What Happened With Bally and Rhuigi Villaseñor?

Villaseñor’s departure after a short tenure is shrouded in mystery.

Fashion 
29,337 Hypes 31 Comments

You are reading your free article for this month.
Members-only

Since founding the luxury streetwear label RHUDE in 2015, Rhuigi Villaseñor has become one of the most notable names in fashion. The Manilla-born, Los-Angeles raised designer’s personal profile and signature high-street aesthetic became even more notable when he assumed the creative director role at Bally in January of last year. But just 14 months later, Villaseñor stepped down from his position at the Swiss brand, causing many in fashion to wonder: what happened?

Although it needed a touch of thematic refinement, Villaseñor’s debut SS23 show brought a new edge to Bally through a sexy lens. This same attention to opulence carried over to his FW23 collection with its “slow travel” theme. Although Bally does not report sales figures, the brand did report a 20% year-to-date increase when compared to 2022. So if the numbers are in any way influenced by Villaseñor’s role, he was pushing Bally in the right direction. Aside from fiscal figures, Villaseñor undeniably exposed the 172-year-old brand to a younger audience, which was another vital goal regarding revitalization.

It’s no secret that the coveted creative director role at luxury fashion houses can be a revolving door – but the rapid fall of Rhuigi and Bally’s partnership was surprising. Contrast it with other high-profile departures in recent memory like Alessandro Michele or Clare Waight Keller. The former gave Gucci a completely new style and direction, and the house’s revenue tripled from €3.9 billion EUR (about $4.2 billion USD) in 2015 to €9.7 billion EUR (about $10.5 billion USD) in 2021. Although sales growth rates waned post ‘21, it’s undeniable the power Michele’s work had in growing the brand. The latter’s three-year stint at Givenchy saw the house reaching almost €600 million EUR in sales, but (about $650.2 million USD) it still wasn’t enough – falling short of Bernard Arnault’s billion-dollar goal. To date, Michele nor Keller has yet to take on another creative director role at a major house. However, each had much more time to craft a narrative and style.

Was one of the flaws here that Bally expected too much from Villaseñor too fast? Perhaps. One year as the creative director at a large luxury house is seldom enough time to fully impart one’s vision, especially when the candidate’s previous experience was the sole operation of their brand. It is clear that Bally was attracted to Villaseñor due to RHUDE’s widespread success and celebrity fans like Jay-Z, LeBron James, Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd, which made him an attractive candidate to reinvigorate the esteemed, yet creatively dormant label. But just one year and two collections is simply not enough time for a complete brand 180.

The split was particularly alarming due to the promise of Villaseñor and how peculiarly short-lived his tenure was. With no formal design training other than a post-high school internship with Shaun Samson, the San Fernando Valley-raised creative represents a class of designers who are bringing high fashion down to Earth by reaching the unreachable. Succession in fashion is largely both formulaic and connection-based, so whenever someone with a non-traditional background comes along, whether it be Villaseñor, the late Virgil Abloh or even Pharrell Williams who reaches these heights, the industry and fans-alike champion their success as it disrupts expectation. But, the promise and pressure to perform are not without flaws.

“My experience at Bally has been an incredible honor,” said Villaseñor. “I wish the brand nothing but the best in all its future endeavors and look forward to enjoying its next creative chapter.” Albeit brief, the designer’s first statement about his exit suggests the split was amicable. However, tweets surrounding the time could suggest creative differences were at play.

Villaseñor’s words leading up to the official departure announcement and on the day of potentially convey a misalignment of creative direction and overall goals, which is not uncommon when designers get involved with large houses. In Michele’s case, the designer’s departure statement revealed, “There are times when paths part ways because of the different perspectives each one of us may have.” Keller’s statement focused entirely on the positive and provided no details about the reason for departure: “Focusing on a world based on Haute Couture has been one of the highlights of my professional journey. I have shared so many incredible moments with the brilliant Givenchy ateliers and design teams: your exceptional talent and dedication will forever remain in my memories.”

But the point of contention in these matters is what is the personal cost and how much can one take? But now that they two have parted ways, Villaseñor will continue to focus on RHUDE but the chance of him moving to another house is still on the table. In Bally’s case, their in-house team will serve as the creative lead in the interim, but now they have another hole to fill. The fact that Bally must fill the hole after just 1.5 years elongates their timeline of revival and is particularly unsavory for those who looked forward to Villaseñor’s work at the Swiss house. Since Villaseñor did not fit the mold for Bally, the question remains regarding who is the right designer for the house.

