I was introduced to Dusen Dusen in 2009 when I was interning for The FADER and Ellen Dusen's designs were fan favorites around the office. I remember very specifically the first time I saw some of her clothing. The patterns and colors stuck out to me and I thought, This is for me, I need all of this. Lives change fast, and just one short year later, I found myself comforted by wearing a perfect Dusen Dusen dress while in the green room of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon waiting nervously to take the stage and perform "Boyfriend" on live television.
The timeline of my trajectory has, to some extent, mirrored Dusen Dusen's. Interns sometimes become professional musicians, and girls who design clothing from their apartment sometimes end up seeing their designs for sale at huge stores like Urban Outfitters. Over the last two years, I've gotten to know Ellen better. She remains one of my favorite designers, but we've also become online pals. I took a trip down memory lane to my intern days blogging for FADER, and spoke with Ellen about a few things, touching, I hope, on some friendly, familiar topics that she doesn't get asked in interviews too often.
I think you have one of the best eyes for colors and prints—what inspires the patterns you create? I spend a lot of time looking at contemporary art and zines. My current collection was heavily inspired by Ben Jones and Tauba Auerbach. I got some books of theirs that I love. The Ben Jones book is called New Painting and Drawing and the Auerbach one is called 50/50. Each page is 50% black and 50% white. My inspiration isn't always so concrete though. A lot of the time it comes from friends, something I see on the subway, a tablecloth, a really good looking take out menu.
If you could dress one celebrity living or dead, who would it be and why? I'd say Debbie Harry in her prime. First of all, she rules, and secondly, she's consistently been able to wear what most people couldn't carry off and make it look amazing.
What does your favorite pair of shoes look like? Are you a heels or flats girl? I'm a flats girl. I didn't get my first heels until about two years ago, a pair of some No 6 sandal clogs that rule. My favorite pair of shoes are these creamy light brown suede vintage loafers. I got them at Duo, the first store in Manhattan to carry my line. They have the best shoes! I've gotten, like, four pairs there.
I think you design clothes that really understand and are flattering for a woman's body. Do you think you'll ever design menswear? I've thought about doing menswear, but it would take a lot of time and practice before I actually gave it a go. Tailoring for dudes is totally different than tailoring for a woman's body. I've had people tell me that my prints would totally work for menswear, which I think is questionable. Most dudes are not going to wear big sharks on a button up. If I were to do a menswear line, I would tone it down for sure. Small sharks, maybe.
What is your favorite thing to listen to while you're working? I listen to hours and hours of podcasts. I'm obsessed with This American Life. I think I've listened to every episode in their archives. I also listen to a lot of music. I've been loving girl fronted bands like yours, Dum Dum Girls and Grass Widow. Jeff the Brotherhood just put out a really awesome album that sounds like old Weezer which I can't stop listening to. I also love old soul and girl groups. I got a girl group compilation recently that I love.
How old were you when you first started making your own clothes? I was in middle school when I first started making clothes. Mostly I would go to thrift stores, buy a ton of stuff, cut it up and make it fit. And by fit, I mean make it skin tight. I would get the most excited about finding a really big T-shirt that I could make into a dress. Eventually I started buying fabric and making things from scratch.
What is your favorite piece of clothing you've ever designed and why? No one has ever asked me that before! I think it would be an oversized stripe coat that I made in Fall 2009. It's navy and white stripe with khaki and white contrast pockets, and it's just really comfy and versatile. If I can track down the fabric, I'm thinking about making an updated version for spring '12.
What is your favorite thing to snack on while you're working? Watermelon! It's my favorite food. When I was younger I had my mom write "Watermelon Ellen" inside all my clothes.
Now that you have a dog, will you ever make dog print shorts and backpacks? That is so funny that you ask because I'm working on an accessories collection with Urban Outfitters of backpacks and scarves and I made a print with a photo of my dog's face. It's the best! So far it's made it past the first stage [of production] and now it's in sample production. Fingers crossed that it makes it all the way [to retail]. So, this is just the beginning. Expect dogs all over everything.