Get to Know Catherine Alexander’s Cool-Girl Inner Circle

No, you can’t steal all of her friends, ok?


“When you live in New York for 16 years, you tend to meet some exquisitely amazing people,” says Catherine Alexander. Well, true that. Not only does the majorly talented jewelry designer behind the line Stanmore have a dope group of girlfriends, but she also gets together with all of them regularly to swap ideas and dole out support—like a creative collective of sorts. Meet the gang. —jane gauger


Morgan Gibbons
“Morgan is a stylist and is seriously one of the most beautiful people you’ll ever meet—inside and out. Her closet is a dreamland, and her sense of style is very much her own. She somehow masters that whole ‘Oh! I just woke up and threw these six things on and didn’t spend a second thinking about it but somehow I look like a supermodel and all the boys love me’ look better than the rest of us could ever hope to even in our wildest fashion fantasies.”


Becca Mapes
“As far as metalwork and jewelry-making goes, Becca blows my mind with the knowledge and skill she possesses. I could work for years at it and still not come close to her abilities at the bench. Lucky us that her skills are evenly matched by her creativity and talent! Her jewelry for her line Winden may be on the smaller side, but it sure does stand out in its humor and personal resonance.”


Ellen Van Dusen
“Ellen has a penchant for making people feel good, and I can never tell if it’s because her clothes for Dusen Dusen make you want to find the coolest party around or if it’s because, even upon just meeting her, you can tell she’s a real-life genuine sweetheart.” [Ed: So much more Ellen here.]


Tory Noll
“Tory—or Tito, as I like to call her—is probably secretly hobnobbing it up with Geena Davis over at Mensa. Not only does she design and run her own shoe line Ten & Co., but she also writes for magazines like Vice and Whitehall, does prop-styling on fashion shoots, and can do the Friday New York Times crossword in less time than it takes you to eat your lunch.”


Vera Correll
“Even though Vera can seem quiet at first, when you’re lucky enough to get to know her, you’ll find she has an ease about her that makes you want to talk to her for hours. That trait carries over to her work: For their line Correll Correll, she and her twin sister design clothes that make you feel like you could kick your shoes off in the middle of a fashion party and curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine and Iris Apfel.”


Lisa Fuller
“I don’t how she does it, but Lisa makes the softest jeans—they fill you out in all the right places and slim down your legs to Gisele-ian proportions. She also happens to have the raddest sense of humor. Her male dog’s name is Pizza Marie. If you stop by her store Courtshop, try to get in on a day she’s working, and you (and, might I add, your butt) will not regret it.”

Catherine’s obsidian cuff is cool enough to hangout on your wrist everyday. 

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5 Things on Ellen Van Dusen’s Home-Design Wish List

In case you need some extra coolness to go with our pillows.

Which came first: the Dusen Dusen mastermind’s desire to spiff up her Brooklyn pad, or the idea to make pillows with some of her rad textiles? What really matters is that we benefit on both sides. In addition to making two crazy-good white-on-denim pillows for us, Ellen Van Dusen also opened up to us about some of her hopes and dreams on the décor front. No surprise here: She not afraid of a little color. —erica

Ready to get a load of these denim pillows? Have at it! Only 60 in the world.

“My boyfriend Will and I don’t have any plants inside our apartment right now, so we got this thing called a Woolly Pocket. It’s this planter that you put on the wall so it looks like you have a living wall. [Ed: Pictured above in not-Ellen’s-home.] The goal is to get a lot of hanging plants that grow downwards and have it cover the entire planter. I’m really psyched about that. I’m really excited to fill it.”

“Something I’ve been thinking about buying but haven’t pulled the trigger on yet is a print by my friend Dave Singley. It’s a night floral scene, and the colors are really nice. He usually only does painting, and he just released his first series of prints.”

“I recently bought this giant Stendig calendar that is really awesome. It’s really big—it’s like four feet by three feet—so it totally dominates the space above my computer, which is great! I found it through a series of internet clicking.”

“I have really gotten into this artist from RISD—her name is Morgan Blair. I bought a print from her recently, but my dream is to buy one of her paintings. I think they are pretty reasonably priced, so it could maybe happen. She uses a lot of really bright, fun colors and really geometric stuff—it reminds me of my prints. This is a bunch of her paintings, but I want all of them together.”

“Have you ever heard of the designers David David? They’re awesome. They are British, and their stuff is really cool—colorful and wild. It’s a dream to have these chairs around my dining table!”

