FASHION DIVAS RICHIE RICH AND TRAVER RAINS
by Lawrence Ferber
Fashion is pretty gay, proclaims
Richie Rich with a grin and giggle. Nobody's about to
argue with him. Rich, along with Traver Rains, created
the glittery fashion label Heatherette in 1999.
Heatherette has since outfitted the likes of Mariah
Carey, John Cameron Mitchell, Paris Hilton, Kelly Osbourne,
and Sarah Jessica Parker. In fact, it was Heatherette's
famous Carrie T-shirt, which Parker wore
in HBO's massive Sex and the City ad campaign, that
took Heatherette from a living room operation to a globally-recognized
I don't think it would be any fun at all [if we
were straight], Rich continues. It would
be easy to date women if we were straight fashion designers
because they're everywhere, but being gay is understanding
what a girl likes. You have a different eye for a woman.
Like playing dress-up with your friend. So I couldn't
imagine being straight and doing thatI'd be sleeping
with them instead of dressing them.
Rains, typically soft-spoken, interrupts. I'm
Yeah, Rich shoots back, rolling his eyes.
I'll call your boyfriend and ask him what part
of you is straight. I heard it was crooked.
As this exchange continues, and Rich's Daschund, Thurston,
runs around excitedly, a dozen or so women and men go
about their duties at Heatherette's workshop and office.
Located on the 66th floor of the Empire State Building,
the view of Manhattan from here, enriched by a sherbet
sunset, is sparklingmuch like Heatherette. In
fact, Rains insists that their glittery, bright, and
youthful clothing, often bearing retro 80's-style graphics,
brings out the pop star in everybody. It
certainly has become a favorite of pop celebs like Tara
Reid, David Beckham, Beyoncé, The Scissor Sisters,
and Gwen Stefani. Some 195 stores carry Heatherette
internationally, and business has whisked Rich and Rains
around the globe. A couple of years back they were flown
to Kyoto, Japan, to meet with the local textile industry
that wanted to bring a modern vibe or take to
their ultra traditional kimonos and prints, says
Rains. One night during their stay they were treated
to a genuine geisha house visit.
The head geisha woman, she said I am your
mama-san, I like pretty, effeminate boys!' Rich
recalls. We said We're not THAT effeminate!'
And she said But no Arnold Schwarzenegger.' She
had once turned Arnold Schwarzenegger away! They did
fan dances for us, played traditional instruments, and
each of us had a geisha at the table. But I didn't know
you are supposed to invite them to drink with you. And
at one point I said, Would you like some sake?'
and my geisha went Thanks!' and [slugged it down]!
Those geishas could drink us under the table.
Affable, outspoken, and bursting with personality,
the platinum-haired, California-born Rich first gained
notice as a club kid/singer in the rollicking early 90's
NYC party scene. Rains, a Montana-born, former horse show
competitor, was teaching horseback riding at the Chelsea
Piers when they met. They quickly became boyfriends and
began Heatherette in their living room as a hobby, stitching,
studding, and gluing shirts and accessories together from
found items. Today the pair are strictly platonic partners:
Rains has a boyfriend, and Rich is single and thriving.
We're like Siegfried & Roy and Dolce & Gabbana,Rich
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Heatherette was first discovered by Patricia
Field, Sex and The City costume designer and downtown
Manhattan shop owner. Her store's manager spotted Rich
out one evening wearing a custom leather top. The manager
ordered twenty for the store and they flew off the rack.
Field later outfitted Sarah Jessica Parker in Heatherette's
Carrie T-shirt and helped get their clothing
into Tokyo's super-hip department stores. Tokyo, an all-important
fashion epicenter, has been phenomenally important in
building both their name and trendy following. They've
presented fashion show collections in Tokyo for three
seasons running and designed a line of officially licensed
Hello Kitty! T-shirts and handbags.
Many Kyoto-produced Kimono fabrics were incorporated into
Heatherette's 2003 Collection at New York Fashion Week,
entitled When Will I Be Famous: From Kyoto With
Although they currently boast a workshop and a grander
scale of production than those living room days, Rich
and Rains remain very much hands-on when it comes to their
output. Oh yeah, Rich nods, We're driven
by pop culture but we are artists in a funny way, in disguise.
We always have that hands-on approach and it trickles
down to the more mass-produced line. But if we don't start
out hands-on it will lose its vibe.
Rich points to a studded, Speedo-esque male bathing suit
recently featured in a fashion show. Traver hammered
the studs in the night before the show, he notes.
The model came into the fitting and we said You're
wearing this!' We had to convince him into it. But another
model came in and dropped all his clothing and said What
am I wearing?' You never know.
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