90s club kid Richie Rich goes virtual for beauty

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Richie Rich walked into the cafeteria dressed for the thrill. Heads turned to witness his arrival at the luxury Chelsea restaurant last month dressed in a crimson fedora, heather green leather jacket and shades of lavender, which he dropped to show tinted eyelids of blue smoothed with generous glitter.

“It’s my look of the day,” he said. “In the evening, I wear more makeup. »

Day or night, he likes to pop in, a habit he honed in the ’90s when he was a star member of Club Kids, an ultra-inventive post-Studio 54 clan that fanned his plumage at Limelight, at the Tunnel and other legendary New York nightclubs. Long before influencers arrived on the internet, they were attracting fans and raising eyebrows, flaunting their gender fluidity and artisanal fashions on talk shows and in the tabloids.

By the early 2000s, Mr. Rich had turned his notoriety into a wildly subversive fashion label, Heatherette, which attracted Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Debbie Harry as fans. The line closed in 2008.

There were sabbatical years, decades in fact, during which Mr. Rich supported himself primarily, he said, by sewing custom designs for a group of lesser-known private clients, including YNG Zuck, a musical artist, and Pachi Lake, a television and fashion. personality.

Now he’s back, courting a new breed of style renegades with his own virtual club.

Her latest venture is Btykwn (pronounced “beauty kween”), which bills itself as a metaverse for makeup fanatics, a makeshift beauty lab, and, in late spring, a genderless makeup purveyor. Mr. Rich envisions the platform as an ad hoc collective where beauty enthusiasts of all genders and all stripes can unleash their inner diva.

“Whoever you are, we want you to be you, we want you to feel fabulous,” he said as he sipped a Virgin Mary – “She’s a non-alcoholic Mary,” he felt the need to explain.

A gentle-natured promoter, he catered to an imaginary fan base of “freaks, punks, princesses and outcasts”, as his promotional copy proclaims, which he hopes will flock to the site as a safe space. His motto: “If you don’t belong, stand out.

Because the community is virtual, “you can join on the phone from any part of the world from the privacy of your bedroom,” he said, urging fans to “join the party” and, in the jargon of extreme makeup enthusiasts, “Boom! Hit your face.

He teamed up with Mister D, the cosmetics and events impresario who helped make makeup artist François Nars famous in the 1990s, and who is funding the new platform through Ultra Access, his brand management and investment company. .

“People will sign up, share their stories, talk about social issues, fashion, style and TV,” said Mister D. “They don’t come to us like a typical nail polish supplier.” Since its launch in March, the site has attracted about 10,000 members, according to Mr. Rich.

Mr. Rich, the irrepressible ringmaster of this online circus, hardly abandoned his over-the-top aesthetic, which, in retrospect, was way ahead of its time. Built on futuristic fantasy, its impact can now be seen in pop TV shows like “Euphoria” and “Glow Up”, a British television competition in which budding makeup artists show off their talent with neon shades and blush.

It’s also visible among a constellation of computer-generated “It” girls, including Lil Miquela or Imma, and evident in the kind of surreal effects — jewel eyes, vinyl lips, and iridescent skin — that proliferate across the metaverse. And that’s not to mention the influencers peddling their makeup magic on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram catching up with Mr. Rich.

Somewhat modestly, he acknowledged his heritage. “We’re not reinventing the wheel,” he said. “We just, without realizing it, did something real to a new group of kids.”

At 51, he is one of them at heart. Growing up in San Jose, California, Mr. Rich (born Richard Eichhorn) was aware of being an oddity. As he likes to say, “I came out at birth with glitter on my face.” As a teenager, he was a figure skater and toured for a year with the Ice Capades. “Being a boy wasn’t that popular,” he said. Not that it fazed him.

As early as third grade, “I dreamed about the looks I would wear to school the next day,” he said. “I would wake up and say, ‘Mom, where’s that disco sequin satin jacket,’ and she’d say, ‘What are you talking about? You don’t have that in your closet.'”

