“They’re not really ‘normal’ clothes. It takes a person who is looking to be noticed to wear them.” Anthony Heimann describes his designs for Nicholas Anthony Clothing with vibrant terms like ‘post-apocalyptic evening wear’ or ‘engage streetwear,’ offering the City of Denver fashion that by no means plays it safe.
“When you’re wearing it, everyone’s going to be looking at you and talking to you,” Heimann said. “You have quite a different experience than wearing normal clothes.”
Heimann grew up in Wyoming, abundant in open spaces and natural areas, and he was always intrigued by mythology and stories of native peoples. He considers those tales some of his earliest inspirations as a designer.
Heimann sees each design almost as a creature, telling a story and allowing his audience and customers to confront the feelings and life of his brand, not just watching and consuming it. Part of this means challenging people to move into the future, let go of the norms, and take on a new, more inclusive set of standards.
“I’m working to be able to have transgender individuals, or people who are more androgynous, or who want to push more toward feminine but have a masculine body, be able to do that,” Heimann said. “Whatever your identity or expression is, or your body shape—you should be able to wear fantastic clothes.”
Heimann eventually came across two trans, out-of-this-world, Denver drag performers online and began collaborating.
Pax Transwitch and Anthony shared a mutual friend who owned some of his designs. After taking a few photos of herself in her friend’s garments and tagging the designer, Anthony messaged her on Instagram, asking if Pax would be interested in wearing more. Soon after, she was wearing one of his original designs to last year’s DIVAs.
“I appreciate that there’s someone who maybe doesn’t share that experience who is going out of their way to make sure that the experience is still comfortable for us,” Pax said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with other designers, and I just haven’t taken them, partially because I know that maybe they’re not looking to make a gown that would fit someone like me. It might have to be retro-fitted; it might have to be a second thought given, but he gave it the first thought.”
Starchild heard of Heimann in passing during a photoshoot with two other models wearing his designs. Heimann later reached out to Starchild on Instagram after seeing her appear in that photoshoot. Upon returning to Colorado from grad school, she got back in touch with Heimann and was immediately drawn in by his work, especially because it was trans-inclusive.
“Everything is designed in a way where it can fit our bodies, but it expresses the gender which we identify with,” Starchild said. “He’s a huge proprietor of androgyny, and I really appreciate that, because it’s not about someone’s gender; it’s about the expression of the person.”
Heimann mirrored that statement. “They’re more than drag queens—the clothes help to express what their inner identity is. My stuff is not always glamour, and the story behind it is not always glamour, and that’s why Pax and Starchild are really drawn to my things, because it helps them to bring their character to life.”
Starchild has a solid history of working in gender-affirming clothing with photographers and designers, but she said it is often more challenging in the real world, especially in Colorado. Even though Heimann often does very high-fashion pieces, Starchild said she’s eager to wear more of his pieces in everyday life.
“For people like Pax and I, and for most of the queer community that doesn’t identify as a cis, gay male, this type of designer and this type of movement is really important,” Starchild said.
Anthony’s designs are avant-garde and couture, but Pax appreciates that they are also very classic. She loved seeing that vision come to life in collaboration with Heimann for last year’s DIVAs, and both herself and Starchild collaborated with Nicholas Anthony Clothing for this year’s awards.
After last year’s awards, Heimann said he and Pax were bound to collaborate again. Pax’s vision for this year’s look at the DIVAs was a “faceless, red queen who kind of just glides across the ground like red smoke.” Her face was obscured, surrounded by layers of veils, “almost evil, but not.” She said she was partially inspired by her favorite TV show, SyFy’s The Magicians, specifically the demons which possess bodies of abusive men to protect the women they are aggressive toward.
“They’re just these giant, amorphous, smoke beings, and that’s what I want to be,” Pax said, adding, “our artistic visions line up really well; he’s on board for that ‘not-quite-human, not-quite-woman’ energy I try my best to exude in all of my looks.”
On collaborating with Starchild for this year’s DIVAs, Heimann said with a laugh, “Starchild, I feel like we were just mutually like, ‘You’re wearing something of mine to the DIVA awards!’”
She and Heimann started working with a gown that already existed, cinching and adding to make their shared vision a reality. The initial concept was intergalactic royalty. They worked together during multiple fittings to create an hourglass form, tulle shooting from the bottom and out the top of the chest. Picture a collection of purple hues surrounded by black floral, all surrounding Starchild’s entire head and face, painted like a galaxy and dawning a shooting-star headpiece.
“I wanted to stay with my brand, but I also wanted to try new things,” Starchild said. “This dress is something that I’ve never really seen before. It’s so unique.”
Looking toward the future beyond the DIVAs, Heimann intends to continue destroying stereotypes in fashion. He is eager to tap more into the men’s bridal market, which gives men in same-gender relationships more options with formal wear as a couple.
“Not everyone wants to wear, like, two suits,” he said. “Some people want something more fabulous but still want to be masculine.”
One thing that will never change: Heimann was firm and consistent in his goal as a designer to create fashion that is accessible and affirming for any person.
“I just want to show anyone can wear the clothes. A body is a body; humans are humans. The days of men’s clothes and women’s clothes, ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine,’ I see, are disappearing.”
Photos by Robin Johnson