Terrence Zhou

All clothing throughout by Terrence Zhou. All tights throughout, stylist's own.

The Geometry of Terrence Zhou

Unlike many in the fashion industry, Terrence Zhou was originally working towards a math degree when he decided to transfer to Parsons in New York to pursue fashion design. "A lot of people thought it was a big change," he recalls of the move, "but I think no experience is ever wasted, and actually feel that the way that I do things is quite mathematical." That background now informs his entire approach to his designs: "How I see every challenge as problem-solving—I always try to find the most efficient way to solve the problem. Mathematics has kind of enriched my life. It became the thesis statement for my life."

Before transferring, Zhou attended Wabash College in Indiana, where he was studying math and engineering, seen as a gateway to success in his native China. But he often found himself auditing art classes, finding joy in studio spaces. "Maybe this is a part of me," he remembers thinking. "My soul can recognize the passion." That realization was enough for him to switch to Parsons, where his cerebral approach began to manifest in the form of garments.

Zhou's shapes are distinct; his designs stay close to the skin before expanding into curves and domes created by three-dimensional modeling and vacuum forming. His monochrome pleated hoop skirts and dresses—which feature one or multiple hoops resembling lampshades stacked atop each other—have become a signature for the brand. He often finds inspiration in math as well as philosophy and architecture, recognizing the underlying commonality between these different fields. "I'm drawn not necessarily to shape but more by concept, trying to understand how these concepts play in my shapes," he explains. Those ideas reveal themselves in each piece, which end up looking like sculpture as much as fashion.

The process Zhou employs might sound technical, but it comes from a personal place, often channeled through one-off designs he creates when inspiration strikes. One recent design is an armless balloon dress that envelops the wearer, with different versions in blue velvet or with printed lace overlays. "For these artistic expressions I feel completely free. I don't have to worry about anything,” he explains. "I just have to make sure my audience receives my messages and my emotions while they're seeing my artwork." Though Zhou may pull from heady ideas and concepts, it's his ability to design from intuition rather than intellect that has resulted in resonant creations. "I don't have to think too much; it just feels right," he says, "kind of like transferring my mental state into another creation process. When I'm led by my intuition, people feel it. People feel very strongly about the work, emotionally."

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The Geometry of Terrence Zhou
Model: Nic Villarosa at New Pandemics. Hair by Kiyonori Sudo at L’Atelier NYC. Makeup by Stevie Huynh at Bryant Artists. Photographer's assistant: Ari Sadok.

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