California Love: Rhuigi Villasenor, The Creative Mind Behind RHUDE Clothing
Then you ventured off into fashion?
Well my Dad wanted me to do some type of medical field but I was always into creative shit. So I fell out of that then after awhile I was sitting at home thinking, “Damn, I can’t just watch time pass by. I’m getting older.” And when I was in high school, my friends and I would just talk like, “By senior year, I gotta drive a Rolls Royce.” Stupid dreams. Then senior year came and I wasn’t even driving yet! I was like, “Damn, I can’t just let life pass by.” And I studied and studied a lot, did a lot of homework at home with design. I got mentorship through this guy that did shows at London Fashion Week. Through that, I learned a lot of techniques. And throughout when I was growing up, I was thinking about fashion.
I was called “best dressed” in high school. I was always that guy. But I wasn’t one of those geeky design kids. I was very nonchalant about it. So, all that happened and I was sitting at home and I saw an opening for a culture that I knew was gonna rise, which was the Los Angeles, West Coast, gangsta culture. And this is all based on what Givenchy did five years ago, or years before, they got super bought out by rap culture. So I saw that rising and I was like, “I need to do this before anyone does it.” So I created that bandana. They asked me to come to a Snoop Dogg video shoot and I was there and Snoop was like, “Yo, I really want your shirt.” And I was like, “Uhh, this is only for me. I don’t think I wanna sell it.”
What video was it for and was it there that you also developed the brand’s name?
It was shot a Seth Arnold’s studio. I don’t know what it was. Every other rap artist that would see me, they would tell me, “Yo, that’s a real cool shirt.” But I never would tell them that I’m doing it. ’Cause as a kid, all you’re thinking about is, “I want the love.” You just wanna be called the fresh kid. And that’s it. You don’t hold back the fresh. And I thought about it and I’m like, “I can’t just go along thinking I wanna be the fresh kid. I wanna be sitting in the new car when I’m their age.” I thought about it. I didn’t know what to call it except my name Rhuigi and it just came out as “Rhude” and the next thing you know I was pushing it. And for the first two months, it was really slow. You know when you go on Facebook and stuff and you try to do like, “Buy my shirt!” But I was never like that. I never wanted to force anyone to buy my stuff. I wanted it to organically go through.
I’ve only been up for ten, nine months now. My financial advisors tell me to be very careful because you can never tell the success rate of a business until you last a year or more. And I was like, “You know what, I can tell this is really, really gonna grow.” Everything I do now I feel so confident it’s just gonna be there. And after a few months I had Tyga rockin’ it. Then I saw Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Justin Bieber. All these artists started rockin’ it and I was like, “Holy fuck!” It’s insane. But I never wanted to make it big. That’s the thing. I never wanted to share it. I never wanted to share my shirt. I just wanted to be the only guy with the shirt but my sister sat me down and was like, “Hey, you need to create a business with this or else you’re gonna fall. You’re just gonna be that guy that has a great ideas but that’s it. So I was like, “Okay, I’ll capitalize on it.” It sold a crazy amount of numbers. And the price points are not even—they’re not friendly. $150 for a bandana tee to a kid? What that price point did for me was justify my product, that it’s a good product and that I’m here for awhile. And there’s actually a great design value to it. Yeah, the kids were like—first I got a lot of speculations like, “Why are you pricing it this high?” People want what they can’t have. The whole price point, everything is like, “I have to get that.” So now I’m here and I’m designing. The bandana tee was never what I really wanted to make and now the stuff I’m making now, the whole minimal stuff, what really I aim for. Always trying to stay ahead of the curve. My whole wall if filled with predications of what I think is going to be.
So last year’s predication was—
Yeah, I thought the bandana was going to rise and it did. It did exactly as I had predicted it would be. Pharrell was comparing his success to Kanye, he was like, “Yo, Kanye times his steps so it looks a lot more graceful, where I just let the world be.” But with me, I’m kind of a mix of both where I just let the world be but I time it. Everything is methodical. So I timed exactly the right thing. Honestly, I didn’t do it on purpose. It’s kind of like the world, just let it be. And Kendrick’s blow-up year was last year. It was the time when he was rocking the bandana tee and every kid referenced that shirt with Kendrick and I was the fucking happiest guy ever. Because Kendrick is the future. Let’s be honest.
What do you say about your journey?
I went from literally having lunch money saved up in my bank account. My accountants asking me, “How the hell did you make this?” My accountant literally asked me, “What did you do?” I tell ‘em the story and it’s the funniest story to them. It’s pretty inspiring, to get your ass up and do it. Anytime I get asked to speak in class in stuff, I’m always in trouble ‘cause I don’t motivate them to go to school but I motivate them to open their eyes.
So does this ever feel like a full-time job?
I don’t feel like I ever work. Every time I ask my friends [about] work, I always question myself like, “Do I work hard?” Because my job is really to doze off during the day and understand the world and figure out new ideas. That’s what my job is. I spend a lot of time alone and I just think and I design stuff and that’s my job. After awhile it’s kind of like, “Fuck, I need to work a little harder.” But now that’s why I’m trying take on production for myself. To keep it kind of interesting but, it can get kind of crazy for me. I am anticipating—every company, there’s always going to be a dry spell. I’m not one to absorb all the hype and let it create a monster. I’m kind of like anticipating that drop and if anything bad happens, that’s why I’m fortunate to have a crazy good team so if there’s ever a time where money is really dry for the company, I’m good to last for awhile. Just goes to show that I have a brain. I’m really, really concerned about the culture. That’s what I really do this for. I want to help the culture out, because what, new age, we’re really a young culture. What we’re showing right now is what’s the new wave. There’s no more plan to how to make it so you just have to really do it. So all these musicians breaking through with the Internet and all these other people breaking through, there’s no more manifesto to this anymore. You just have to do it and what’s scary about that is it’s really a bunch of shitty material that can be put on.
It helps out for the guy that does it but it really doesn’t help out the culture. I want to genuinely help out the culture and be that guy. A lot of guys say they stand up for the kids and stuff and they’re not even part of the youth. I want to be able to represent my age demographic and show them what I feel they should really need. It may not be music or whatever but I can show them a few clothes and the creative field. So that’s what I’m doing now and I’m barely going be in my first year.