FIT Foundation Gala

The Fashion Institute of Technology and the FIT Foundation held their annual black tie gala at the Plaza Hotel’s Grand Ballroom last evening. It is long considered to be one of New York’s most important fashion business events and this year more than 1.7 million dollars was raised to help the college. All proceeds from the event benefit the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Educational Development Fund.

Dennis Basso, Dr. Joyce Brown, Liz Peek, Mike George
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Among those who came in support of FIT (a melding of the worlds of business, fashion, music, art, philanthropy, culture): Nicky Hilton Rothschild, Paris Hilton, Hilary Rhoda & Sean Avery, Ivana Trump, David Lauren & Lauren Bush Lauren, Barron Hilton, Deborah Norville, Jill Martin, Carol Alt, Mike George (CEO QVC), Pamela Fiori, Amsale Aberra, Louise Camuto, June Ambrose, Judith Ripka, Adrienne Vittadini, Bronson Van Wyck, philanthropist Denise Rich, FIT President Dr. Joyce F. Brown and H. Carl McCall, Dr. Valerie Steele, Marigay McKee, Audrey and Martin Gruss, Fe and Alessandro Fendi, Jamie Tisch, Yaz and Valentin Hernandez, Elizabeth and Jeff Peek, Jay and Patty Baker, George and Marianna Kaufman, Melinda and Stanley Jaffe, Phyllis and Billy Mack, Kamie Lightburn, Bettina Zilka, Caryn Zucker, Jaqui Lividini, Joan Hornig, Perry Peltz, Grace and Chris Meigher, Barbara and Donald Tober, Bill and Mandy Dillard, Tom Nastos, Leba and Neil Sedaka.

Laura and John Pomerantz

This year’s honorees were John and Laura Pomerantz who received the Patrons of the Year Award for their longstanding commitment to FIT; QVC, which was honored with the Retailer of the Year award in recognition of its pioneering efforts; and FIT alumnus Dennis Basso, who received the Designer of the Year Award for his outstanding creative vision and exceptional 30 year career in the industry.

Ivana Trump and Dennis Basso

It seemed the night really belonged to the always effervescent Dennis Basso, who clearly relished the fact that everywhere you looked, you saw his friends and loyal fans decked out in his embellished eveningwear. And make no mistake about it; they were from his high end line and not his popular priced QVC collection! There was model, actress, entrepreneur Carol Alt; Paris and Nicky Hilton  Rothschild; QVC Creative Director Jill Martin; model Hilary Rhoda; FIT Board of Trustee Liz Peek; Yaz Hernandez; Jill Roosevelt; Dr. Joyce Brown; Ivana Trump; Deborah Norville; Leba Sedaka.

Fe Fendi
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

While Fe Fendi, in a shimmery pale Basso, might have thought it was too warm to add one of his furs, that apparently did not deter celebrity stylist June Ambrose (who has designed a line for QVC), Ashley McDermott, Sabrina Georgiades; or Michele Herbert.

June Ambrose
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

By the way, the coincidence that in addition to Dennis Basso’s luxurious fur and eveningwear, he also enjoys a very successful partnership with another honoree, QVC (where he reaches an audience in the millions, selling his popular priced faux fur outerwear and accessories) was not lost on me.  I refer to this as Fashion’s version of “Six Degrees of Separation”. When I asked Dr. Joyce Brown if it was more than a coincidence, she shrugged it off as well, a good example of being “all in the family”.

Leba Sedaka

About 25 years ago, someone suggested that Dennis partner with QVC. As he once explained: “I thought it was simply Trailer Park. But I have obviously changed my mind. I love fashion and I love TV, and so I went ahead with it. I started on September 3, 1993 at 10 a.m. and I immediately sold 11 out of 12 pieces. It was the highest grossing fashion show in the history of QVC”. In 2009 he received the QVC Ambassador Award.

Paris Hilton, Dennis Basso, Nicky Hilton Rothschild

Dennis has admitted that he became a furrier “by accident”. He had wanted to be a clothing designer. “Nowadays, designers are all doing fur so I’m doing the reverse. I’m a furrier making ready-to-wear. Everything is made in New York City which is very unique”. His career really took off in the early 80’s when he was given prime windows in Martha on Park Avenue and staged his first show at the Regency Hotel. It was then that he was introduced to Leba and Neil Sedaka and Donald and Ivana Trump (she immediately bought 7 coats). They all remain great friends to this day and they were all there last evening. All except for Donald Trump that is.

Hilary Rhoda

Speaking of Donald Trump, it’s almost impossible to talk about the presumptive Republican Party Presidential nominee without bringing the highly charged 2016 Presidential Race. Donald minces no words when it comes to Hillary or Bill Clinton and coincidentally, Dennis had always been told that he bore an uncanny resemblance to the former president. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it was in 1994 when the person who misidentified him was Francisco Martin Duran, an assassin who was trying to get at the then president and fired at Basso instead. (Clinton was watching a football game inside the White House the entire time and was not injured).

I couldn’t resist asking Dennis who he is supporting this year, and he immediately said that the evening was about celebration and not politics. But he quickly added that he would support which ever candidate made it to the White House. Spoken like a true politician!

Jill Martin, & Dennis Basso

I first met Dennis Basso when I was Senior Market Editor at Harper’s Bazaar (I covered the fur market in addition to ready to wear). I had to pull clothes for Barbara Walters who was to be photographed by Francesco Scavullo for the Over 40 and Fabulous September Issue, 1982. (Other luminaries included in the portfolio were the late Princess Grace of Monaco, Julie Andrews, Dina Merrill). Ms. Walters was notoriously difficult on fashion shootings and while there were racks of clothes, the only thing she agreed to wear, or that fit her, or looked good on her, (in her opinion), was a flame red full mink coat I brought in from Dennis Basso.  It saved the day and turned out to be a double page spread.

Dennis is still going strong and has no plans to slow down. As he put it, “Joan Rivers once said, “In the entertainment business and in the fashion business, if someone says they’re retired, it simply means they can’t get a job.”

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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