Staring at the new Dennis Basso store from outside on Madison Avenue, through its sleek all-glass façade, you can see the gleaming white interior, dark gray slate floors, the mirrors, a massive wall of video screens displaying models on a recorded loop, forever marching down a runway. And track lighting—lots of it, including two rows that extend deep into the store, as if you might be walking down a runway yourself. That is, if you step inside.
Do, whether you know the label from the society pages—Basso has been called the “go-to guy” for luxurious coats and handbags, and “the grand pooh-bah of fur”—or QVC, where the tanned and snowy-haired designer happily rattles off ideas for dressing and decorating…at a decidedly discounted rate from the usual mink coats, sable-edged gowns and alligators bags that have burnished his reputation for 30 years.
Once on the other side of those 30-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, you’ll find 10,500 square feet of no-holds-barred luxury—with racks of fur jackets and vests, in attention-getting shades to bedevil a zoologist (pink sable and chinchilla, sky blue lynx, tangerine mink). Or crystal-bedecked cocktail dresses and evening gowns, their hems trailing on the floor. Or shelves of handbags with exotic skins and glass cases sprinkled with accessories.
There’s a coolness here—perhaps instigated by the faceless mannequins. But if you’re in the market for a long beaded gown in bold citron, with a fur stole to match, this is the place. 825 Madison Avenue (68th/69th Streets); 212-794-4500; dennisbasso.com
There’ve been changes afoot at Etienne Aigner. New investors have been tinkering with the 64-year-old heritage brand. No—wait—this is no subtle nip-and-tuck job. It’s a head-to-toe facelift, from the product (goods seem more up-market, higher quality, higher priced) to branding (the “Etienne girl” is younger, hipper—though still tastefully understated) to the new flagship store in SoHo (where else would the Etienne girl want to hang out?).
The label may be looking up, but it’s still just as welcoming. The shop is 3,500 square feet of warmth and cozy retail space, framed by an impressive front door. Its thick cordovan leather is dotted with brass nail heads, signature elements fans of the brand will recognize from the look and hardware of heritage pieces—like those fab doctor’s bags, cognac satchels, and wallets in Italian leather.
There are splendid details here, like the reclaimed wooden benches inlaid with that cordovan leather again, and the smooth Calcutta marble countertops. But whatever you do, don’t miss the pièce de résistance in back—a solarium that serves as a reading room, all sun-filled, with a nine-foot table strewn with stylish periodicals that beckon, and a 12-foot chalkboard to keep tykes amused while Mom checks out the apparel and accessories.
The original Mr. Aigner, Hungarian by birth, was a bookbinder, so the reading room here is a nice tip-o’-the-hat to the founder who began by creating bespoke leather goods for couture houses like Christian Dior. Today, his eponymous brand is a mainstay for the horsey set (thus the good-luck horseshoe logo) and those whose style is assertively classic. And warm. 65 Greene Street (Spring/Broome Streets); 212-334-1079; etienneaigner.com