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Of a Kind

As she demonstrated with our (sold-out!) rucksack, Ellen Van Dusen of Dusen Dusen has a way with denim. And she apparently also has the skills to create the most attitudinal polka dots I’ve ever seen. —erica

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Dog Fancy: Four Pups That Have Way Better Style Than We Do

One of the Of a Kind perks we didn’t necessarily anticipate: We encounter a lot of cool-ass dogs when we visit designers’ studios. So we’re going to introduce you to four right now, and we trust that you won’t get upset with us if we do a round two someday soon. Because, PUPPIES!!! —jiayi

1) Mandy Coon's Petunia, whose street name is Stinky—here decked out in pajamas and a Mandy Coon houndstooth jacket and cashmere sweater. Stinky has credits in a music video—in which she wore, oh, a silver lamé cape—and in Mandy’s S/S ‘11 lookbook shoot. MAJOR.

2) Erica Weiner's dog Bunny, a five-pound Yorkie who’s a pro at steering attention his way (see: nudging iPhones out of hands, closing books). His first gift would have been any girl/tranny’s dream: a red sequin ballerina dress.

3) Lest you think we were only going to feature TOMTOM designer Elena Coleman Howell's cat, meet her dog, Duck, clad in her two favorite pieces: A Snoop-channeling navy hoodie and a post-groomers handkerchief. To both we say: bad-ass.

4) It’s been nine months since we last wrote about Ellen Van Dusen's pup Snips—named after a pair of thread-cutting scissors—and, as the designer puts it, Snips has become a “full grown dog-woman.” Here, she models a bow tie Ellen made for her from fabric that will make its appearance on a Dusen Dusen backpack any day now.

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Eight Nominations for Songs of the Summer

We asked our very tuned-in designers to provide us with a playlist.

Whenever we sit down to talk to designers, the topic of music inevitably comes up. Since the designers we work with are far more musically savvy (and all-around cool) than us, we turned to them for eight tracks to get us through the next couple months. —erica

Some of the most prized records in Toujours Toi Family Affairs designer Nina Egli’s collection.

1) “Devil Hearts Grow Gold” by Las Sera, as nominated by Nina Egli of Toujours Toi Family Affairs: “It’s just so dreamy. It makes me want to stroll through flower fields and take a nap—and not work.”

2) “Composure” by Warpaint, as nominated by Hillary Taymour of Collina Strada: “It was the first band I saw at Coachella, which pretty much started my summer. All the girls are super cute, and their whole album The Fool is amazing.”

3) “Bar-B-Q” by Wendy Rene, as nominated by Ellen van Dusen of Dusen Dusen: “This is my jam of the summer because, hey, I like barbecues.”

4) “California Girls” by The Beach Boys, as nominated by Caroline Ventura of Brvtvs: “Whenever I listen to it, I am instantly transported back to growing up on the beach in So-Cal, learning how to surf, and digging for sand crabs.”

5) “Flying Overseas” by Theophilus London, as nominated by Matt Singer: “It’s about travel and love—and has a super easy summer vibe.”

6) “Secret Lover” by That Work, as nominated by Lyndsey Butler of Veda: “It makes me want to be the last one on the dance floor.”

7) “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, as nominated by Sarah Fox of Cursive Design: “My husband and I are on a month-long road trip across the country. I’ve never been away from home/work for this long, and I’m curious to find the routines that make me feel grounded. That sense of home will probably come from my husband—I am always at home in his company, and that’s what I love about this song.”

8) “Beercan” by Beck, as nominated by Annie Larson of ALL Knitwear: “I have been listening to Beck a lot again this summer. It’s still good—better, actually.”

Until July 10, you can get a whole 25% off the editions these designers made for Of a Kind—just use the code SUMMEROFAKIND on any purchase. You’re welcome!

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Alumni News: Ellen Van Dusen Got a Puppy

Correction: Ellen Van Dusen got the cutest puppy in the world. “I named her after these little scissors that I use to trim threads, which I call my snips,” she explains. Welcome, Snips. Come snuggle us, jump on us, or lick us—just not the faces!—any time. —erica

Check out the ah-mazing backpack Ellen designed for Of a Kind right over here.

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What Ellen Listens to While she Works

It’s equal parts indie and educational.

Though Ellen van Dusen creates the kind of loud, high-energy pieces that immediately put you in a good mood—and frequents the kind of Brooklyn venues whose shows aren’t advertised—she spends as much of her workday listening to what could be classified as educational programming as to indie music. Here, she shares her favorites in both categories.

