Dr. Dennis Basso On His Big FIT Alum Moment

by The Daily Front Row

(NEW YORK) One of the coolest cats in the biz is Dennis Basso, and today the designer is receiving an honorary degree at FIT’s commencement ceremony. We couldn’t let this honor pass by without checking in on our buddy, who’s also celebrating thirty years in the industry. 

How did you find out about this honor?
I got called by Dr. Joyce Brown, who is the president of FIT. She asked me if I was available on the 23rd of May. I said “how come? It’s the Thursday of Memorial Day weekend.” And she said, “Well I want you to know, on behalf of FIT and myself, we would like to present you with your honorary doctorate and to receive it at the commencement exercise, and of course, when we give it to you we’d like you to address the students.” I had been there in the ’70s.

How does it feel?
I’m actually amazed. FIT is a state university, many people don’t know that, so Albany had to approve it. So there’s a little more detail that goes into giving someone an honorary degree than at a private college or university. This has even a little bit more weight to it, because it comes through the state. It was a feeling of accomplishment because I wasn’t lobbying for it. I didn’t even think of it. It came out of the clear blue, so I’m thrilled, honored and actually humbled! 

What are you going to say in your speech?
I’m going to talk about my first day of school: it was amazing to just be there, dressed in full ’70s garb. I had huge hair, wide bell bottoms, platform shoes, and lots of chains. I left my khaki pants, navy blazer, and penny loafers at home! That was the fashion of the moment. We moved right through that disco era when we were in school and it was just an amazing thing. I made great friends at FIT that I’m actually still friends with. I’m also going to talk about how I never thought I’d actually be a fur designer. Everyone should always keep their options open!

How long did you have a massive coif for?
A very short time of my life. It was a couple of years! 

What do you think of the school nowadays? 
 It’s one of the greatest institutions in the world for creativity. When I go there and I walk around, the students are also very fashion conscious; they’re a little bit more out there today. They’re young people, and they’re creative! 

What’s been the impact of being an FIT alum?
No matter where I’ve gone, whether it’s for business or pleasure, when you mention FIT everyone knows it. It’s one of those schools that as people talk about…University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Georgetown, Yale; people say Fashion Institute of Technology, and it’s recognized the same way people recognize those Ivy schools. It’s like the Ivy of fashion!

What were you like as a student?
When I wasn’t distracted by going to Bloomingdale’s and shopping, which was always a big outing, I was an OK student. 

Did you ever cut class?
Oh, all the time.

You’ll be Dr. Dennis Basso now…
I don’t know if I’ll use the Dr. all the time. Maybe just for private patients.

Will you make house calls?
Of course.

Congrats again on this huge honor!
Thanks! All joking aside, I’m totally flattered to be selected. Dr. Brown is a marvelous woman. She’s so bright and intelligent and actually very attractive. I have about 40 close family and friends coming to the commencement exercise. Then, I’m doing a small dinner afterwards, with that same group. Forty people are coming! More people are coming to this than came to my high school graduation!

What are your plans for the summer?
We’ll be at our house in the Hamptons. We’re also going to the south of France for a week, then to the south of Turkey, and then a little trip down memory lane; we’re going to go down to The Pines for a couple of weeks to see a lot of our old friends. It’s an action-packed summer!

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