Tiny T-shirts in mint greens, baby blues, and cotton-candy pinks, plus little embellished chiffon dresses, make Heatherette a fashion phenomenon.

Simply put, this women’s clothing line appeals to boys who wear makeup, and the girls who love them.

Pouty-lipped celebs Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim and Paris Hilton are fans, often photographed in Heatherette’s "Flashdance-style tops with the words "Try Me, You’ll Like Me" or "Look at Me" emblazoned across their chests.

The men behind Heatherette, designers Richie Rich and Traver Rains, are showcasing their stuff at various boutiques and shops.

"It’s just about having fun and looking good. I want to party," says Rich, his bleached-blond hair peeking out from a plaid newsboy cap.

Rich, 29, a former figure skater who made his mark as a professional clubgoer, met Rains, 28, at New York’s Chelsea Piers.

"I was making T-shirts, and he was making leather pants," says Rich, who admits taking his name from the comic-book character and is definitely the more talkative of the pair.

"I mean, I was into the Ice Capades and he was in the rodeo. He wanted to start the line, but I said I’d only do it if he would do it with me. I mean, he [Rains] went to business school, so I thought he was savvy like that. We were partners in crime – a kind of toxic-twin type of scenario."

In 2000, the two set up shop in a studio on the 11th floor of an apartment building on 32d Street, where they spent most of their time designing clothing and campaigning fashion-magazine editors.

They met Brown at a party, and the duo made her a leather cavewoman halter top and hot pants to wear to the MTV Awards. Next, they designed a dress for Lil’ Kim to wear to the Soul Train Music Awards, and went on to outfit Gwen Stefani, Aerosmith, Mariah Carey and Missy Elliott.

Their big break came the following year, when designer Patricia Field dressed Sarah Jessica Parker in a Heatherette T-shirt on "Sex and the City."

The fashion public-relations company Mao PR made sure top magazine editors crowded into Heatherette’s standing-room-only shows at New York’s Fashion Week. Photographer David LaChapelle hooked Heatherette up with New York’s famous transvestite, Amanda Lepore.

It was Lepore who stalked down a fall 2001 runway covered in Heatherette and pink lipstick. The fashion world ate it up.

Earlier this year, the Weisfeld Group, which owns the urban fashion labels Coogi and FUBU, bought Heatherette for $6 million. That cash infusion allowed the designers to pay back some outstanding debt and get their clothing into more retail outlets.

Right now, Rich says, Heatherette is available in 192 department stores and specialty boutiques, including Henri Bendel and Nordstrom. But with that distribution, Rains said, comes a need for more attention to detail and wearability.

"In the beginning, we wanted our clothes to bring out the pop star in everybody," says Rains, his eyes done in black eyeliner. "We didn’t care if they fit right."

"Yeah," Rich chimes in. "We didn’t go to fashion school. We went to the school of the streets."

© 2005, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.