NEW YORK — Dennis Basso's decision to show in the tents during New York Fashion Week was free from the stomach-wrenching doubts many Bryant Park newcomers face.
The nearby New York Public Library has been the site of his fur runway shows for the past few seasons. But the launch of his ready-to-wear collection and cocktail clothes called for something more modern than the Beaux-Arts building that is home to the Library Lions, Patience and Fortitude.
"This is a very exciting thing for me to do. I have had shows in most of the major hotels and venues in the city, but there's a certain excitement that comes with showing at Bryant Park for the first time," Basso said.
With four freestanding stores in upscale locales like Aspen and Madison Avenue, Basso has always considered himself a designer, not a furrier. The interior of his uptown store and office is supposed to resemble a posh apartment complete with a uniformed maid who offers shoppers beverages on a silver tray. His socialite friends are regulars at his runway shows and several will be among the 750 people expected to be on hand Feb. 9 for Basso's fashion week debut.
Many fit the description of his targeted customer — "the young, sophisticated, modern woman who enjoys luxury dressing." During an interview last week, Basso himself had taken on a younger look, opting for a T-shirt with a cashmere sweater and jacket instead of a suit. His rtw and eveningwear consists of gowns, pants, jackets, cocktail dresses and sweaters. Retail prices will start at $1,500 for a chiffon blouse and will top off at $10,000 for a beaded and embroidered evening gown.
"The inspiration really came from some classic shapes and classic fabrics, but interpreted them for today," he said. "Today, people want to feel like they are dressing modern. My collection is refined but very modern and a little sexy."
In business for 23 years, Basso is so set on making the clothes the main attraction that he steers clear of any questions relating to celebrity models or special guests. In years past, Diana Ross, Liza Minnelli and Ivana Trump were among the women who surprised guests by making the final turns in his shows. "We've gotten away from that. I really want this to be about the clothes."Pleased with the response he received to the limited rtw pieces he showed on the runway and in last year's ad campaign, Basso felt the time was right to go forward with a full-fledged collection. His signature fur outerwear and accessories will be amid the 40 pieces that will be seen on the catwalk.
"The most important thing is by showing the ready-to-wear, fur and accessories together, it will give the Dennis Basso brand a complete global awareness," he said of his company, which is expected to have sales this year of $30 million.
Eventually, he plans to open more stores, broaden his reach in Europe beyond his existing Western European private clients and enter the Asian market. The development of other categories is planned down the road, he said.
For now, Basso is content to keep forging ahead, though the Morris County, N.J., native doesn't seem to have lost sight of where he started. A wedding dress sketch he drew at the age of seven and a fawning handwritten letter he received from his kindergarten teacher for his commercial success are framed in his office right next to glowing reviews of previous shows.
Asked if he will do anything for luck next week, the designer said he will put one of his late mother Theresa's earrings in his pocket. "This is a natural progression for me. I've been a successful designer who happened to be working in fur," he said.
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