Meet Ellen Van Dusen

Ellen van Dusen for Passerbuys6.jpg
Ellen Van Dusen was born and raised in Washington, DC. She studied at Tufts University in Boston and then moved to NYC, where in 2010 she launched Dusen Dusen, a womenswear line known for its original bold prints on versatile, wearable silhouettes. Each season, the Dusen Dusen collection is developed and inspired by fine art, commercial and naive design, and the brain’s reaction to movement, color, and contrast. In 2015, the brand expanded with the launch of Dusen Dusen Home. Ellen currently resides in Brooklyn with her dog, Snips.
Ellen van Dusen for Passerbuys
Dress, Dusen Dusen

Dress, Dusen Dusen

on her morning routine

I get up, cuddle with my dog, and get some coffee brewing. I like to have at least 15 minutes to sit down and relax before I go to work. I’ll snack on whatever is in the fridge and head to my studio around 9 AM.

on her interest in designing clothes

I’ve always been interested in making clothes, even as a little kid. In my younger days, my favorite activity was tie dyeing or sponge painting t-shirts. In middle school, I started going to thrift stores and taking my findings home and altering them, which is when I learned how to use a sewing machine. I would make t-shirts into dresses with patchwork, and made really crazy, ugly dresses. 

I think it clicked when I went to a fabric store for the first time and realized I could choose exactly what I wanted instead of piecing things together that were already garments. I loved the idea of drawing something on paper and turning it into something real.


Ellen's favorite books
I really love this Natalie Du Pasquier book. It’s all drawings of design objects that never actually came to fruition, so it’s kind of a fantasy. These drawings feel very personal to her. It’s nice to have a window into what could have been. I am a huge fan of her work so this one feels very special.
— on her favorite book
Jumpsuit & Sheets, Dusen Dusen

Jumpsuit & Sheets, Dusen Dusen

how she started her first collection

I was still making my own clothes while I had my other job, and I decided to try and sell them. I brought my "samples" to Duo, a store in the East Village, and they ended up placing an order. From the time the order was placed to when I delivered the goods, I had to learn a ton like how to do sizing, finish seams, and get zippers cut to the correct length. It was a lot!

The collection did well, and soon, I was sewing all the time. Then I decided that I needed to take the next step which was to do real seasonal collections and find a factory to manufacture the clothes. 

on her first job

My first job was working for another designer, Mary Meyer, at her studio in Greenpoint. I was her only employee at the time, and I was doing a ton of different stuff. I learned so much working for her. I took a lot of that knowledge with me to start my own line.


Ellen's workspace
When I am designing a collection, I think about what I want to wear but I can’t find them or don’t have them. So each season, I make something that fills a personal void. It’s a pretty good system.
— on her inspiration for design
Some of Ellen's favorite beauty products
Jumpsuit: Dusen Dusen

Jumpsuit: Dusen Dusen

on her beauty routine and recommendations

I always use Korres Pomegranate Moisturising Balancing Cream after I shower. My strategy when I wear make-up is to make it look like I’m not wearing any. As far as products go, I usually just go with drugstore cosmetics. I use Kiehl’s shampoo and conditioner, which is my biggest splurge.

I recommend Essie nail polish, Laura Geller Baked Balance-N-Brighten Color Correcting Foundation, and Cover Girl LashBlast Fusion Volumizing & Lengthening Mascara.

on her shopping habits and style

I do a lot of thrift and vintage shopping. My go-to outfit is a striped t shirt and jeans. I can never resist a striped tee when I see one at a thrift store. I probably have ten good ones at this point. I wear a lot of color and rarely wear black, unless it is patterned. I wear a lot of my line as well.

Ellen van Dusen for Passerbuys.jpeg
My advice is to be yourself in design. Try not to just follow trends or take anyone else’s opinion too seriously. Trust yourself and you’ll make something unique.
— some advice for self-starters
Sweaters, Dusen Dusen

ellen's favorite books

The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks by Susan Casey, Don't Take These Drawings Seriously: 1981-1987 by Nathalie Du Pasquier, Color Source Book by Margaret Walch, Visual Magic by David Thomson

ellen's favorite places in nyc

Hot Bird for drinks

Emily's for food

Peck's for coffee

Jacket, Esprit ;    Jeans, Levi's    ; Shoes, Acne ;    Bag, Chiyome

Jacket, Esprit ; Jeans, Levi's ; Shoes, Acne ; Bag, Chiyome