“I’ve personally always been so drawn to color,” Van Dusen says. “And I’m, like, why? Why am I just like obsessed with this thing?”
“Everything in my world is densely packed with pattern and color,” Ellen Van Dusen says, gesturing at the various corners of the 600-square-foot studio where she designs her fashion and homeware line,
“I would feel really cooped up,” she says about the downsides of working from home. “It’s not like I could really go and work in a coffee shop — I needed all my tools. Eventually I got a dog because I was like, I need to go outside and this will force me to go out at least three times a day. … But still, I was doing a lot of cutting and sewing and there’d be scraps everywhere and, like, pins on the floor. My boyfriend stepped on one once and it went all the way in. Like, ALL the way in. So getting out of the house was huge for me.”
Everywhere you turn in Van Dusen’s studio, there’s a dizzying array of repetitious shapes, lines, arches and squiggles, made even more eye-catching thanks to her affinity for pairing primary colors with unexpected hues. Dozens of examples of her brightly colored graphic prints are on display in some form — a rack of silky dresses, linen jumpsuits, and color-blocked jackets from her spring collection greet guests as soon as they walk in; a stack of dog beds, usually occupied by her Boston terrier, Snips, is in one corner, across from a pile of patterned and embroidered
While there is “a lot of stuff around,” the busy, “cluttered” studio doesn’t feel sloppy. It’s like a very colorful bomb went off but everything landed in a perfectly logical place. There’s a sense of organization amidst the madness. A collection of scissors hang from nails hammered into a shelf packed with books seemingly arranged in no particular order — that is, until Van Dusen hardly glances when she pulls one, The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Geometry, within seconds of referencing it.
“I just got this book on the principles of geometry,” she says. “It’s about, like, all these weird mathematical patterns. One thing that’s really cool, there’s a lot of stuff in there that looks like prints I’ve done, but I didn’t know any of the math behind it. There’s also just a lot of stuff about tessellations — one shape that repeats and is the same every time, but it all fits together, like a checkerboard.”
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