On the wall of Dennis Basso's office, next to the framed magazine and newspaper stories about his now-25-year-old fur business and a thank you note from Meryl Streep — who wore Basso's sheared mink and Russian broadtail coat in "The Devil Wears Prada" — hangs a childlike drawing of a woman. She is wearing what appears to be a tiara, high heels and a dress embellished with lacy scribbles. The price tag "500,000" is scrawled next to her and, in the upper right corner, is the young artist's age: "7 years old." Basso points to the woman proudly. "I detailed everything down to her netted veil," he says. "Even then, I knew I liked things lavish!"
Indeed, since 1983, when he began designing out of a 400-square-foot space on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, Basso, who will unveil his second ready-to-wear collection on Feb. 5, has built a company based on that most lavish of fashion materials: fur, namely sable, chinchilla, mink and shearling. Mention some of his most famous clients, however — Liza Minnelli was swathed in a Basso fur for her nuptials to David Gest; Diana Ross closed his 20th-anniversary show five years ago at Cipriani — and Basso is both pleased by the association and careful not to sound, as he says, only "razzle-dazzle."
"From the celebrities to the socialites to the hip-hop artists to the young fashion women, I've crossed barriers, and I love that," he says. To wit, his most famous celebrity customer dazzles quite differently than the rest — Hillary Rodham Clinton, who wore one of his capes when she was first lady. "I've made this company my life, but it's no longer about just one kind of client. I think that it's been a natural progression to working with a new generation of women. I feel that the next collection will really embody what the label is all about."
Basso will show that collection at Bryant Park after a one-season hiatus following his debut there for fall 2007. Prior to that, he had shown for years at nearly every wood-paneled, upholstered-to-the-nines hotel in New York, including the Waldorf-Astoria, the Mark, the Pierre and the Regency, which was the site of his very first show. Though his first one at the tents, in which he played up his rtw, was criticized for lacking direction, he plans to again present the range of his work. Fur will constitute only about 40 percent of the lineup he says is inspired by his current clients' predecessors in New York's social swirl. "I thought that this collection should somewhat reflect the great fashion icons of the past few decades," explains Basso, who in September opened his fourth boutique, in Atlantic City, following his flagship on Madison Avenue as well as boutiques in Chicago and Aspen, Colo. "We want it to be young, but always sophisticated. I looked to Babe Paley, Nan Kempner, C.Z. Guest, and I felt inspired by them because whether it was trousers and a T-shirt or a ballgown, these women focused on creating a look and a style, which happens to be polished." In addition to an evening bag line designed in collaboration with Darby Scott, cocktail dresses and long gowns in floral and feather motifs are the focus, with fur pieces including a tweed coat with horizontal strips of chinchilla. "I was originally a clothing designer who happened to end up doing furs," he says. "It was about designing the coat, and then finding the right fur to fit the design."From an early point, cultivating relationships with clients was a crucial part of Basso's business approach. Taking his cues from designers who worked closely with socialites and blurred the lines between dresser and good friend (notably Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera), Basso made it his mission to know which coat was going to which client while attending trunk shows across the country. "I'd like to think I'm a sociable guy," Basso says, flashing a smile. "I was often invited to events, and I reciprocated. I used the social aspect early on as a building block for my client base. I was never afraid of giving dinners at Le Club, which is no longer around, or Doubles. I did seated dinners at Studio 54. It allowed the clients to know about me, and it was a wonderful way to create friendships."
Although his original client base has moved into what he winkingly calls "fashion adulthood," Basso's determination to win over a younger set of socials and his foray into rtw are not indications that he has abandoned his hard-won foundation of fans. "I always believe that no matter how old someone is, if you love fashion, and you like looking good, you're going to do your best to be a part of that," he says of his longtime supporters, who include a Who's Who of New York's Upper East Side and many music industry types, such as Ross and Patti LaBelle. "You know, when I started to dress them, I was much younger, and they were much younger. And people don't desert their friends."
Although he has moved his creative and executive teams, as well as production, to a 30,000-square-foot space in Long Island City, N.Y., Basso continues to keep an office in the rear of his Madison Avenue store, where he is known to circle the floor and slip a woman into a sable jacket while offering up water or cappuccino on a silver tray. "I was always very in tune with what was necessary to create an image," he says. "If you look at other designers, many have added furs to their collections. I've just done it the other way around. The quality and finishing of our furs are the same for our clothes. You can do and say one thing, but the merchandise speaks for itself."
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty