Terrence Zhou

“It is less about aesthetics, but more about being sympathetic with our customers”

New York based Chinese designer, Terrence Zhou is radicalising our preconceived notions of body and silhouette. Leading us through a journey in between geometrical exaggerated volumes and block colours, the Parsons graduate is redefining our ways of seeing fashion. 

Terrence Zhou graduated from Parsons School of Design in 2020, following a degree in Fashion Design with a year student exchange program in the UK at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. With plenty of projects on his shoulders, including a collaboration with Austrian jewellery brand Swarovski, and a design strategy proposal for Japanese cosmetic company Shiseido, the designer took a moment to speak with NR about his creative growth and process.

“I will keep creating and never stop.” affirms Zhou, reassuring us all about the difficulties and struggles experienced throughout the past year spent away from his loved ones.

With Maths at the core of his training background, the young designer talks us through the first steps through his career, his motivations, and the intentions behind his sculptural creations.

Your training began with Maths, to later shift to Fashion. Tell us more about your education experience.

I always wanted to do something art related. I know that I’m good at both Mathematics and Art. If I knew what I know now, I would say at a young age I already felt the calling for art and design. I never received any proper training as a kid, I would draw and paint on newspaper, or would make my uncle build sculptures with me. When it came to applying for university, I really wanted to go to Parsons. Unfortunately, I got rejected. I was thinking at the moment “Okay, great! Now I can focus on pursuing my second choice, Mathematics!”. It was a subject I was really good at and also interested in. While majoring in Mathematics in a liberal arts college and soul searching for two years, I decided to apply for Parsons once again. This time, I got in.

Do you reckon your mathematics background has somehow forged the way you design?

Definitely, still now I would do Maths problem sets for fun. Maths is a way of thinking and a way of living. It is a system of thoughts: it enables me to see the essence of every day matter. I personally find Mathematics very romantic. To me, Mathematics is a system that helps us understand the foundation of this 3D world. Back in middle school and high school in China, I really enjoyed inventing new ways to simplify steps of difficult Math problems. It was really funny! My Math teacher at the time thought I was also good at drawing: she would always invite me to draw graphs on the blackboard and teach the class how to solve problems my own way. The idea of constantly innovating and synthesizing from Mathematics has transformed into my design language. Even when in Parsons,

“I would always challenge myself at making the design process more efficient in terms of expressing my ideas.”

The past year has been a challenging one for us all, what did you learn from it? How has the pandemic affected your approach to fashion?

I am from Wuhan China. During that time, I was just worrying about my family. I haven’t been home for almost 3 years. The pandemic has never affected my perspective to fashion, rather, it revealed to me what my real approach is: no matter what happens on the outside, I will keep creating and never stop.

What are your thoughts on the direction Fashion has taken in relation to the current situation?

I feel that pandemic has expedited our journey to the virtual world. Working from home and online shopping have become a new norm. It definitely enabled us to abandon our preconceptions on many things and probably pushed us to envision more possibilities.

Collaborations also played an important role in the building of your brand. How did you manage to fit your aesthetic within Swarowsky and Shiseido?

Swarovski and Shiseido were two different projects when I was in school. Swarovski sponsored us crystals and we had to create a collection. The project with Cle de Peau Beaute and Shiseido was more interesting. Teamed with Columbia Business School MBA candidates, we provided design strategies to Cle de Peau Beaute to augment its client base in the US. Projects like this always make me think from a user experience designer perspective. It is less about aesthetics, but more about being sympathetic with our customers. It is a different creative process.

How do your origins inform your work?

No experience is ever wasted.

Why do you design? What is the message you want to convey with your garments?

I want to build connections with people who look at my work. It encourages them to think about everyday objects in ways they never thought about 10.

What will the next steps be for your brand?

Keep creating.




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