Fashion: Living in the haute seat
VAIL – Luxury fur designer Dennis Basso’s chosen profession makes him many things to many people.
A hero: His Aspen fashion show raised more than $600,000 for the Aspen Art Museum last year.
An entrepreneur: “I was drawn into the fur business … because I loved the fact that something could cost thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars!” he told the New York Observer.
An enemy: “Pandering to the rich and famous, this greedy bastard takes his bloody fashion to new heights of insanity,” says the animal rights organization WAR (Win Animal Rights).
You can decide for yourself. The new Dennis Basso Boutique in Vail’s Four Seasons is his seventh, joining Madison Avenue in New York City, Michigan Avenue in Chicago, London, Aspen, Harbin City in China, and Moscow.
Basso creates luxury furs, one-of-a-kind coats, gowns, accessories and clothing collections. A long list of celebrities wear his designs. Among them: Sharon Stone, Brooke Shields, Kim Cattrall, Ivana Trump, Eva Longoria, Denise Rich, Naomi Cambell, Hoda Kotb, Carol Alt and Andre Leon Talley.
“I was originally a clothing designer who happened to end up doing furs. It was about designing the coat, and then finding the right fur to fit the design,” Basso said.
We caught up with him early Thursday morning and he was happy to be in the fur business. New York City had been pounded with 19 inches of snow, and is enjoying the city’s snowiest winter on record.
“Its makes it nice to be in the fur business at times like this. We’re keeping people warm,” Basso said.
Like all entrepreneurs, Basso started a small business with big dreams, peddling pelts out of the trunk of a rented Lincoln Town Car. That was 1983.
It’s a great story and has the added benefit of being true.
Yes, it was 1983, and yes, it involved a Lincoln Town Car.
Basso and a friend/partner came up with the fashion industry’s version of Tupperware parties.
“We would take pieces from designers and manufacturers to women we knew,” Basso explained. “Those women would put together several of their friends and we’d all get together. It was like the Tupperware parties that were popular at that time.”
They were in their 20s and anything was possible. But if you’re going to move product, you have to move some product and they didn’t own a car. It’s New York and you still don’t really need one.
So they’d rent a big Lincoln Town Car, carefully stack everything in the back seat and trunk, and motor on over.
It worked better than they could have ever imagined.
“We would always sell, and for much less than you could buy those pieces anywhere else,” Basso said.
Eventually, they were so successful that Basso opened the flagship store on Madison Avenue. He’s doing exactly what he always wanted to do.
“I really wanted to be a designer as a child, either that or in show business,” Basso said.
He graduated the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, interviewed for about 10 jobs and finally landed one with a fur designer.
“It seemed very glamorous and I thought ‘Let me try it,'” Basso said. “Little did I know that all these years later I’d still be doing that.”
He spent 20 years selling through those solo and group shows. In 2003, the Madison Avenue boutique opened and quickly became a favorite spot for both fur lovers and PETA protestors.
Now he’s a multinational brand, outfitting everyone from socialites to hip-hop artists, as well as regular people looking for beauty on a budget.
For his fall 2007 runway show, he launched a discount line of non-fur ready-to-wear items. It’s been a huge success. He sold more than 1 million faux-sable coats on QVC.
It’s art you wear
Nicole Trevino runs Basso’s Vail boutique.
You know Nicole Trevino and have enjoyed her work. She has been in Vail since 1997. She opened the Glass Gallery in Beaver Creek and for 14 years grew it into one of the most successful and award-winning galleries in the area.
When she heard Dennis Basso was coming to the area, she started a conversation with his New York staff. They met, liked and respected one another and decided to do some business.
“I’m still pinching myself,” Trevino said.
No need to wake up just yet. She’s been invited to New York Fashion Week, Feb. 13-17.
“Fashion at this level is another art form for all to enjoy,” Trevino said. “The best part of fashion design is the pleasure to see someone in the garment, enjoying a special moment in life.”
Vail’s clientele fits Basso like one of his own designs.
“Vail is a wonderful town,” he said. “Vail sees lots of international people with families, and when the Four Seasons came along it seemed like the place to be.”
More gallery than store
A Basso boutique is not a clothing store. It’s put together like a sleek, high end art gallery.
Everything about it is designed to make customers feel comfortable and display each creation as the unique artwork it is.
“It’s an artform in a different medium,” Trevino said. “Most are limited, one-of-a-kind pieces off the runway.”
Basso dives head first into local charities. In Aspen he sponsors a huge fashion show in support of the Aspen Art Museum. It’s wall-to-wall with celebrities and Basso always attends.
“Once the word gets out about the store, we’d like to do something like that here,” Trevino said.
A few Aspenites warmed to his $95,000 Russian sable vests with crocodile trim and $200,000 sable coats.
When the bidding was done, the Aspen Art Museum was the proud owner of more than $600,000 they didn’t have before the auction started.
About the collection
The Vail boutique features some of Basso’s most ingenious creations, inspired by his Fall/Winter 2010 collection.
The sleek, hard-edged military look is popular this season. The collection emphasizes furs embroidered with metallic inserts and combinations of materials, as well as alligator, fox, and broadtail. The fabrics for the evening wear range from sheer laces, sequins, and heavily embroidered tulle to metallic shades.
A neutral palette of gunmetal grey, smoky gold and cream with accents of evergreen and aubergine complete the collection.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.