Dennis Basso Moves Beyond Fur
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After years of outfitting women in stylish furs, Dennis Basso is giving his clients fashion for the rest of their closets. Next Tuesday, as part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Bryant Park, Mr. Basso will present the debut of his first complete ready-to-wear collection — with hardly a pelt of fur in it.
Although he has created two small spring collections in the past two years, the spring 2009 collection is the first to have a full runway show.
Mr. Basso’s appearance at the tents, along with upcoming boutique openings in Russia, China, and Europe, is part of the designer’s new business plan, intended to capitalize on the brand recognition he has built in more than 25 years designing fur garments.
“I was never really a furrier. I’ve always approached fur as if it were fashion, as if it were ready-to-wear,” Mr. Basso, a socialite favorite, said of his transition. “That’s what made the label stand out from other companies.”
But will Mr. Basso be able to stand out in the far more competitive playing field of ready-to-wear?
A longtime client, Charlotte Moss, thinks so. “Dennis is unique, as a designer and a businessman. He has a point of view and he listens to his customers,” Ms. Moss, an interior designer and the owner of the eponymous townhouse-home furnishings shop off Madison Avenue, said. “To be sure, it will at the same time be chic and sporty, a classic American sensibility. And most importantly, it will be fun to wear.”
Mr. Basso describes his spring 2009 ready-to-wear line as “quietly sexy” with touches of glamour, taking care to note that “overtly sexy is not who Dennis Basso is about.” That means flowing shapes and ombré tones. “It all has a very watercolor-on-paper effect; it’s not necessarily so defined or hard-edged,” Mr. Basso said.
His color palettes include gray, tan, and cream; pink, lavender, and purple; golden caramel and bronze, and, for a few dramatic evening looks, black chiffon.
Mr. Basso has designed pieces for day and night, with an emphasis on dresses, but he’s also designed separates such as shorts and blouses. “It’s an overall general mix of great spring and summer resort,” Mr. Basso said. “It’s going to work in any setting of the glamorous resorts.”
For inspiration, Mr. Basso recalled the sea, sand, and light from his own stays at resorts in America and Europe. But he also found it in his backyard: Mr. Basso spent the summer in Southampton, observing his target clientele at private parties and charity events.
“A lot of the women here will be wearing my collection next summer,” he said. “And also in Palm Beach. [The collection] will be able to travel around to all the great resorts in America and Europe — Saint-Tropez, the Italian Riviera. The clothes will blend beautifully into that fashion landscape.”
For Mr. Basso, who is known for furs that are light, supple, and easy to wear, working with fabric has made his job “more fun and exciting.” And with this collection, the clothes themselves will be the showstoppers. “They’re not being covered up by a coat or outer garment,” Mr. Basso said.
That said, there there will be some fur, though the items will be designed to complement an outfit, not conceal it. “Tiny little boleros, shoulder wraps, a little something to cover the shoulders,” Mr. Basso said. “Those evening looks are very strong for spring or on a cool summer evening.”