A Studio Visit: Mid-morning Sesh with Ellen Van Dusen

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HAVE Y’ALL MET ELLEN, the super sweet designer behind a L:C fave, Dusen Dusen? She’s pretty awesome. Last week I got the chance to peek into her colorful, printed world when I visited her studio space in Williamsburg, for the first installment of an ongoing photo/journalistic collaboration with our go-to photographer and good friend Jacob Pritchard. Check out Pritch’s photos and our Q&A with Ellen below…

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Life:Curated (LC): Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? 
Ellen Van Dusen (EVD): I grew up in Washington, D.C. with two little brothers, architect parents, two cats, and a very overweight basset hound.

LC: How would you define the style your line exemplifies? EVD: Fun, cool, and laid back!

LC: Describe the process you go through to design and realize a piece of clothingEVD: Each season I start with pretty basic ideas of the styles I plan on working with. I’ll draw them on bodies and scan them into Illustrator. Then I start drawing prints either on paper or on the computer, make them into a repeat, and fill each drawing of the basic styles with that print. That helps me realize which prints work for clothes and which don’t. Once that’s finalized, I’ll submit the fabrics to my printers and start pattern-making! It takes a long time. Once the fabric arrives—which usually takes about six weeks—things start becoming garments.

LC: What’s your favorite part about conceptualizing a design? EVD: I love designing the prints! It’s the most fun. It’s really cool to draw a thing on paper, and then have it come back and be a fabric. I love working with colors—every season I’m amazed by how many directions I can take, and then how limited I feel once I get a clearer picture of how I want the collection to look.

LC: What’s the worst part of designing clothes? EVD: Production!! It can be really hard. Small problems become very big problems when you’re working on a big scale.

LC: What was the first article of clothing you ever designed? EVD: I sponge painted an American flag onto a t-shirt with my mom when I was like, six. It was my favorite shirt. I’d probably wear it today if it still fit! Another one of my early creations that totally still resonates is a dress that had a shark—vertically, so it was really tall—on the back, and text on the front that said “I ate a shark.” It was inspired by a kids t-shirt I found at a thrift store that had the same text written on it in sharpie.


LC: If you weren’t a fashion designer what would you do instead? EVD: Marine biologist. I love fish!

LC: What kind of music gets you going? EVD: The new Dirty Projectors, Lauren Hill, and Donovan, who hangs on my wall [at left] HOT!

LC: If you were stuck in the plot of a book for two weeks, what book would you pick? EVD: Oh, the Places You’ll Go! I’d love to go all those places.

LC: What’d you rather: not sleep for three days, or not bathe for three days? EVD: No question, not bathe. I love sleeping.

LC: Finish my sentence. Today I feel so much better because..EVD: I ate breakfast.

LC: The only things I need in life are EVD: My dog Snips, watermelon, and a good pair of scissors.

LC: Coffee goes well with... EVD: Lots and lots of milk. I haven’t fully gotten into the coffee thing yet.

LC: The most important thing my Mom taught me was EVD: Manners. Please and thank you, always.

LC: I hope that this new year brings EVD: Organization and a new couch! I really want a new couch.

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Stay tuned for more studio visits with our designers, and be sure to check out all the Dusen Dusen styles in our webstore here! (Oh, and look for the new Spring styles pictured in the above images of Dusen Dusen’s lookbook to arrive in March.) And check out Jacob Pritchard’s photography here!

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