Ellen Van Dusen is not a fashion designer. Instead she considers herself a clothing designer, whose brand, DUSEN DUSEN is made for real people with real bodies. This is why she, unlike many designers, fits her samples on herself and her assistant as opposed to using models to test garments. It's also why she designs comfortable and uncomplicated silhouettes featuring simple, repeating geometric prints that are easy to style, even for the fashion unsavvy.Born in Washington DC and raised by two architects, Ellen always had an affinity for lines and geometric shapes. This particular theme in her prints has remained a constant since the brand's conception five years ago and continues to drive the inspiration process for all of her collections.
"I tend to use geometric patterns that exude a lighthearted, happy vibe - my collections are all about the print. In school I studied the psychology of design and was interested in why people are drawn to certain imagery from an evolutionary and cultural perspective. Why are some things considered universally beautiful or why do some things draw the eye from a neurological standpoint? I wanted to apply these principals as a clothing designer. For instance, the repeating patterns in my prints engage the same parts of the brain that are also engaged when youre looking at moving things."The actual print-making begins after about a month of gathering inspiration and immersing herself in the world around her, whether that involves traveling abroad or exploring an NYC exhibition. The process is very authentic - no mood board full of magazine tears, just a recreation of images based on what she remembers seeing. She's inspired by her own photography and the common threads that lie throughout. A specific line or a particular color that show up in multiple of her photos may find their way to her prints.
The technical process involves Ellen's use of Illustrator to experiment with shapes that she has sketched and scanned into the computer, manipulating them into repeat patterns that will eventually fit with the various garments she has in mind for the season. Aside from the geometric prints, her pieces feature a handful of different colors, which take a considerable amount of time for Ellen to choose."I get very stumped with colors because the color relationships are so important. I'll get stuck in a certain color story and it's like going down a black hole which takes a long time to get out of. Then something happens where I realized I just needed to change one thing, whether using a different color or applying it to a specific shape, and suddenly everything works. I do a million color trials every season."
Fostering a creative mindset is crucial to Ellen's print-making and design process. Usually she does this by listening to talk radio, engaging with someone as she works. It could be listening to the same song 40 times over again (which is not uncommon when she finds new music she loves) or it could be a motivational podcast, most recently, Invisibilia, which is about the invisible forces that control human behavior.
"I love hearing stories about other people's process and how regular people make awesome stuff happen. It keeps me engaged in what Im doing because I want to keep listening. Depending on the story, it can be very motivational, especially if it pertains to women who are excelling in their fields."With so much emphasis on the print itself, it's not wonder that Ellen's ultimate goal is to become more of a "print house" as opposed to clothing designer. She's already expanded into home textiles which has been an exciting new step and a natural progression for her design process. No matter the canvas, her perspective remains the same: geometric prints, never too serious, lots of vibrant colors, easy to wear.