Studio Visit: Dusen Dusen

Ellen Van Dusen's colorful Fort Greene studio feels a little like living inside a kaleidoscope.

14 photos
Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
You can't help but feel giddy upon entering Ellen Van Dusen's sunny Fort Greene studio. Saturated color and punch-drunk patterns hang from every available surface, creating a hypnotic, stuck-in-a-kaleidoscope effect. "We just kept adding and adding to the mood boards," explains Van Dusen, whose collection, Dusen Dusen (her last name times two), is the apparel equivalent of her hotly-colored studio.
Catherine Blair Pfander
A graduate of Tufts University, Van Dusen created her own major in Psychology of Design, exploring why we see things the way we do and what determines our aesthetic preferences. So, in essence, there's an entire science behind why I'm so obsessed with the silk shark-print crop top that Ellen is wearing on the day of our visit. "I just really like sharks," shrugs Ellen.
Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
And she's not kidding about the shark thing: a shark cup-holder and real shark jaws (pictured here atop a mood board) are among Van Dusen's most coveted shark paraphernalia.
Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
Upon leaving Tufts, Dusen headed to New York City for a summer internship at Proenza Schouler. "I was actually working in production," says Van Dusen. "Obviously [Proenza] is very different from what we do here, but I learned a lot." Both brands, however, are undeniably driven by their use of print and color. All of Dusen Dusen's eye-catching prints are designed in-studio and manufactured by US companies. Here, a view of color samples from her silk-screening factory.
Catherien Blair Pfander/The Thread
Some of the spring collection's acid-bright prints were inspired by the work of artist Ben Jones, whose trippy geometric patterns evoke a 1970's record album cover.
Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
Upon completing her internship, Ellen found a part-time gig with Brooklyn designer Mary Meyer, another lover of easy-breezy silhouettes and eclectic patterns. Here, a view of two new spring styles, including shark-print denim shorts.
Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
There's a distinctly young and playful vibe to all of Dusen Dusen's pieces. Their printed backpacks, for example, which have proved so popular they're impossible to keep on boutique shelves, seem best suited to pretty young things on bicycles.
Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
Another view of one of Dusen Dusen's cotton spring backpacks, this one in a scribble-stripe print.
Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
"All of the collections are made in New York City," says Van Dusen, and it's a fact she clearly takes pride in. Quality is something the designer takes very seriously: These silky crop tops feel as good as they look.
Catherine Blari Pfander/The Thread
A view of Ellen's enviably sunny workspace snug beneath one of her expansive inspiration boards.
Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
Inspiring images and fabric swatches overlooking Ellen's sewing machine set-up.
Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
Her snuggly new assistant, a three-month-old Boston Terrier named "Snips," sports a stylish new bow-tie.
Catherine Blair Pfander/The Thread
Though there are no immediate plans to expand the collection beyond ready to wear (and uber-chic backpacks), Ellen recently collaborated with friend, Sarah Murphy of "Hey Murphy" jewelry, on a collection of hand-woven necklaces. "These took me hours and hours to make," says Ellen, "but Sarah was a lot faster."
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