PHOTOS: For Dennis Basso, Spring Fashion Means Fur

On Tuesday, designer Dennis Basso unveiled his Spring/Summer 2011 collection at New York Fashion Week. Basso is known for working with and focusing on fur — which is why there were eight police officers outside the tents and every guest had their bag checked for paint — but somehow we were still surprised by the amount of animal skin-as-material we saw in a collection intended to be worn in warm weather.

I’m going to move out of Styleite’s Royal We for a moment because I know fur is a touchy subject. I eat meat, I wear leather, and I have a vintage rabbit fur coat that I bought for $25 in a store in the East Village. I grew up with a mother who wore mink, with a father who hunted, and in a house full of taxidermy — but I don’t think I could ever bring myself to purchase a new article of clothing made of fur. All of which is to say: I felt a strange sense of discomfort as I waited in line for my seat at Basso.

As we passed through the bag checkers, the tautly blonde woman behind me exclaimed, “In all the shows I’ve seen this week, I’ve never had my bad checked. Ridiculous!” I explained to her that they were looking for paint, and she gave me a look of disgust, shook her head, and said, “Those animal rights people are so crazy. Who do they think they are?”

As we spoke, P.E.T.A. was staging a semi-naked protest outside the tents.

The woman went on to recount, with equal disgust, the time an animal rights activist smeared red lipstick onto her white mink as she walked down Madison Avenue. “Who does something like that?” she asked indignantly.

I shrugged and turned back around.

Basso’s show featured some beautiful gowns and more than a few very modern, pastel-printed and super-structured cocktail dresses. It should also be noted that the model line-up was the most diverse I’ve seen this week. A tally revealed eight black, asian, or otherwise non-caucasian models.

In lieu of pants — the designer showed none — there were chinchilla shrugs, capes made of Russian sable, and a dress made entirely out of something that looked like python or alligator.

Andre Leon Talley, Hoda Kotb, Johnny Weir, Hilary Rhoda, and two New York Housewives sat front row.

When the show ended, most of the audience — including Hoda Kotb, who clapped enthusiastically — gave Basso a standing ovation.

I remained seated. The fabric gowns were gorgeous, and the cuts flattering, but every time something walked down the runway featuring fur, it didn’t seem artful or crucial to the design. It felt like fur for fur’s sake.

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