His two brothers introduce him to the musical and stylistic inventiveness of David Bowie and Debbie Harry. “Little brother, you’re like them,” he remembers being told. “I was 10 at the time, but they recognized the artistic talent in me.”

As a teenager, he would sneak out of the house with friends for One Step Beyond, a local club. “We would all do our makeup in the bathroom,” he said, “then we’d come out dressed in lipstick, hot pants and roller skates.” At 17, he ventured with friends to San Francisco, where Julie Jewels, founding member of Club Kids, discovered him and encouraged him to join her New York scene.

In Manhattan, he discovered a home and showcase for his extravagant preening, befriending Club Kids founders Michael Alig, James St. James and others. Club Kids’ influence peaked in the mid-1990s, dissolving when Mr. Alig and his roommate Robert Riggs pleaded guilty in 1997 to manslaughter in the murder and dismemberment of fellow club regular Andre “Angel “Melendez – a sordid denouement in which Mr. Rich had no part.

Both an artist and a provocateur, Mr. Rich went on to work with extravagant nightlife producer Susanne Bartsch before teaming up with Traver Rains to design t-shirts and leather garments in Mr. Rains. He caught the eye of Patricia Field, the stylist and costume designer, and was quick to whip up pieces for Gwen Stefani, Sarah Jessica Parker and Foxy Brown.

Thus was born Heatherette, with standout looks that over the years included tartan ball gowns, voluminous “cotton candy” bubble skirts and a stole cobbled together from dozens of Hello Kitty dolls. Composed of novelties that are not easily found in stores, the brand irreverently revisits the concept of disposable chic.

When he went out of business for undisclosed reasons, Mr. Rich worked hard to keep his name alive. Along with his friend Pamela Anderson, he introduced A*MUSE, a line of one-of-a-kind t-shirts, beachwear and dresses. “We’re like a little circus of misfits,” Ms Anderson told Blackbook at the time, “living little wild lives that fit together and are kind of complementary.”

In 2010, Popluxe by Richie Rich, a collection of one-of-a-kind daytime and evening pieces, debuted at Lincoln Center, with Ellen DeGeneres performing a star-studded lap on the runway. In 2016, he was back with Rich by Richie Rich, a fall collection and show meant to shine a light on LGBTQ rights, climate change, immigration and other pressing social issues.

There were darker times in the years that followed. In 2013, tabloids reported that Mr. Rich was arrested in Manhattan for failing to pay a hotel bill. He explained that he had assumed at the time that a customer had paid in advance. Upon his release, he paid the full bill.

“It all sounds laughable now, but back then it wasn’t,” he said. “As a Club Kid, people always expected you to mess up and go off the rails.”

Defying expectations, Mr. Rich continues to show off his gifts on Btykwn, where he can be seen slathering hot fuchsia on his lips or scribbling an oversized heart on his cheek. He’s part of a team of regulars that includes Kevin Aviance, a drag performer and nightclub personality, and Desmond is Amazing, a 14-year-old TikTok star, all cropped hair, kohl eyes, and black eyes. little gingham dresses.

“I was drawn to Desmond,” Mr. Rich said, “because on social media he was imitating the lips I did as a Club Kid.”

Mr. Rich eventually hopes to recruit a roster of pop artists, celebrity makeup artists and influencers willing to share their beauty routines and perform online. He imagines Madonna, whom he first met in the 80s, “going on the air and giving us all her makeup secrets”. We can dream.

Not easily intimidated, Mr. Rich is adamant that beauty is the next frontier of the style world, a promising arena for giddy theater and nervous self-invention. “Real innovation happens in beauty, not on the catwalk,” he said, his elements being more adventurous and accessible to young people.

He’s banking on the adage that what happens comes back, a notion he’s nurtured since coming onto the scene. As he said in a 1993 interview with talk show host Phil Donahue, when it comes to self-expression, “We’re all future superstars.”

How prescient was this statement? We will find out soon enough.

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