Designing the apocalypse

My name is Dimitri Zaitsev. I am the founder of Nuclear Snail Studios, and I do post-apocalyptic stuff such as never washing myself because real wastelanders don´t waste water. That aside, I make costumes, props, and pictures.

I work at my workbench, in front of the camera, behind the camera, and on my Wacom tablet.

I also lead a gamedev studio, and have a Youtube channel about post-apo costuming. The latter might be useful to you if you woke up today wondering how to make your perfectly good clothes look like they´ve traveled through a Skag´s digestive system a couple of times.

The “science” behind it all

After watching my channel, many people tend to assume that the “secret” to making good post-apo costumes is roadkilling your jacket really hard, or using a specific brand of paint. Because “Haha, he just punched his jacket! That´s so post-apo, man!”


What can I say, this jacket owed me money.

However, my actual “secret” is way less brutal: applied design theory. What does that mean practically?


It means that costumes are wearable artworks - not more, not less.

And that in turn means that all the knowledge humans have gathered after hundreds of years of doing and studying art (of any kind) can be used to make your costume!


Pictured: artistic evolution. The next stage will be cardboard cubism.

To start using the enormous knowledge pioneered by Michelangelo, Dali, Feng Zhu, and every artist ever, simply start treating your costume like you would treat an (abstract) picture or sculpture.


First of all, stop thinking about minor details such as whether or not “bottlecaps are totally post-apo”. Hell, stop thinking about “post-apo” at all, it is just a genre. Have you noticed how much raider costumes look like orc costumes? That´s because the same design principles apply, regardless of the genre you choose.

Which is why a person like Lenora can get awesome results in whatever genre she wants (even if she mostly prefers fantasy)...


...while someone clinging to the idea of “which exact brand of tire are you using for that shoulderpad?” will not get very far.

So start thinking about abstract concepts such as composition, colour palettes, complimentary colours, detail areas and rest areas, and...well, I could go on listing stuff forever, but this knowledge is already recorded.

It is very common and universal, and I can´t emphasise enough how important it is for ANY artist.


What do you see in this picture? I see my girlfriend´s hips lines, colours, textures, and focal points.

The technical part

All of that said, the nuts and bolts part is also very important, because costumes are supposed to be wearable artworks! A costume that murders you while you wear it or just falls apart every five seconds would suck, no matter how good it looks.


One of my first costumes. She could barely move with this. Also yes, the whole picture series is ridiculously stereotypic and over-the-top on purpose.

But here´s the good news: learning the technical part is relatively easy, at least if you are open to the idea of learning it - unlike me, just a few years ago.


My past mistakes

I myself have never studied how to make costumes. I´ve graduated as a photographer & digital artist, and for most of my life I have been making pictures, not costumes. This one´s from 2008 or so:


Not much going on there in terms of costume design. Actually, it´s just an unmodified Sith Lord robe with an unmodified airsoft rifle.

Now, fast-forward to 2015. Here is a promo artwork for Dustwind.


It´s basically the same motif - I´ve even reused the steel beam and the floor. Sneaky, huh? But this time I have invested into the costume itself much more heavily. Making both the armour and the gun has cost me several hundreds of Euros and a month of work. But hey - at least now I can compensate for my really small wurst.

Don´t get me wrong - if you are reenacting a Sith Lord, a black robe is EXACTLY what you should be wearing. But in my case, I was just oblivious and reluctant about having to treat a costume as an artwork of it´s own in the first place for a reeeeeeally long time. Photoshop was the only thing I cared about, and I fully identified as a “digital guy”, which is another way of saying I was scared I would just suck at physical work anyway.


And that has proven to be a very narrow-minded thing to believe. So if you think that you are “not talented” or should not get an insight into other art forms except your primary one, watch this video.

However, there are no rules in the wasteland

Applied design theory merely provides you with the tools needed to make (and understand) any kind of artwork. And once you have experimented enough with literal nuts and bolts, you should also have the technical skills.


But what you do then is all up to you. You have an unlimited freedom, and this is what I love about post-apo costuming.

Model: HelloChrissy

You can use any material you see fit for YOUR creation. You can draw from a huge pool of inspirations, and then mix different genres as much as you like, thus creating something “new”.


And you don´t owe anyone any explanation. Creative freedom is all about going your own way, regardless of how far from (or how close to) other artworks you are. Want to make an exact Fallout power armour replica? Go ahead! Want to make something just vaguely inspired by Mad Max and Borderlands? Your call!

So if anyone tells you that “you totally need to use more bottlecaps, otherwise you are not a true wastelander, maaan”, just tell them to suck your rusty sawblade axe :)


Picture dump

Here follow some more pictures I have been involved in over the course of the last two years. Sometimes I was in front of the camera, sometimes behind, and sometimes both.


Photo by Felix von der Osten

Along the way, I will also introduce a few friends of mine who I have the pleasure to work with.


Meet my tacticool friend Konsti...

We have made this outfit & picture series together to help establish a styleguide for Resistopia - an alien apocalypse LARP hosted by my friends from the Lost Ideas team, who I work very closely with.


Inspirations for this particular style are Terminator, Falling Skies, Elysium, and more.


The beardy guy on the right is one of my best friends, Claudio Oliverio. He lives and works in Berlin as a hipster fashion photographer and actor.

Also, he hates it when I post old pictures of us, so here you go:


The bottom pics are from the F.A.T.E. LARP, also hosted by Lost Ideas.

And to give you an extreme genre mix example, here are my Wasteland Warrior friends Erndog and Mortal Joe with their dieselpunk post-apo warlord outfits.


Because yes, you ABSOLUTELY can mix pre-napoleonic era historical inspirations with..well..all sorts of other stuff. Because why not?

And here is Leif (also from Wasteland Warriors), sporting a more tribal Mad-Max inspired look.


One beautiful sunday, we didn´t want to put on our heavy wasteland outfits though. So we met our trusted photographer Boris Leist to make some more casual pics just for fun...


Sadly, the poster is not for an actual series (yet).


Joe Neuvieme of Wasteland Warriors


My girlfriend Lila wearing an outfit made by my boyfriend Elliott Montello

And this photo was made by Lara Diederich...


...who appears herself as a model in another promo work I made for Dustwind

So yeah, my friends and me are law-abiding visual artists by day, and a bunch of dirty German post-apo barbarians by night. And we like taking photos of each other. Does that make any sense?

Anyway, follow me on social media:



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