A CUT ABOVE

Timeless in their appeal, Renee Bassetti’s shirts have a restrained elegance that make her Seattle boutique a destination for style-conscious people the world over

 
 
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What began in 1989 as the quest for the perfect, timeless ladies’ shirt has since become an international business: Renee Bassetti—Fine Shirtmaker and Clothier. The understated elegance of founder Renee Bassetti’s signature shirt has made it a sought-after design classic, drawing devoted clients to her Seattle boutique from all over the world. A former president of fashion giant Anne Klein once told Renee: “Every woman will look good in your shirt.”

Form and function

“I was raised with beautiful clothes and have been attracted to elegant design since my childhood,” says Renee. “I think good design is in my genes.” As well as her innate understanding of a well-turned seam and a precisely cut silhouette, Renee was influenced by her uncle, the late Fred Bassetti, an architect, who saw in his niece an understanding of balance and proportion. Indeed, Renee herself refers to her approach to design as “feminine architecture.”

The Italian-Norwegian Renee had long been in search of the ideal shirt. It was the combination of knowing exactly what she wanted, not being able to buy it anywhere, and discovering the finest Italian and Swiss cottons and silks that finally convinced her to set up her own business in order to fill that void. With the expert assistance of Rosa Borriello, a master Italian shirtmaker, Renee was able to realize her vision and create a shirt that transcends any trend or fashion with its pure lines and restrained elegance.

Based in Seattle’s Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Bassetti’s boutique is a destination for CEOs, executives, and people with an eye for beautiful design and fine craftsmanship, who all visit for a custom fitting. Orders also come in from around the world, with a detailed fitting guide and sample shirt sent out to clients to ensure a proper fit. The Bassetti display windows in the hotel consistently attract new customers, as do her trunk shows in New York, Dallas, Phoenix, and Chicago. Her business also gets a boost when influential women appear on Oprah or the covers of Vanity Fair and Fortune wearing her shirt.

A small staff of cutters and seamstresses creates each shirt from fine fabric. The tightly edited selection of cuff styles and collar shapes allows for the meticulous design of the casually elegant shirt to be recognizable. “What I wanted,” says Renee, “was to create the perfect shirt—versatile, smart, feminine, timeless, and discreetly luxurious. I wanted it to be at the core of a wardrobe and equally suitable at the office or at the opera.”

The Italian connection

To complement the shirt, Renee has collaborated with the Avolio haute couture design house in Milan, Italy. It specializes in using the finest wool/cashmere double-faced fabrics to create softly structured jackets, coats, dresses, and pants. Renee travels to Milan twice a year to preview the collection and work with Avolio’s designers.

 
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She also carries the Nancy von Riesen cashmere knit collection available in more than 100 designs and 140 colors, custom-made to order. These collaborations offer her clients the opportunity to create a complete wardrobe that effortlessly revolves around the shirt, is timeless in its appeal, and is as luxurious as it is practical.

Despite her growing following, Renee is happy with the niche scale of her business and the personal attention it allows her to give her clients. Her hands-on approach to sourcing and fitting, and her attention to detail, ensure every customer leaves her boutique with the most luxurious and versatile shirt they will ever own.

This article originally appeared in “Rolls-Royce: A Legacy of Driving Excellence”