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The Thrilla in Chinchilla

In celebration of designer Dennis Basso’s 30th anniversary we asked comic and Fashion Police host Joan Rivers to interview the NYC-based furrier. Hilarity ensued.

Dennis Basso started his business selling furs out of the trunk of a town car in NYC. Thirty years later his designs are favorites of socialites and celebrities, including his good friend Joan Rivers. 

Joan Rivers: So, 30 years!
Dennis Basso: 1983, I had my first fashion show. You were there, at the Regency Hotel. We’ve maintained a solid friendship for 30 years.

A friendship on two levels: One: You’re an adorable, funny, sweet, good man. And two: The talent was there. I wouldn’t have cared if you’d opened up the back of your trunk and sold out of that—which you did.
I did.

But you just knew, “Yeah, he’s here to stay.”
It’s been an amazing evolution from there to a flagship store on Madison Avenue, being at Harrods in London.... We dressed some of the most famous women over the years.

Not dressed, dress. Keep it present tense.
Absolutely.

And even at the height of “anti-fur,” you always knew how to do it in such a way that people still had to have it. Of course, you had to lie, maybe, and say, “I found these dead sables in my backyard.”
Right, what else!

You’re very underrated here—I think if you were in Paris you’d be “le Dennis.” Your shows are staggeringly good. And then, the fur—to take something and reinvent it, make people “have to have it”—that’s genius.
I always approached fur thinking not as a furrier, but as a designer: “This is a great design—what fur could I use to make it look special?” Not like Grandma’s coat.

What age should a woman start wearing fur? And of the new celebrities, who would you like to see in fur?
Years ago, girls went off to college with a fur coat from their fathers. Then it became not hip. Now it’s come around again. High school girls have fur collars on jean jackets. They’re wearing fake and real fur, and buying retro fur in thrift shops. And celebrities are all wearing it. Wouldn’t it be fun to design something for Lady Gaga? Something totally outrageous. Or...

... Rihanna. Oh, I’d love that; she can carry off anything.
Yes! Actually, we have something out for Rihanna. And we did a green chinchilla for a J.Lo music video.

Click here to read more of "The Thrilla in Chinchilla" in the digital edition of Manhattan!