Adapt is all Rhude’s Rhuigi Villaseñor has done over the past few months. His new Spring 2021 collection, presented in a video posted to the brand’s website Sunday morning, is emblematic of all the ways fashion has been forced to change in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The collection is more concise, to start. It’s all produced in more traditional—even plodding—ways. Inspiration is pulled from wistful ideas of vacations in beachy locales, and documentaries binged on the couch. The clothes envision a brave new world: how do you sell a suit for men so used to sweats they’re swearing off button-closure pants for life?
This is all a fantastic relief considering the alternative. In March, it was difficult to imagine a near-term future that involved fashion shows and new clothes. Squint your eyes and you might be able to conjure some new wacky knits, collaborative Nike kicks, or maybe even an evolved mid-layer garment but the reality was fashion shows as we knew them were off the table. However, the last week has proven the fashion industry to be much more elastic than we could have imagined bunkered in our homes in March. “I’m all for it,” Rhude’s Rhuigi Villaseñor says of the changes. “This is what we’re given. So it’s—what is the Darwin thing?—it’s not the fastest or the strongest, it’s who adapts.” Villaseñor’s new collection, titled “The Audacity to Dream,” is the story of how fashion keeps moving forward in a world that can so often feel like it’s on pause.
Villaseñor is Zooming me wearing a backward L.A. Dodgers hat, a breezy teal shirt unbuttoned to beach-vacation depths, and a Patek Philippe Nautilus. He’s walking through the new season in his studio, where his team has been rotating in and out over the last month, methodically putting together the collection. The new Jack bag, a leather purse inspired by the iconic Hermès Birkin, arrived that very morning from Italy—a result of snail-paced and socially distanced production. Now, Villaseñor wants to reshoot bits of the lookbook to make sure the bags can be incorporated.
For Villaseñor, working around delayed materials and pieces has become part of that new normal everyone’s talking about. The designer only decided to do a collection at all about a month ago, and materials he wanted to focus on, like pique linen—a sturdier version of the leisure-time fabric—arrived from Japan later than ideal. Several of the most exciting pieces from this new collection, like leather shorts and a double-breasted blazer, are made from excess leather hides that were lying around the studio, scraps left over from last season. Because of the parameters, the collection is much smaller and more concise than Villaseñor imagined. Last season, Rhude presented 36 full looks, and at one point thought he’d ramp up to 40 and show them in Paris this summer. Instead, he’s working with around 20. “[Production’s] at a much slower rate, it excites me,” Villaseñor says. “There’s this romanticism to it.”
One advantage of working on such an abbreviated timeline is that the resulting clothes represent a snapshot of what’s happened over the past few months, both in the world and personally for Villaseñor. The linen and leather shorts are inspired by the incredibly stylish Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance, essential quarantine nourishment for everyone in April and May. The shirts with prints of postcards from Nice, France are appropriately rich with wanderlust. “Where I’d rather be,” he says. Everything is meant to be comfortable, built for wearing at home. “I had to design a timestamp of what is happening,” he says.