From Paris to ... Maryland


There'll be no drag queens here. Paris Hilton will be nowhere in sight. And don't look for Speedo-style man trunks with side tassels, fishnets paired with stripper shoes, moon boots, life-sized Care Bears or rat-sized Chihuahuas either.

When Heatherette -- the funky, flippant fashion line -- makes its debut at the Nordstrom at Montgomery Mall on Thursday, the upscale department store known for its quiet sophistication will absolutely be getting a shot of cheek and a jolt of whimsy.

But Heatherette's signature characteristics -- over-the-top, high-strung, glittery, glamorous outrageousness -- will be hard to find there.

After six years of selling their fanciful clothes directly to in-the-know, fashion-forward New Yorkers and envelope-pushing celebs such as Hilton, Foxy Brown, Courtney Love, Lil' Kim and Anna Nicole Smith, Heatherette designers Richie Rich and Traver Rains are ready to see their clothes on your everyday, around-the-way girl.

"When you see the show or you're backstage, everything is all blown-up and over-the-top, so it's kind of overwhelming," says Rains, who was a rodeo star before becoming one-half of the zaniest designing duo on Seventh Avenue. "But when you pick the pieces apart, it's really wearable. I can't wait to see a girl rockin' it down the street in D.C. or Baltimore."

Two months ago, for the first time, Heatherette went mainstream, formally introducing its line to the masses at department stores such as Henri Bendel in New York, Marshall Field's in Chicago, select Nordstrom stores and eclectic boutiques across the country.

Bendel's and boutiques, sure. But Nordstrom? With the classical pianist? It seems a little incongruous.

Nordstrom execs think not. To them, the fit -- like a pair of Heatherette's sequined pink tights -- is perfect.

"I've been attending Heatherette shows for years now," says Ana Swaab, national merchandise manager for Nordstrom's Savvy department, where the duo's collection will be housed. "I think the energy at their fashion shows is amazing. However, I don't think Traver and Richie were ready yet to distribute their merchandise. [But now] their colorful party dresses and cheeky T-shirts are just perfect to launch this season. Savvy is a fashion-first department, and we just felt that it was a good time and a good mix for us right now."

Nordstrom will be selling pieces of Heatherette's collection, adding a dose of fun to the store for serious shoppers.

True to Rains' word, the Nordstrom clothes, at least, are wearable: a scratch-'n-sniff T-shirt, a black sleeveless ski jacket with colorful hearts across the chest, a purple party dress with a sequined bodice and a hem that evokes birthday confetti, a white sweater-style jacket with star-shaped pockets.

At Classic Serendipity in Pikesville, owner Emily Klawans stocked up on some of the designers' kitschy coats. One pink tweed number with gold detailing has an unexpected leather rocking horse stitched onto the back.

"Every piece that they do has something about it that is just fun," says Klawans. "It just brightens up the store, and it just makes you happy."

But even she wonders whether Heatherette -- with its boas and sequins and colorful craziness -- will work at Nordstrom.

"I think it's more of a boutique type of label. I don't really see it in a department store," she says. "It's too special to be mixed in with 70 other labels."

Swaab says Savvy -- home to such labels as Michael Stars, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Rebecca Taylor and L.A.M.B. by Gwen Stefani -- is the perfect place for Heatherette, whose clothes will retail there from $88 to $800.

"We are a boutique within a specialty store," she says.

Rich and Rains, for their part, are thrilled to see their clothes finally moving from buzzworthy to salable -- whether they're at tiny boutiques or big, serious chains.

"I was making T-shirts on my living room floor," says Rich, who toured with the Ice Capades before designing splashy clothes for New York's runways. "So to see girls in our T-shirts, that's like a dream come true."

For Rich, a flamboyant and fierce blond with killer calves and perfect eye makeup, fashion is all about fun.

"When we're bringing our clothes to places like Nordstrom," he says, backstage before their latest New York fashion show this month, "we really just want people to have fun. It's like, 'Open your closet, grab your favorite jeans, your favorite T-shirt or a feather boa.' Who cares?"

Says Rains, wearing a cowboy hat, pink pants and a graffiti-scrawled tank top, "Our motto has always been, we want to bring the rock star out in everyone."

One thing is for certain, the rock stars do come out for them.

At this month's runway show, unveiling the duo's new spring collection, Mischa Barton of the television show The O.C., N'SYNCer J.C. Chasez and D.M.C. (of Run-D.M.C. fame) sat in the audience. Paris Hilton has been a regular at and in the Heatherette shows, and this year, her sister, Nicky, a bewigged Kelly Osbourne, actress Bijou Phillips and leggy model Naomi Campbell (a real coup for any designer) walked the balloon-lined catwalk.

It's an understatement to say that the atmosphere backstage before the show is party-like. It's more rave-like, or circus-like. It's craziness, chaos, 10-seconds- before-New-Year's-Eve-and- you've-been-drinking-since-noon kind of fun.

It's like a rodeo and the Ice Capades -- but NC-17 and without the barn animals.

Backstage this month, models with long acrylic nails slinked around racks of clothes in white patent leather stilettos, lipstick-kissed bikinis, Wilma Flintstone-styled dresses, wide-brimmed hats and fingerless gloves. A makeup artist rubbed M.A.C. Studio Moisture Fix all over bare-chested male models ("To give it a nice sheen," she said, gleefully). And everyone sipped champagne glasses full of Midori, a fruity liqueur, despite the wobble effect it would have on the shockingly high-heeled models.

Overseeing it all, Rich wheeled around on glittery roller skates.

"Our world is so dull," he says, grinning and posing for feverish camera crews. "It's like, 'C'mon! Have some fun!'"

Is the Baltimore-D.C. area -- home of the khaki pant and Coach bag uniform -- ready for such theater? Will the sequins-and-rhinestones, feathered-and-leathered boys do as well here as they have selling daring designs piece-by-piece to Paris Hilton?

"We're perfect for it," Rains says, winking. "We don't take fashion too seriously. And Baltimore is sort of the city that doesn't take life too seriously."

To see a gallery of photos from a Heatherette show, go online to

If you go The Heatherette Trunk Show, officially launching the line to Nordstrom customers, will be held from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Thursday at Nordstrom, Montgomery Mall, 7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda. Attendees can meet Heatherette designers Richie Rich and Traver Rains. 301-365-4111, ext. 1360.

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