A few names that immediately come to mind are Raul Lopez, Martine Rose and Bianca Saunders, three designers who have successfully carved their own lanes in contemporary fashion. What makes the three logical candidates for a big house is their ability to bring classic tailored silhouettes into the modern day, an understanding of how to make calmer street garments just as appealing and their connection with youthful audiences. They’ve all freely moved between elevated RTW and streetwear – even with elements of couture in Lopez’s case. Additionally, both Lopez and Saunders have been LVMH Prize finalists, while Rose has been a nominee as well. Aside from potential designers, it’s important to note that earlier this year Bally tapped American actor Adrien Brody to design a series of capsules, which are set to debut later this year. Therefore, it is also possible that Bally could opt to bring in a high-profile celebrity instead of a traditional designer, like Louis Vuitton’s selection of Pharrell Williams.

Alongside who will lead Bally next, the matter at hand dually furthers the conversation about the turnover of creative directors. Finding the right fix is seldom an easy process, but just as fast as creative directors have been celebrated figures in their own right, the increasing speed of turnovers conveys a bubbling replaceability. For Bally, the magic spot is striking the balance between finding the right creative director to propel its vision without cycling through too many figures. Because if the latter ensues, the legacy brand’s goal of meeting the contemporary could be further away than it seems.

At this time, Villaseñor’s team is not accepting any interviews or questions on that matter – further suggesting there’s a broader discussion to be had. Stay tuned for any potential updates about Rhuigi Villaseñor’s departure and what he plans to do next.

Read Full Article

What to Read Next

Alexandre Diop Celebrates the Creativity of Marginalized Communities in ‘Hood Rich’
Art

Alexandre Diop Celebrates the Creativity of Marginalized Communities in ‘Hood Rich’

A new solo exhibition on view at Jeffrey Deitch.

Official Images of the Jordan Tatum 1 “Pink Lemonade”
Footwear

Official Images of the Jordan Tatum 1 “Pink Lemonade”

Inspired by one of the Celtics star’s favorite refreshments.

Arc'Teryx System_A Readies Durable Climbing Essentials Capsule
Fashion

Arc'Teryx System_A Readies Durable Climbing Essentials Capsule

Featuring soft-shell cargo jackets, mid-layer vests, a versatile waistpack and more.

Air Jordan 1 Low '85 “Metallic Navy” Is Returning in 2024
Footwear

Air Jordan 1 Low '85 “Metallic Navy” Is Returning in 2024

Midsoles are expected to arrive with pre-yellowed exteriors to achieve an aged look.

OMET Champions Elevated Mexican and Latin American Design
Design

OMET Champions Elevated Mexican and Latin American Design

The new platform offers bespoke furnishings from Latin American designers and highlights the cultural traditions behind their craftsmanship.


Uber's Privately-Chartered Boats Will Set Sail in Mykonos This Summer
Tech & Gadgets

Uber's Privately-Chartered Boats Will Set Sail in Mykonos This Summer

The ride-hailed watercrafts will carry up to eight people to different stops around the island.

Bottega Veneta Serves Up a Cone of Chips for Pre-Fall 2023
Fashion

Bottega Veneta Serves Up a Cone of Chips for Pre-Fall 2023

Matthieu Blazy teases what the House is cooking, including this Intreccio weave cone.

New Balance 990v6 Pops Up With a Cream and Beige Color Scheme
Footwear

New Balance 990v6 Pops Up With a Cream and Beige Color Scheme

Teddy Santis strengthens the brand’s MADE in USA capsule with a summer-friendly installment.

Balenciaga Debuts Stade Rennais F.C. Jersey Kit in Stand Against Homophobia
Fashion

Balenciaga Debuts Stade Rennais F.C. Jersey Kit in Stand Against Homophobia

The new logo-laden uniforms feature a design inspired by the Pride Flag’s colors.

“Plant and Grow”  With a Pair of Vegan adidas EQT 93 SNDLs on Your Feet
Footwear

“Plant and Grow” With a Pair of Vegan adidas EQT 93 SNDLs on Your Feet

Even the outsole is made to look like soil.

More ▾
 
We got you covered. Don’t miss out on the latest news by signing up for our newsletters.

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.