The Russian designer addressing teen depression

With slogans from 70s antidepressant ads, ZDDZ’s Dasha Selyanova is offering a sartorial cure to the anxieties of Russia’s disenfranchised youth

How do you deal with depression when you’re 14, 16 or even 25? We’ve all been there: breaking things, listening to Nirvana for hours or setting something on fire, and pretending endlessly that we’re OK. After all, the hardest thing has always been to talk about it. ZDDZ’s designer Dasha Selyanova turned her own recent depression into a reference for new collection Help Yourself, which addresses the issues of youth and mental health problems. “Help Yourself is about depression and anxiety and ways to cope with it,” Selyanova explains. “It brought me back to myself between the ages of 17 and 20, I was always in a techno club, borrowing other people’s identities. I found myself listening to techno a lot because it resembled that sense of repetitive grey everyday-ness.” 

Selyanova’s interest in the topic was not just introspective and therapeutic, but also driven by desire to explore contemporary teenagers’ attitude to mental health issues. A short film for the collection shows youngsters of Moscow muse on anxiety, loneliness, uncertainty of the future and their ways to deal with it. Their words echo what we’ve all felt from time to time: “I don’t know what to do in life, I like a lot of things. I feel alone sometimes. Everybody’s vulnerable, even the strongest people.” But it’s not all universal – in the Russian healthcare system, anxiety and depression are often not considered serious enough for proper treatment, and this is reflected in young people’s attitudes to mental health. “What I found interesting talking to the kids (all aged from 17 to 24) is that they think that depression is just a trend and there is no such thing,” Selyanova explains. “For them it’s just trendy to be aggressive and pissed off. Don’t think and you’ll be fine!” 

“I think the only person who can help you is you. It’s about self-acceptance as well and being comfortable in your own skin” – Dasha Selyanova

“All the slogans – Sleep Better Live Better, Love Your Nervous System – are borrowed from 70s American antidepressant campaigns which are all ridiculously tacky and bad. The main idea is that you don’t need to rely on something external to fix you, you don’t need pills to make you feel good,” says Selyanova. “I think the only person who can help you is you. It’s about self-acceptance as well and being comfortable in your own skin.” 

That idea of comfort comes through a lot in ZDDZ’s garments: in boxy shapes, oversized silhouettes, and workwear-inspired materials. “I used to wear my older brother’s clothes when I was a kid, and then hanging out with rappers I would always wear baggy stuff,” Selyanova recalls. “It gives me security. I really like stiffer heavier jersey, heavier fabrics and cotton which almost feel like cardboard. It gives you so much protection. Everyone needs it in a urban environment.” The image Selyanova projects is both nostalgic and cutting edge: ZDDZ kids look both like Antwerp ravers from Raf Simons’ youth and the inhabitants of the global near-future.