The designer Dasha Selyanova remembers being an angry child. Born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1985, she “was kind of dissatisfied with everything from the very beginning,” she says. This later manifested itself as typical teenage rebellion (dyeing her hair), but by her early 20s, it had become an extreme — a drug addiction. “I only understood what I wanted to do when I was25 or so,” Selyanova says. “Before that I collected experiences. I have a lot of baggage to work with.”
Now, Selyanova’s self-awareness is on display in the utilitarian clothes she makes for her three-year-old women’s wear brand, ZDDZ London. For her spring/summer collection, she explored the idea of depression — with which she has struggled on and off for years. “I was finally able to process this pain and confusion that I had, and a lot of people approached me after the presentation,” she says. “It was scary to be that honest, but it’s worth being vulnerable when you see what it does to people.” Printed on or stitched into some of the garments are phrases like “help yourself,” “sealed for your protection” and “sleep better, live better”; paired with frayed denim, crisp button-downs, sweatshirt dresses and a fair share of mesh, the effect is far from hokey. It’s wearable — and emotionally relatable — and represents Selyanova’s realization that her designs must be personal.
Selyanova studied at the British Higher School of Art and Design in Moscow as part of the college’s first class of fashion graduates, in 2012. She spent her senior year in London. “The sense of freedom that I had, I can never forget it,” she says. “Russia feels so different, as though there’s tension in the air, and I’d heard so much about London, and I was so into Vivienne Westwood and obsessed with punk.”
On the Verge
She stayed in London after receiving her diploma and held a series of internships: one for a then-independent designer who now works at Alexander McQueen; another alongside the stylist Mel Ottenberg during a Rihanna tour-leg in the U.K.; the last for a tailor who focused on corsetry (“I wanted to try something that I would never do myself,” Selyanova says). In 2012, she and a friend, Zoya Smirnova, started ZDDZ London in Selyanova’s Shoreditch bedroom, making a 16-piece collection and uploading the photos to social media. “We thought the world would beg us to lend some clothes, but nothing really happened,” she remembers. Shortly after, a freelance publicist reached out to Selyanova and Smirnova on Twitter, offering them a free trial period of representation — soon, ZDDZ London ended up on an assortment of local celebs.
Smirnova left the brand the following year (she and Selyanova remain close friends), and ZDDZ’s headquarters moved into a Bethnal Green studio. “After a couple of collections, I realized ZDDZ was going to stay on the same level if I didn’t either stop or change something,” Selyanova says. She rebuilt her team, hiring Russia-based, business-minded help and a pattern cutter and a studio assistant to join her in London; simultaneously, ZDDZ entered VFiles’ seasonal competition for spring/summer 2015, was selected as a winner and participated in the online platform’s show at New York Fashion Week.
This led to more interest in the brand. Soon, Selyanova shifted production to Belgrade (and both the cost of production and cost of purchase dropped); her stint at NYFW also led her to the conclusion that she doesn’t particularly like the runway format. So for the past two seasons, she’s brought her collections to Moscow and held presentations in a space meant to look like a post-Soviet flat. During the fall presentation, models meandered around the space, opening and closing a refrigerator. “I really enjoyed talking to the kids, and we used some of them in both presentations,” Selyanova says. “It’s nice to get to know the current you and to see whether they are as confused as I was. It’s becoming a research project for me.”
Still, with more than 15 stockists worldwide and a forthcoming online-store launch, Selyanova says she hasn’t arrived yet: “I’m continuing to figure things out for myself and ZDDZ is going to be a reflection of what I’m going through, and then my reflections on all of that. It means I’ll never get bored.”