While at Tufts, Van Dusen created costumes for the university’s drama department, which prepared her for internships during and after college with fashion brands Norma Kamali and Proenza Schouler, and a graduation thesis in the studio of designer Mary Meyer. All the while, Van Dusen was creating her own bright, pattern-centric clothes – which she had been doing since high school – on the side.
“I would go to fabric or vintage stores and try to find big pieces of fabric,” she says. “I would prepare samples, take pre-orders in stores, then produce the collection six months later. Duo NYC, a boutique in New York’s East Village selling selected vintage clothing and independent designers, was an early supporter of Van Dusen’s samples and placed a collectible order.
Just a few years after moving to New York, Van Dusen launched Dusen Dusen, her own line of women’s clothing, but she was quickly disappointed with the imperatives of the production process and the need to adhere to a rigid seasonal collection cycle. . “I didn’t really feel comfortable in the fashion industry,” she says. “I was more interested in clothes than the uppercase ‘F’ fashion, and I never liked the scene. Instead, her lingering interest in the fundamentals of color and pattern led her to start designing her own prints, in part because of the inherent difficulties working with the limited amounts of vintage fabrics she preferred.
As she moved away from producing clothes (she still makes them “very occasionally,” she says) and towards textiles, Van Dusen felt frustrated by the relative lack of attention paid. to certain areas of domestic design, such as bedding. “It sounded like this huge overlooked category,” she says. “So I was like, ‘Well, if nobody else does, I’m going to have to do it. “The brand has expanded to include Dusen Dusen Home, a line of home textiles and accessories that includes towels, pillows, kitchen textiles and, of course, bedding. Such a reorientation has also opened up new possibilities. interesting creative challenges: “It was an opportunity to reflect on impressions on a larger and uninterrupted scale.”
That its vivid colors and geometric patterns – wide stripes, cursive scribbles, ’60s flower prints – have an insistent childish quality and not necessarily out of place in a playroom is not seen as demerit in the world of Van Dusen. Again, it all goes back to our early psychology: Children “are drawn to bold shapes and bold colors because that’s how we’re programmed to exist,” she says. “It’s a shame that there isn’t much in the world for adults that is super colorful and fun. I think there is a way of doing color that’s sophisticated and smart.
When selecting colors during the design process, Van Dusen uses an artist’s color wheel and a healthy dose of intuition to find combinations of shades that will make everyone sing. “On the design side, it can be an endless sea of revisions,” she says. “I’m constantly tweaking until I feel like it’s finalized, but sometimes I have an idea and it works right away.”
His playful and contrasting approach stands out in a design landscape characterized by social media mood boards full of monochromatic, muted minimalism, which may be one of the reasons why Van Dusen’s pieces have become cult favorites. among celebrities like Lena Dunham, Tavi Gevinson and Jessica Williams. But the appeal of its products has also become completely generalized, as evidenced by its recent collaborations with supermarkets: with the furniture brand Dims on a wooden chair; with luggage and travel accessories maker Arlo Skye on a collection of suitcases; and with Uniqlo and Keds on clothing.
Which begs the question: How does Van Dusen change her process when she partners with a corporate giant? “I have to reorient myself around their client,” she says, “and I find that to be a really fun mental challenge. They want my vision and my aesthetic, but it has to be through their eyes.
Next, a whimsical collection of kitchen utensils – a salt shaker, a pepper mill with interchangeable “outfits”, a kitchen timer with a face – plus a new set of boldly patterned napkins in neutral tones.
Van Dusen’s lack of formal design education has allowed her to preserve what she calls her “naïve design” aesthetic and retain a certain spontaneity in her process; she usually creates “on impulse, instead of following this elaborate process, the way things are usually made,” she says. His is a maximalist vision through which everyday life becomes a kind of statement and playfulness a form of chromotherapy. “I’m not very trendy; I’ve always had the same kind of aesthetic. If you watch something I did in 2010, it looks the same, ”she says. “Obviously I’ve evolved, but I’ve always been drawn to the colors and patterns of the poppy and to as much on the wall as you can fit – within an organizational system. “