In January of last year, Bally made waves by appointing Rhuigi Villaseñor, the founder and designer of upstart LA luxury label Rhude, as the heritage Swiss brand’s creative director. Now, Bally and Villaseñor are parting ways.
In a statement, the brand characterized the move as a “joint and mutual decision.” CEO Nicolas Girotto thanked Villaseñor for “all his creative contributions during his time at Bally. His passion, energy, and creativity helped catapult Bally back into the spotlight, further rejuvenating the brand’s 170-year legacy through a modern, glamorous lens. I wish him all the best in the next chapter of his creative journey.”
Villaseñor added: “My experience at Bally has been an incredible honor. I wish the brand nothing but the best in all its future endeavors and look forward to enjoying its next creative chapter.”
In a follow-up tweet, the designer hinted that his Bally departure was related to “compromise.” “It’s important for the future and the kids I’m paving way for to have a proper road map, that leads them to proper enterprise value,” Villaseñor said. “Always focus on what you own and build the world u wish to have, never compromise your values or culture for anything.”
No successor was announced. The brand’s in-house studio will carry out design duties in the interim.
Villaseñor’s appointment just over a year ago came as a surprise, but it made good sense. Though Bally has a long history, it had been a long time since the Swiss label—which originated as a shoemaker—had felt relevant on the time on the fashion stage. Villaseñor, who built Rhude into a $30-million-plus business with graphic knits, penny loafers, and a Lamborghini collaboration, described Bally as “a sleeping beauty.” He was tasked with waking it up.
In a testament to the hype he had deftly stoked around Rhude—a favorite of celebs like Jay-Z, Bella Hadid, and countless NBA players—Villaseñor’s first Bally runway show in September was one of the most anticipated of the week. “Rhude has been an adventure on my immigrant story and my perception of American luxury. And now this is my perception of global and European luxury,” Villaseñor said at the time. His slick debut collection of modern power suits and leather sportswear, which represented the clothes he and his high-wattage buddies wanted to wear, was warmly received.
Villaseñor’s sophomore collection took things in a more inventive direction, conjuring a Town & Country fantasy of spit-shined equestrian boots and opulent silk scarves. It solidified Bally’s return to the fashion scene as a purveyor of oozingly luxurious menswear. Villaseñor has sybaritic tastes—he collects supercars and rare watches, and his Instagram is a catalog of seaside views and fine wines. The promise of his Bally was that he, an LA-bred immigrant from the Philippines, could bring this old lifestyle into a new era. While it lasted, Villaseñor’s Bally felt like a much-needed update to Tom Ford’s sexed-up Gucci, and a powerful riposte to the rising tide of “quiet luxury.”
For now, Villaseñor appears likely to focus on Rhude and R.H.U., the diffusion line he designs for Zara. He did not respond to a request for comment, but on Twitter he seemed to celebrate the fact that he’s back in the driver’s seat of his career. “Have full control of ur actions and ur destiny,” he wrote this morning. Will that destiny include another high-profile job? In another tweet, he posted a picture of LeBron James from the infamous press conference where he announced he would be taking his talents to South Beach.