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NEW YORK — Dennis Basso plans to mark his 20th anniversary in business with a pair of big moves: He is negotiating to open a Madison Avenue flagship this fall, and he’s recruited Jack Cohen, a well-known fur veteran from Fendi, to run the store.
This story first appeared in the May 20, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Cohen, who was managing director of furs at Fendi’s Fifth Avenue store for 13 years, will become director of Basso’s Madison Avenue unit. Basso said he is in talks to finalize a location within the next couple of weeks and is considering several spaces between 60th and 70th Streets.
“After 20 years of developing the product and believing that I know what women want, being on Madison Avenue will give me a final stamp of approval in the high-end arena,” said Basso, who will present his 20th anniversary collection of big furs and luxury ready-to-wear in typically outrageous fashion on May 28, with a runway show and dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street.
Basso’s company has been gaining momentum over the past year. The designer has been competing more aggressively against traditional fur companies as well as in the high-end rtw arena. Besides opening his first store in Aspen at The Little Nell resort hotel over the winter, Basso also launched his first full accessories collection. Opening a Madison Avenue location was also among his immediate goals, the realization of which, he said, will be hastened by the addition of Cohen to his staff.
“Because of Jack’s career spanning 30 years in the luxury market and his expertise in salesmanship, along with his vast working knowledge of craftsmanship and his high taste level, he will be an extraordinary addition to the Dennis Basso company,” Basso said.
Before joining Fendi, where he was known to many of the city’s biggest fur customers, Cohen was the buyer for Bergdorf Goodman’s fur salon for 14 years, after starting his career at Neiman Marcus.
“Having Jack available to us will speed up the process of opening on Madison Avenue,” Basso said. “I wanted the space to feel like a club, and with me knowing so many women in New York and Jack knowing the rest of them, this will be a club that would welcome old friends and new.”
Basso said the spaces he is considering range from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet, which would accommodate at least 50 to 60 sables, chinchillas and other luxury furs, plus the accessories collection, leather ready-to-wear and some eveningwear. Compared with the Aspen store, which is 600 square feet and exceeded its plan of $2.5 million for the season, Basso projected a first-year volume in New York of $7 million. The collection is also carried at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s in New York.
He also plans to use the same team of designers to create the space. The interior of the Aspen store was executed by Kenneth Alpert of New York, featuring limestone floors and cream, silk-lined drawers. Built-in cabinets, closets and crown mouldings are carved of sycamore wood. That store was designed by New York-based architect John Lindel in a style that Basso described as “contemporary yet extremely luxurious.”
“Anyone who knows me will know that there will also be a pristine powder room,” Basso said. “Opening on Madison Avenue will increase our tourist trade, from all the luxury hotels surrounding that area, and will make shopping more convenient for our existing clients uptown. This takes the Dennis Basso brand into another league. We are not just opening a shop, we’re making a statement about the company.”