ever done it.
How was it coming up, where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Philippines. My father was an architect so he moved around a lot. And then this one time he was like, “You know what, I’m gonna take you guys everywhere I go.” So Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Thailand. I was young. All before the age of 10, I was moving around. Literally hopping around different countries. I got photos laying down in the Red Sea, eating lobster and shit. The goal for any third world country is to make it to the US. It makes it happen. So my Dad really tried and he brought us here to the US in 2001. I went to private school but they taught me textbook English. It’s not conversational English. So it was really bad for me growing up. I had ESL classes. And they figured out I was a fucking genius but couldn’t speak. I just couldn’t speak English that well. So they put in honor classes, had me trial out. Each year I would always think, “I’m gonna outshine every muthafucka.” I had that mentality. Even now, my sister, my ex-girl, they always get frustrated with me because I have this mentality that I’m going to outshine everyone. I would always tell them, you can’t get mad at me for wanting to do better. When I hear great news from someone, I’m like, “That’s great but I wanted to shit on you too.” Yeah when I hear a friends excited, yeah I wanna hear about their success but I wanna overshine you. That’s exactly how my mentality is and honestly it’s paid off. Each year I’ve always felt that way. I graduated high school valedictorian.
How did you prepare for that graduation speech, considering the difficulty in english?
I was OD, bro. I literally just wanted the kids to know beyond school there’s more to it. In my speech I told them pretty much what I was going to do. It was like a testimony. It was insane. When I look back at it, I’m like, “Holy shit,” I literally said that I’m going to do this. Every time I think about it, it gives me chills. For me to call it out in front of all those people like, “Yeah I’m gonna do this.” And I even said the company I just started. So it’s like, “Fuck.” After that I’m like, “I’m gonna make it happen. I’m not talking a bunch of nothing.” There’s that time when I got into darkness and I didn’t go to the right school that I should’ve gone and went to community college. Did a week in it and then dropped out.