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Rhuigi Villaseñor Exits Bally

The founder of hit LA-based label Rhude helped kickstart momentum at the Swiss heritage brand after taking up the creative director role in January 2022.
Designer Rhuigi Villaseñor is set to debut his first Bally ready-to-wear collection September 24 in Milan.
Creative director Rhuigi Villaseñor is exiting Bally. (Claudia Ferri)

Creative director Rhuigi Villaseñor is exiting Bally in a “joint and mutual decision,” according to a statement from the Swiss luxury brand.

Villaseñor joined Bally in January 2022 as part of a broader brand reboot by owner JAB Holding Company after lengthy negotiations with Chinese group Ruyi, which had reportedly promised to pay €600 million ($652 million) for Bally, failed to result in a sale. (Following the collapse of the deal, JAB Holding — which purchased Bally in 2008 — renewed its commitment to the brand, with chief executive Nicolas Girotto telling BoF there was no deadline for an exit.)

The young Californian designer, who founded the hit LA-based streetwear label Rhude in 2015, was tasked with breathing new life into the brand and helping it attract a new, younger audience — particularly in the US, a key area for driving luxury growth post-pandemic. Ahead of Villaseñor’s arrival, chief executive Nicolas Girotto began overhauling the brand’s retail network, moving key flagships into cooler neighbourhoods frequented by a younger demographic — for example, swapping a location on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for an outpost in the Meatpacking District.

During his tenure, Villaseñor introduced a new logo and focused on bolstering Bally’s women’s ready-to-wear business, marking his first foray into women’s clothing, handbags and shoe design. However, in sharp contrast to Rhude’s bread and butter — luxury streetwear, beloved by rappers and NBA players alike — Villaseñor’s Bally focused on what he described as a “sexy, elegant, sophisticated wardrobe,” his collections evocative of Tom Ford creations.

The creative overhaul gave Bally fresh momentum. It landed new stockists like Selfridges, Kith, The Webster and Ssense and boosted revenue: year-to-date, global sales are up 20 percent compared to 2022, the brand said.

”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,” said Girotto, who first joined the business in 2015 before being promoted to the top job in 2019.

A collaboration with actor Adrien Brody, which was announced in March, is still set to go ahead; the first capsule will drop in January next year, the brand said. Meanwhile, Bally’s design studio will handle the brand’s creative direction until Villaseñor’s successor is announced.

Further Reading

Rhude founder Rhuigi Villaseñor convinced his followers to buy t-shirts and gym shorts at luxury prices. Now, as creative director of the storied, if middling, Swiss house, he’s expanding his purview, with a focus on “sexy, elegant” fashion and accessories for women.

From Bottega Veneta’s aesthetic reinvention to Burberry’s attempts to move upmarket, there are several different genres of brand turnaround strategies, with significantly different probabilities of success.

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