• UO Interviews: Ellen Van Dusen


    This month, we’re excited to team up with Passerbuys — a website made to showcase the raw, un-curated and effortless beauty of women — on a co-hosted panel discussion on forging a creative life after college. Leading up to the event on January 11 at Brooklyn's Space Ninety 8, we visited each of the panel speakers to learn a little bit more about them.

    Ahead of her appearance at Space Ninety 8’s upcoming Passerbuys panel, we visit the studio of accomplished clothing and housewares designer Ellen Van Dusen to discuss inspiration, New York City and how she stays positive.
    Photos by Anna Ottum


    Can you tell us a little bit about who you are? Introduce yourself!
    My name is Ellen Van Dusen and I run a clothing and home textiles company called Dusen Dusen. I live in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

    Tell us your little bit about your journey as a business owner.
    I always knew I always wanted to have my own line, so straight out of college, I worked for an independent designer who was running a very small but very successful operation. I learned so much about all aspects of running a clothing line while there and took that knowledge with me to start my own line.

    I have been running Dusen Dusen for the past 7 years, first as a clothing line, and then a little over a year ago we launched home. I currently have 1 full time and 1 part time employee, but for the first four or so years, I was running it completely on my own. I have learned a ton and am continuing to learn as I go!


    What kind of things are you feeling inspired by recently?
    Recently I'm finding myself inspired by architectural details and grand shapes created in architecture, tiles, and small patterns you find within other patterns.

    What’s been the best part about owning your own business?
    The best part about owning my own business is being able to have control of my life, when I want to get to work, when I want to take a trip, etc. I think I work more than most of my friends who have classic 9-5s, but I have more autonomy. It's also so rewarding to see people out in the world wearing and using my stuff.


    The hardest?
    The hardest part is getting negative feedback. When you work so hard for something, put your whole self into it and release it into the world, and someone says they don't like it, it's ugly, or whatever else, it feels like a personal attack. Over time, I have learned to stop taking things personally, but it still feels like a blow each time.

    What about owning a business in NYC? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
    Being a business is NYC is great because there are so many people out there you can relate to trying to do their own thing too. There's a lot of support in the community for fellow business owners. But! Being a business in NYC is not great for tax reasons! There's a city tax that can eat up a lot of revenue.


    If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you were just starting out, what would it be?
    If I could go back in time and give myself advice, I would say: Don't sweat the small stuff. Instead of focusing on a problem, figure out the steps you need to solve it and get working on it as soon as you can.

    What can people expect to hear from you at the Passerbuys panel?
    Some trials and tribulations that I experienced as a young business owner, and the importance of being yourself in business.




    Finally, what are you hoping to accomplish professionally in 2017?
    I hope that in 2017 I am able to grow the home side of my business, take on bigger interior projects and make some things I am really proud of.

    Any tips on how to prioritize goals?
    There's no rush. Take your time and do everything as best you can. Don't focus on the fluff, focus on the hard stuff and the fluff will follow.


    New York friends: come out for a conversation with Passerbuys and a group of other inspiring women next Wednesday, Jan 11, at Space Ninety 8 in Brooklyn. 

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