The Moth
“It’s a podcast of stories told live without notes. There was a really awesome one recently with Steve from Blue’s Clues. He talks about how he was just this big nerd, and at one point he was named one of People’s most eligible bachelors. He started getting all these letters, including one from a Playboy model. It was just hilarious—and mortifying.”

“Growing up, I was, like, obsessed with Weezer—to a fault. It was a problem. I still listen to Pinkerton and The Blue Album. Those are the best ones—the only good ones, really.”

Best Coast
“I really like ‘Crazy For You,’ which is also the name of the album.”

This American Life
“Whenever there’s a new one on, I listen to it. I’ve heard every single episode because I used to listen to eight episodes—back-to-back-to-back—if I was working for eight hours. I really like the economy ones, actually. I’m not super informed about that stuff, and I find it’s really easy to understand when they explain it. And I like the sad ones.”

Arthur Russell
“He’s an old disco-y guy. I don’t really like disco, but he has a lot of mellow stuff.”

“They’re good friends of mine—some of them used to be roommates of my boyfriend—but I actually really do listen to them. They play at a lot of DIY venues, like Death by Audio and Market Hotel.”

“It’s a science-based podcast that’s similar to This American Life. There was one that I listened to recently about cities that was great. It was basically asking, ‘Does the city make the person, or do the people make the city?’ It included a really awesome story about Centralia, which is a coal-mining town where a fire started underground and has continued to burn for years and years and years. It addresses how cities don’t really die, ever. You should check it out.”

“My brothers started a band together called the Doozies. It’s just the two of them, and they’re really good. They’re in D.C. and very new—still trying to get out there. Their sound is kind of garage-rock with some punk undertones.”

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Ellen’s Embarrassing Clothes-Making Past

Yes, we have middle-school pictures.

Plenty of designers discovered their fashion aptitude by making clothes for themselves. Very few would be willing to share photos of those first creations. But Brooklyn-based textile phenom Ellen van Dusen has come far enough with her line Dusen Dusen that she can embrace her novice pieces. Here, a mini retrospective of the artist’s (very) early works.

“I’m nine years old and wearing the first shirt I ever made—I’m on the far left in the American flag tee. This picture is at sleep-away camp. I painted the shirt with fabric paint, and I would totally still wear it today!”

“Those are my fake glasses that I wore to a Weezer concert—shameful. I was in ninth grade then. I made the choker—I was into making beaded chokers. The shirt was my mom’s growing up. It was J. Crew from the sixties, and it had a really tiny beach scene repeated a bunch of times. It was awesome, and I destroyed it. At that age, I was into making my shirts really tight, so I cut it up.”

“I was in a carpool with these guys. I sewed car shirts for everyone. We all had old T-shirts, and I stitched on fabric that I cut from other old shirts.”

“I painted this shirt with, like, house paint.” [Ed: Please note that the words “Ellen smells” are written in the sand.]

“I’m wearing the same shirt I was wearing at the Weezer concert, but, as a bonus I’m also wearing a pair of jeans that I tie-dyed purple—a poor choice.”

“This was, like, tenth or eleventh grade. I made the skirt from an old T-shirt, and the sweatshirt  was originally giant—I took it in, making it super tight. Everything was from thrift stores.”

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Dusen Dusen

For Ellen van Dusen, the Brooklyn-based designer behind Dusen Dusen, it’s always been about the textiles. “I loved to search for them. I could never make them small-scale because it’s just way too expensive,” she explains, “but it was always something I wanted to do.”

It took Ellen a while to wrap her head around the idea of going into fashion, though. Unsure that she could actually survive making clothes, she took a more intellectual road into the design world, creating her own major at Tufts University that allowed her to learn about how we experience aesthetics. “I basically studied the visual system from as many different perspectives as I could,” she says.

After interning for Norma Kamali and working for Mary Meyer (another textile genius), Ellen decided it was time to start crafting her own collection and trying to get it into stores. Within no time, she was picked up by the New York boutique Duo and was knee-deep in orders. “I was constantly sewing—back then I was doing all the sewing myself,” she recalls. “That went on for like four months, until I decided that I had to do it full-time.” No big surprise here: The pace hasn’t slowed since.

As for what’s next, Ellen’s focusing on how to move her line forward for fall 2011: “I want to make sweaters. I’m having a hard time figuring out how to do that on a small scale. And I’d like to do pants. Those are my short-term goals.”

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