Richie Rich’s Fashion Show Eve BlackBook Interview

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From mid-’90s club kid with glitter in his eyes (and on his cheeks), Richie Rich ascended to glam-tastic fashion darling with his Heatherette line. After amicably parting ways with his Heatherette collaborator Traver Rains last year when the design duo’s main financial backer pulled out, Rich is debuting his first solo line, Richie Rich, at the Waldorf Astoria this evening. Expect the unexpected: half-naked ballerinas twirling down the runway to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, for starters. The show’s invite boasts the tagline “Blondes Have More Fun!” The fun-loving, platinum-coiffed Rich, born Richard Eichhorn, has always had a thing for larger-than-life blondes: Anna Nicole Smith and Amanda Lepore have both walked the runway for him (Lepore will be strutting yet again this evening). Here, Rich talks exclusively to BlackBook about the new line, unveiling the candle in the wind that lit his design fire this go-around: Marilyn Monroe. And, good news for all the budget-conscious aspiring hot tranny messes and club kids-at-heart out there—Rich’s new line will feature a mall-friendly price point. Recession, be damned, says Rich: “Bring on the glitter!”

This is a big week for you. I love Fashion Week! Everyone always asks me, around this time, “Are you going crazy? Is everything nuts?” But I like the preparation and getting it all together. Life, to me, is always really bonkers.

But this is the first time you’ve shown in New York with your solo collection. I definitely freak out about sponsors and the money—the realistic side—so that part can be annoying. The creative stuff is always the best part. I wish the rest of it didn’t exist, but unfortunately it does. And I have pressure from investors who want to know about figures and sales, but I don’t have a crystal ball.

How do you hope to be received? I want it to be in malls and I want kids to buy it. Even if you’re not a teenager, but you have that young-at-heart feeling. I want it to be more accessible. Look, I’m not trying to be Versace. That’s not really my market. It’s kind of like pop music—I want it to be fun and it’s not going to break the bank. You get a piece of the happiness.

Had you always been interested in creating a more affordable, accessible line? Yeah, which was really one of my biggest obstacles with Heatherette. I created Heatherette on my living room floor in Nolita. I was a club kid at the time and I was bored of going out, so I decided to make T-shirts for my friends, and some of whom happened to be Paris Hilton and Lil’ Kim—which helps, always. I always wanted to be on the mass level of MTV—I don’t think the underground really exists anymore. We no longer live in the ’70s or ’60s in New York. And I think that with Heatherette, my partners wanted me to almost do the Dolce & Gabbana thing, where everything you make is $3,000. But I just don’t think that’s right. The challenge, then, was how to make something of quality look amazing and fun, while keeping it affordable.

What was your inspiration while making this line? I’ve always been really in-tune with Marilyn Monroe. She’s always been an icon to me. Her presence has always been there in my designs. Anna Nicole Smith did “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” on the runway. My friend, Amanda Lepore, was Monroe in one of my shows. So this show is based, loosely, around Marie Antoinette meets Marilyn Monroe—but modern.

You now have the rights to her image? I’m working with the Monroe estate through a few people who are coming out with a line, and they asked me to create some limited-edition pieces. The estate of Marilyn Monroe is really smart; they want it to be cool and for her image to remain in the spotlight, but not in a way that disregards her as a person, and nothing tacky.

What do you think she’s about? If she had a grandson, he would be me. I was that kid in the suburbs, singing in front of the mirror and dreaming that, one day, I’d move to New York. I bleached my hair, moved to New York and met everybody. And I think that’s what she did with Norma Jean, and became the embodiment of a sex symbol. Her entire persona became about what she looked like, and I think that so many people in our generation now live like that. I’m very good friends with Pamela Anderson and I think that she has become the modern embodiment of a sex symbol. But when you hang out with Pam, you realize that she’s just a nice person—she has the luxury now of having both worlds. I think back when Marilyn was alive, she didn’t have that.

Do you think she would wear your clothes if she were alive today? I hope so! I know she was a big fan of Dior. I read an article in Vanity Fair that, when she died, she didn’t have much money, and she spent everything on looking amazing. She knew that was her ticket to ride.

But things ended tragically for her. That’s one thing about Marilyn Monroe… no one really knows how she ended. I’m not sure that any of us will ever know the true story—if it was the Kennedy family, if she killed herself, if she died naturally or if it was pills.

What have you done with her image? I chose not to use her image in the show, per se. It’s more about her persona. I wanted this collection to speak for itself, instead of looking like a souvenir T-shirt kind of thing. Down the line, I’ll do something more image-driven.

What was it like working solo this time, without your Heatherette partner? It was a blast. I had a lot of bad experiences with Heatherette, with investors trying to take advantage of Traver and me. They really tried to ruin our lives. We had to go to court, deal with lawsuits, that kind of thing. It’s amazing to me how greedy people are. And it’s amazing to me to see how people can be so insensitive. But there’s no bad blood between Traver and me, there was never a falling out. I’m excited to be on my own now. I don’t have to answer to any other people. I’m doing what I believe in and if two people show up to the show, well, at least they’ll know I did it.

Are you planning to re-launch Heatherette down the line? I’m torn—it’s almost like Madonna doing Like A Virgin again. Maybe I need to put it to rest. I don’t know if I’ll wake her up.

Good—on with the new. You’re the only person I’ve ever talked to about this.

I understand ballerinas will be opening tonight’s show. Yes, at the Waldorf Astoria! I want to open it with “Beethoven’s Fifth,” where the audience is pulled into this classical song and these amazing dancers. But it’s classical with a twist.

Are they decked out in the Richie Rich line? They’re half-naked. The other half is half my line.

Sounds like a great mix of high art and mass culture. When I moved to New York in the ’90s, all walks of life lived together and I think that’s what my shows represent. BlackBook has always been about being out there and going to parties and meeting different people from all walks of life, and I think that’s what this show is very much about. I think that’s why New York is the center of the universe.

Where do you go out? My ultimate favorite place in New York is Elmo. I live just three blocks away. My friends call it “the office,” because we all meet there. The waiters are all actors and actresses. It’s almost as if somebody from L.A. opened a restaurant in New York, in a good way. I also like The Beatrice Inn. The Cubby Hole down the block is more lesbian-driven, but it’s awesome. Cain is one of my favorite clubs. And I still think Marquee is really important in New York—they handle people really well. I like Rebel on 30th street. Recently, though, my friends and I have been throwing parties at our houses.

What’s your most star-struck moment? No one has ever asked me that before. Jackie O. invited Suzanne Bartsch, my friend, to be colorful at her birthday party in Grand Central Station. So 12 of us went—I wore roller-skates and rhinestone underwear—and there was this huge, gold, tiered cake in the middle of the room. Jackie O. greeted us at the door wearing a butterfly mask: “Hello, I’m Jackie.” She shook our hands and we all got masks. I lost my bag that night and, tipsy on champagne, I roller-skated home from Grand Central Station in my underwear.