Rhuigi Villaseñor wears many hats. He is the founder of Rhude. He is the creative director of Bally and presented his first collection for the Swiss luxury label last month. He’s teamed up with Zara to deliver the more affordable Redesigning Human Uniform line. We haven’t even touched on the projects with brands like Puma or Starter. The 30-year-old is obviously a busy man. But that doesn’t stop him from adding another job to his extensive resume. Villaseñor’s newest title: creative strategist for the Meruelo Group, an organization with a portfolio that includes the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes and Sahara Las Vegas Casino.
“Everything I’ve been doing lately has really been about the unorthodox and something unexpected. For me, trying to design a hockey jersey is overwhelming,” Villaseñor tells Complex. “It’s about increasing interest in the sport and in the Arizona Coyotes and creating something that isn’t limited to the sport. It’s about creating clothes that I want to wear with a pair of jeans.”
In his new role, Villaseñor will design clothing for Coyotes fans and Rhude customers alike. Americana-inspired gear includes t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and other accessories. Each item is distinct from Rhude-esque vintage-washed black tees with faded images of canyons and cacti, caps that replace the usual Rhude “R” logo with “AZ” in Coyotes team colors, or Arch logo- Hoodies fused with new inspired elements like “Coyotes Hockey” and crossed hockey sticks. Alongside the merch offerings, Villaseñor has also designed an alternative jersey set, set to be revealed in the coming months, which will be worn by the team on the ice throughout the upcoming season.
“He really is a visionary. I didn’t know how to get to him, but I knew I had to get to him. He’s a unique talent, so we’re thrilled to bring him on board,” said Alex Meruelo Jr., Arizona Coyotes Chief Brand Officer. “We set out to reinvent how sport interacts with its fans, and we really wanted to push the boundaries of sport and fashion.”
The move isn’t entirely surprising given the culture that’s established itself in this particular franchise. The Coyotes were the first NHL franchise to adopt a relaxed league dress code and allow their players to wear custom slates on the ice. Sound familiar? Rules like these have been beneficial to the NBA on its continued journey to become by far the hottest professional sports league. By partnering with Villaseñor, the Coyotes appear to be taking some cues from the NBA to bring more excitement to the sport. The NBA has enlisted celebrity designers like Don C and Daniel Arsham to fill similar roles for the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively. Villaseñor hopes that working with an NHL team will open the door for other creatives to do the same.
“It’s really about being the first person to jump in the pool to see if it’s cold. If not, we all jump in. For me, we’re just jumping into a pool that’s already warm. If someone doesn’t see that it’s warm, that’s crazy,” says Villaseñor. “You’re going to start seeing other projects in the hockey field that are unprecedented. All it takes is a good project to pop. I think it will be the new detonator.”
Ahead of the announcement, we sat down with Villaseñor to discuss his recent performance, future plans for Rhude, his thoughts on his first Bally presentation in Milan and more.
This interview has been slightly edited and shortened for clarity.