Dennis Basso Talks 30th Anniversary Collection
by bettina zilkha
Perusing Dennis Basso’s collection is a chic woman’s dream come true. Extraordinary coats paired with red-carpet-ready cocktail and eveningwear—it’s a fashion-loving, Louboutin-wearing woman’s apex, the ne plus ultra of black-tie sophistication. “Thirty years seems like forever, and it went by in a flash,” says Basso of the three-decade anniversary he celebrates this year. “I had my first show in 1983 at the [Loews] Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and it was very well received; The New York Times gave it half a page. It was a little overnight success at the time. Of course there have been peaks and valleys since then, but luckily more peaks than valleys.”
For his 30th anniversary collection, Basso was inspired by great American fashion icons such as Babe Paley, Millicent Rogers, Gloria Guinness, and C.Z. Guest. Bulky outerwear gives way to a more fitted, narrow look. The silhouettes are sleek and feminine, even when the fabric is tailored. If the fabric is more feminine, the cut is kept simple. Plaid takes center stage in silk organza evening dresses. Many pieces are designed to be able to segue from day to night by simply changing accessories. “Modern dressing doesn’t segregate evening and daytime; it’s better to mix it up,” explains Basso, who manufactures his collection in New York City, allowing him to visit his factory two to three times a week and to completely control the quality of the finished product.
“This collection was very important to me,” says Basso of his anniversary pieces. “When I think of where I first began, to now be showing at the tents at Lincoln Center surrounded by some of the greatest designers in the world, and to see that these are my peers, this is an amazing accomplishment. It’s been an amazing journey when I think about it. We’re going to be celebrating all year long—it’s the extended birthday!”
Away from his Manhattan atelier, Basso and his husband, Michael Cominotto, have built the perfect oasis on Cobb Road in Water Mill. “We love the Hamptons,” says Basso. “As a creative person, my environment is very important. I love our house. We’ve created an in-house resort; I could come here and not necessarily leave for the whole weekend. A very dear friend of ours, Christian Leone, nicknamed it ‘Hotel du Cobb.’ It has everything we love, that we’ve collected over the years. It’s a blue and white fantasy. Whether you’re inside or outside, it’s just so peaceful.”
Out East, the couple is highly regarded for their ability to entertain. “We have a big pavilion outdoors called the Lantern Lounge, where we host one or two big dinners a season,” says Basso, whose most highly anticipated soirée is a dinner he hosts with QVC timed to Super Saturday. “We enjoy giving small dinners and lunches, or being just us, sitting by the pool. I like my friends, and I want to be around them. I love a household that is filled with fun, laughter, and people coming and going. To me, that’s relaxing.”
At the Basso/Cominotto house, the napkins are linen, the food is perfection, and dinners are seated affairs. Basso tries to place guests between someone they know and someone they will enjoy meeting. The evening could result in romance, a business deal, or, at the very least, a new friend. The dress code is always resort-appropriate: Basso, Roberto Cavalli, and Prada are de rigueur for women, while men feel at ease in jeans and an impeccably tailored shirt. The evenings are seamless and sometimes last way into the morning.
It’s fitting that décor is as important as dress at Basso’s home. At 5 years old he was already noticing what people were wearing, and he was attracted to beautiful things. He knew he would either go into fashion or television, and with his thriving QVC business, he has managed to do both. His designs have been worn by notable celebrities: Meryl Streep wears a Dennis Basso coat in the opening scene of The Devil Wears Prada; Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Liza Minnelli, Patti LaBelle, and Joan Collins have all been spotted in Basso’s gorgeous frocks and coats. When Paris and Nicky Hilton were still in their teens, they made their modeling debuts walking Basso’s runway.
The beautiful model Coco Rocha is currently the face of the brand. “You don’t have to be old to be elegant and sophisticated,” says Basso, himself a picture of class in a perfectly tailored Zegna suit, impeccably coiffed silver hair, and his trademark smile. “Sometimes people associate elegance and sophistication with women of a certain age. That’s not necessarily so. There are lots of women who are 25 years old and don’t want to have a tattoo, although I would love the opportunity to do something fun with Lady Gaga, and she probably has a few!” 765 Madison Ave., NYC, 212- 794-4500
photography by doug young; Daniel Zuchnik/wireimage.com (rocha); DAN and CORINA LECCA (runway); rebecca sahn (bags)