by Duane Wells
As co-founder and half of the creative life force behind the Heatherette fashion label, Traver Rains has been a guest judge on Project Runway, hosted America’s Next Top Model, launched a signature MAC make-up line and dressed everyone from New York socialites like Paris Hilton and Lydia Hearst to Hollywood favorites on the order of Gwen Stefani, L’il Kim, Pamela Anderson, Rihanna, Nicole Richie and the late Anna Nicole Smith. But at heart, Traver is admittedly more of a cowboy than a city slicker as evidenced by his personal collection of cowboy hats and his affection for the rural farm in Montana where he grew up. It is no surprise then that Traver’s two newest ventures were actually inspired by the place he calls home rather than fashionable flavor of the month trends.
Last month Traver launched T. Rains, his first menswear collection, which is chock full of sexy tees, hoodies and tanks emblazoned with Pop Art-inspired images of cheeseburgers, hot dogs, horses toking up and others inspired by the Sex Pistols , iconic slogans and pop culture in general. With rare exception, each of the images in the T. Rains collection were shot by the designer himself. After years of watching photographers shoot his collections and dreaming up the creations that would land on the covers of magazines Rains decided to take up photography with gusto again.
This past February Traver celebrated the fruits of his labor with an exhibition of his work at his Los Angeles studio, which is aptly named ‘The Ranch’. In attendance were Aubrey O’ Day, Alan Cummings and bevy of other notable and distinctively hip Angelenos.
I stopped by Traver’s studio recently for a chat about his foray into menswear with the T. Rains collection, his photography and what he’s going to get up to next. Here’s what he had to say:
PINK: So before we get to the collection, what inspired your recent interest in photography?
I was in Montana a year and a half ago and I was helping my mother with the foaling and calving. On our property there are all these amazing old buildings — not to mention the fact that Montana is just so beautiful in general — and there was this old barn that I had grown up around that had kinda fallen down during the winter and they just burned it.
They burned this amazing barn wood that’s like a hundred years old and super weathered.
So I kind of wanted to capture these buildings from the Homestead era that were built when there was absolutely nothing in the Northwest. And I wanted to do it in a unique way so that it was like a fashion story. That’s really what inspired me to fly a model out and make the dresses and put the whole thing together.
And how did you come to decide to blend your photography with your new men’s collection?
Design is still ingrained in my brain after doing it for the last ten years so as I was taking the photos I started thinking [these images] would make great graphics for t-shirts. Then I started thinking about it more and more and I thought, T-shirts are easy, I can do that. So I put together a little collection of images and then I’d think of a good image that I’d want to put on a shirt and then I’d go back to photography.
How do you describe your photography and the images you’ve chosen for this new line of T-shirts?
I don’t know. I feel like it’s sort of a mix of the Andy Warhol pop thing but at the same time it’s a little bit more rustic with my western vibe, a sense of humor and some playfulness. And then the underlying tone of the line is very sexual.
Did you always envision getting into the world of menswear?
With Heatherette we always intended to do a men’s line but never had the opportunity to do one. I designed most of the menswear that you would see in the shows and we always had boys in the shows because it’s fun to cast the boys. [Laughs] But it also kept the shows interesting even though [the boys] were more of an accessory because the meat and potatoes was always the girls. So yeah I always had an interest in menswear.
It feels like this collection is an extension of your own personal style?
Oh yeah totally. I like making things I want to wear. [Laughs]
Right now your collection includes tees and hoodies, but are there other things we should expect to see in a Traver Rains men’s collection in the near future?
It’s so funny, but everybody says cowboy hats, so I have a feeling that’s coming. [Laughs]
Well they are kind of your signature.
I don’t know, do you think cowboy hats are a trend?
I think you’d definitely have to start that trend but there is something to be said about the fact that in the new hit FX series Justified Timothy Olyphant runs around doing good wearing a cowboy hat, so who knows?
Oh my gosh, you’re right. I guess I better hop on it.
Find out more about Traver’s new men’s collection at www.T-Rains.com. And be sure to check out his photography at www.TraverRains.com.