You know the crowd's off at a fashion show when someone sitting in the back wonders aloud if they're going to make an announcement before the show starts. Or if people are going to stop talking when the models come out. Such was the conversation going on behind us at the Dennis Basso show this afternoon, where about a third of the seats were empty (though standers filled in many of them). The ladies who lunch while drowning in fur, usually in attendance at Basso shows, were mostly absent. One socialite told us many didn't care to watch a fur parade in These Economic Times. It was so empty, even PETA didn't show up.
On a day the Dow dropped 300 points, could there be a more inappropriate activity than looking at $20,000 to $50,000 coats? Hell, PETA hardly has anything to worry about! With the socials missing, hard-core fur coats were scarce. Though we saw a fur collar here and there, we counted only two full-length furs — on men. Fur is the bling of clothing, and as Karl Lagerfeld asserted, bling is out.
So what is a fur designer to do in these times, when the things you've created for decades — and we say this not in deference to animal-rights activists — go against all sense of propriety? Turn a blind eye to the Dow, credit default swaps, unemployment rates, mortgage-backed securities, and design on. "I put all the economy, Depression out of my brain and decided to create a collection that would be desirable, that people would want, that women would want to feel good in," Basso told us after the show. "I think if you kept the economy in your brain, it might be a little blah and not so exciting." But Basso isn't blissfully ignorant. "I think if you were to say business is spectacular — anyone who’s saying that is putting something in their Wheaties that we don’t know about."
He's avoided layoffs by "cutting back on extravagances." Rather than having a seated dinner for 300 people after his show, he's only going out with ten friends this evening. Rather than filling his Madison Avenue store with $1,000 worth of orchids each week, he's using ivy plants. And most important, Basso is bringing his furs to his customers (as we mentioned, they certainly aren't coming to him). He recently courted customers in Dallas and Houston. Tomorrow he flies to St. Moritz in Switzerland to open a pop-up shop in the middle of the Palace hotel. You know, where the economic crisis only exists outside.