After 39 years in business, Dennis Basso has a starring role outside of his namesake company — as the subject of a new documentary.
Filming for “Behind the Label: Dennis Basso” started in August 2021 after QVC approached the designer about the prospect of the project to clue in his clients about who he is and the history of his career. Viewers of the hour-long film will catch clips of the 28-year-old Basso staging his first fashion show, which was held in 1983 at the Regency Hotel. “The next day Angela Taylor, who was the fashion writer at The New York Times, gave it a half page and Women’s Wear Daily also gave it some very big coverage. I was the first young fur designer, when most of the fur companies were run by fur families, whereas I was an individual. That was so unique at the time,” he said.
Other fashion shows as well as shots of his factory and Madison Avenue store are featured to show how he created his label on his own. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology, Basso worked for Hy Fishman Furs during the day and did little fashion shows at people’s homes at night — which irked his full-time employer. Basso later gave up his role as vice president there to be a freelance coordinator and stylist for several Italian ready-to-wear companies, before starting Pellicce BasCardi Ltd. with James Cardinalli.
Being awarded an honorary doctorate from FIT and addressing a crowd of nearly 6,000 was a career highlight, as it required approval from then Gov. Andrew Cuomo since FIT is part of the State University of New York, Basso said.
Viewers will learn about his childhood days in Lake Hopatcong, N.J. Snapshots of his parents and his hopes of going into fashion are depicted. There are also quotes from Naomi Campbell, Tommy Hilfiger and his wife Dee Ocleppo, Martha Stewart, Adam Glassman and Nina Garcia as well as FIT’s Joyce Brown. There are references to Basso’s marriage to Michael Cominotto and his 29 years of selling on QVC in the film, which is available via streaming services. Basso, one of the first well-known designers to sell a collection on QVC, said that Jane Tracy, a long-standing QVC host, has done the voiceover for the film. QVC will tease the film in the week ahead, as will Basso’s site and social media.
Mary Campbell, president of vCommerce Ventures, a business unit launched in March to accelerate livestream commerce for QVC and hSN, described Basso as “a beloved member of the QVC family as a fashion designer, vendor and on-air guest for more than 20 years.” She said, “Through his collection of affordable luxury fashion and home decor, Dennis has brought the runways of New York yo our customers wherever they are, at home or on-the-go. Now we are thrilled to share Dennis’ unique and inspiring story detailing the journey of his remarkable success exclusively on the QVC Streaming Service. As a leader now video commerce, we continue to create original content that is rich and relevant and keeps our customers engaged and connected with the brands they love.
As for what he hopes people will remember about the the film, he said, “I think it shows that I am a hard worker. I’m dedicated to my field whether it be in the luxury market or selling to thousands of women across the nation on QVC, I give it the same amount of attention. And I come off as a happy positive person, who I really am. Even when there is an adverse situation, I try to be positive. People who know me, know this. People, who don’t know me or maybe just know me from television and watch this may get a better insight into what it takes [to succeed], where I started and where I am.”
Citing some of the wonderful moments in the film, Basso spoke of a letter that he received about 10 years ago from his kindergarten teacher. (A keepsake that he has in his office.) “There are moments like that that just say, ‘Wow. This is interesting,’” Basso said. “And having affirmation from some of the established people in the fashion industry gives it a stamp of approval.”
Over the years the designer has dressed “some of the most important women in the world,” including a couple of First Ladies, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Taylor “and everyone in between,” he said. Basso also provided the coat that Meryl Streep wears in the opening scene of “The Devil Wears Prada,” and notoriously tosses on her assistant’s desk to hang up.
“Behind the Label” isn’t tied to Basso’s upcoming QVC appearances. “This is really tied to the way of the future in terms of streaming services and how you can watch and shop and everything that is new and happening,” he said.
“Behind the Label” is the latest documentary that profiles a designer’s life. In recent weeks Elie Tahari, the New York-based Irish designer known simply as Clodagh and SS Daley’s creative director Steven Stokey-Daley have rolled out their own documentaries. After Isaac Mizrahi forged into films with the 1995 release of “Unzipped,” documentarians have profiled multiple other style-setters including Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint Laurent, Raf Simons, Diana Vreeland, André Leon Talley and the late street photographer Bill Cunningham.