To a significant extent, Basso has realized both of his childhood dreams of being in fashion or in show business. Serious about the latter, he studied speech and acting at Catholic University before transferring to the Fashion Institute of Technology. His career is proof that he is equal parts business, pleasure, social, and famous. Next year, he will celebrate his 30-year anniversary with QVC, demonstrating another another way Basso has merged fashion and show business. “Talk about a double nightmare,” Basso remarked. (And a lucrative one, given that his debut QVC program generated $350,000 in sales in one hour and he has since sold 6 million copies through QVC.)
“I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings.” But I don’t see myself living at home for long. That is not what I intend to do. “Never,” he declared. “I’m continuously looking for ways to grow my business.” I have the impression that there is a vast area in the middle — from $150 to $500 reasonable luxury — that I have yet to explore. “I’m working on some television shows about fashion and home decor.”
The designer held his first fashion presentation at the Regency Hotel in 1983, and one of the visitors, Ivana Trump, showed up unannounced at his store the next morning and ordered several of his coats. He received glowing reviews from WWD and The New York Times. While speaking to attendees at Trump’s burial in July, Basso recalled that auspicious start to a great career and friendship. Basso’s business and personal life have been influenced by high-profile ladies, celebrities, and socialites. For Basso, a welcoming entertainer who used to cap off his runway presentations with formal dinners at monuments like Le Cirque, The Pierre, and the Rainbow Room, there is often no distinction between the two.
Basso moved from Manhattan’s run-down fur sector to the Upper East Side, the preferred zip code for many of his well-heeled customers, about 20 years ago. The Madison Avenue address houses a store, offices, and an atelier on multiple floors. Many of his clientele attended Basso and Michael Cominotto’s wedding celebration at the Pierre hotel in 2011. The designer’s warm personality is reflected in the Hotel duCobb home line, which he offers on QVC. The moniker is a play on the nickname given to his Hamptons by close friends who have enjoyed his hospitality and believe the level of service is equivalent to the Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc.
Recognizing the influence of celebrities on sales, Basso created his first celebrity coat for Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1984. Elizabeth Taylor became a client five years later. Trump, Joan Rivers, Eartha Kitt, Patti LaBelle, Natalie Cole, Joan Collins, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige, and Lisa Rinna were among his renowned friends and some strong-willed and opinionated women who were the finale of his runway displays over the years. Basso also designed a couple fur coats that Meryl Streep wore in the 2006 film “The Devil Wears Prada,” including the pivotal opening scene in which she threw one on her assistant’s desk. During their time in the White House, Basso created pieces for Princess Diana, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama. “It’s not political when you do that.” “You are outfitting the first lady’s office in the United States of America,” he explained.
Basso has always emphasized the importance of human connection. He was fast to conduct trunk displays and tour worldwide, wanting to follow in the footsteps of old-school designers like Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta. “I reasoned that if it’s good enough for them, it must be good enough for me.” That’s how I ended up starting my label without a public relations machine. It was me [laughing at the memory]. “However, I worked quite hard.”