Depression is a common mental disorder that can control people of all walks of life. In her memoir, Prozac Nation, corporate attorney and writer Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote on depression, "…occasionally I wished I could walk through a picture window and have the sharp, broken shards slash me to ribbons so I would finally look like I felt." Writer and poet Sylvia Plath echoed her sentiments in The Bell Jar, having described her sickness as living in a protective casing, "blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream."
These melancholic confessions of hopelessness from Wurtzel and Plath have gone on to pave the way for a more candid and open discussion about mental illness across the globe. Despite this, the World Health Organization (WHO) claims that nearly 121 million people worldwide are directly affected by depression. Alongside this, the WHO's recent study revealed that "mild" depression rates are consistently increasingly worldwide as a consequence of situational or environmental influences.
No industry or caste is immune. Even the brightly coloured, glamorous world of fashion has a dark - albeit stylish - underbelly. Look no further than Isabella Blow. English magazine editor, iconic muse and extroverted hat-lover, Blow suffered from bipolar disorder and began undergoing electroshock therapy. She attempted suicide several times before successfully ingesting a toxic herbicide in 2007. British sensation Alexander McQueen, acclaimed for his fierce, avant-garde aesthetic and whose talent was ironically first discovered by Blow, hung himself in 2010. And while artistic ingenuity wasn't enough to sustain McQueen, for the Singapore-based creative minds behind DEPRESSION, Kenny Lim and Andrew Loh, fashion and design was a saving grace.
Prior to launching their tongue-in-cheek brand in 2006, Lim and Loh worked in the advertising industry. "Once we felt fatigued, dissatisfied, and when we knew we had to drag ourselves through another creative brief, it was clear that we had a name for our new project," the design team said. "DEPRESSION was born out of honesty, and the brand is inspired by our love for irony, with collections that are always entertaining and never at all depressing."
In keeping each season in line with its overall aesthetic, DEPRESSION's designs reflect a medical theme. For example, the A/W 2011 collection named Birth Defects featured dark, Gothic-like garments and a model wearing a controversial breathing apparatus at Singapore Fashion Week. Lim and Loh explained, "Breathing apparatuses, stethoscopes and saline bags have become artistic props used to express our own brand of clinical aesthetics, with a dose of dark humour." The quirky collection was even worn by Taboo, a member ofThe Black Eyed Peas, after his DJ set at Forbidden City in Singapore.
|From DEPRESSION S/S 2012 collection.
Photograph by Alvin Tang.
Artistically exploring its dark humour, DEPRESSION's new S/S 2012 line, Clouding of Consciousness, highlights the human experience of "going nuts." "The name of this collection comes from a medical symptom whereby the person experiences a mental fog, some sort of delirium causing you to not think straight," Lim and Loh said. "We wanted to capture that myriad of emotions on a fashion canvas, using literally, clouds and skylines as the visual cue. How often do we get to immortalise 'craziness' on a piece of art?" Clouding of Consciousness features a full range of emotions from clear, blue skies to dark, cloudy thunderstorms; Lim and Loh believe each piece should reflect the individual mood of the wearer.
Having fled the traditional 9-to-5 corporate world, the DEPRESSION designers affirm they're much happier in more artistic pastures. "Now, without anybody telling us what we can or cannot do, we are a lot happier, and creatively, it's much more fulfilling." Still, the design team is empathetic to those caught in the corporate struggle. "Everyone has at some point during work, stopped and said, 'I'm depressed.' We certainly did, and we decided we could make a change. A mid-life career switch is a leap of faith, but it's possible. And we're a living, breathing example."
Whether it's design and fashion, or knitting and scrapbooking, DEPRESSION's inspirational change of pace is an encouragement to everyone struggling in life to find a creative outlet and use it. After all, the climb up the corporate ladder is paved with slippery rungs - it often helps to stay firmly rooted through post-work passions.
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