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by Lawrence Ferber

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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 name.

“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 that—I'd be sleeping with them instead of dressing them.”

Rains, typically soft-spoken, interrupts. “I'm straight.”

“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 sparkling—much 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.”



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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 laughs.

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 Love.”

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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i love heatherette its awsome i love rich and rains
- rolando , montebello CA USA

is there any chance anyone might have richies..e-mail...address to ask him some questionz...or something..thanx
- stephanie , ca,usa

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