The Arizona Coyotes are stepping up their fashion game -- and inviting fans to join.
On Thursday, the Coyotes announced the appointment of Filipino-American global fashion designer Rhuigi Villaseñor as the franchise's creative strategist. Villaseñor will design an exclusive line of player, team and fan apparel -- including a special edition third jersey -- for the 2022-23 campaign.
Alex Meruelo Jr., the Coyotes' chief brand officer, spearheaded the collaboration with Villaseñor, calling it "a perfect marriage" of sports and fashion that speaks to Arizona's target audience.
"We've really re-envisioned how we're going to touch our fans and our consumers," Meruelo Jr. told ESPN. "We're not creating clothing or merchandise or jerseys for the traditional sports fan. We're trying to create a real brand within the Coyotes, with real streetwear stuff. This isn't something that you just wear to games; this is stuff that you would wear to go eat at a restaurant or go to the club. That was the vision behind it."
Meruelo approached Villaseñor about working together and said the designer "loved" what Arizona had in mind for the launch. The two worked hand-in-hand on the project, uniting parts of Coyotes' past with a modern touch that will draw in the franchise's next wave of fans.
"Partnering with the Arizona Coyotes is an incredible opportunity for me, and a unique challenge," Villaseñor said via press release. "I'm so excited to explore and reimagine how fans can express their love for a hockey team that plays in the desert."
Arizona has embraced going its own way. The Coyotes will unveil their latest threads while the team moves into its new digs this season at Arizona State University's Mullett Arena. Delving into the fashion world when more young eyes than ever could be on the team might boost the scale of Arizona's latest endeavor.
"It's a really forward-thinking effort," said Coyotes' president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez. "It's really building something that is more than just a hockey jersey or hockey merchandise but trying to engage the fans in waiting, which is really core to our vision."
Tapping a designer of Filipino-American descent was also important to the Coyotes. Arizona is the NHL's only Latino-owned club and highlights diverse voices and visions.
"People always talk about the opportunity to leverage the power of sports and the platform of sports to make an impact and to make a difference," Gutierrez said. "Utilizing fashion and culture to engage young folks, diverse audiences and female audiences really has been at the core to what we've looked at. This is a unique opportunity to really come together and build something special that we believe will resonate not only throughout the NHL, but throughout the fashion world and across communities and across the country."