Dennis Basso On His Design Inspiration and Making Women Feel Beautiful

Photo courtesy of Dennis Basso
Dennis Basso.

Dennis Basso is a designer who wears many hats.

In his Madison Avenue and Aspen stores, there are dreamy furs, from mink to sable to ermine, once reserved for royalty. There is also a gorgeous line of cocktail and evening dresses, and a new bridal line. He has a thriving business on QVC, where he is by far the most entertaining and convincing host I have ever seen.

He is devoted to charitable causes, from helping people who suffer from addiction and depression at Silver Hill Hospital, to reading textbooks to the blind for The Lighthouse (at least he tried to).

A great storyteller, listener, and friend, Dennis Basso took some time out of his busy pre-Fashion Week schedule to talk to FashionEtc about his design inspiration, bridal collection, volunteer work and more.

What inspires your designs? Who and what are your greatest influences?

My designs are often inspired by a period in history, by beautiful women and by nature. Actually, inspiration comes in many different forms, and one never really knows when or how something will bring that spark of creativity. I believe I was greatly influenced as a child by being surrounded by my mother and her sisters, who were all extremely fashion conscience and perfectly groomed.

What motivated you to design your bridal collection?

Designing my first bridal collection was, for me, a dream come true. My very first design was at the age of 7. It was a stick figure wearing my version of a wedding gown, complete with veil and bouquet. When Kleinfeld Bridal approached me to interpret the Dennis Basso look of luxury into wedding gowns, I couldn’t have been any more ready for the challenge.

What were the most pivotal moments in your life?

I think one of the most important, pivotal moments in my career was when I saw my designs in Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s for the first time. Also, it was amazing when I opened my Boutique on Madison Avenue. To be on the same street with some of the world’s most important and influential designers was a feeling of real accomplishment.

Tell me about QVC—how did you get there? What does it take to succeed on TV?

Next year, I’ll be celebrating my 20th anniversary on QVC. It is an amazing concept to be able to show and sell one’s collection via television and computer. I created my dennis by dennis basso line to bring affordable fashion dressing to millions of women across America. To succeed on TV, the customer has to be able to believe in you, your brand and be assured of the quality level. Once you achieve all these factors, she becomes “your client.”

You very generously volunteered your time to reading books for the blind. How did that work out?

About 15 years ago, I thought it would be wonderful to read to people who are visually impaired. Somehow, I saw myself reading Vanity Fair, Vogue and People Magazine type publications. Not the case…my first pairing was with a woman who was studying for her doctorate in Bio-Chemistry. It was so embarrassing; every other word was totally incomprehensible and unpronounceable to me. I realized very quickly that I would be far more helpful to them by raising funds for research.

Photos: Imaxtree

Looks from Dennis Basso's Spring 2013 collection.

What are your favorite places in the world?

Some of my favorite places in the world are the Italian Riviera, St. Tropez and, especially, just being poolside at our house in Water Mill.

If you could have done anything differently, what would you have changed?

You know, I actually love what I’m doing—making women look and feel beautiful is something very dear to me. As a young man, I thought of going into show business, and now QVC has been able to fill that need for me by merging fashion and TV. Secretly, I sometimes wonder what it must be like to be a brain surgeon or a leader in science helping to save lives. What must it be like to be that person?

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

In my spare time, we love to entertain during the summer, with close friends for an al fresco dinner or luncheon, with wonderful conversation and delicious food. Entertaining, for us, has become a wonderful hobby.