Butterflies and Mermaids at Bad Binch TONGTONG

Butterflies and Mermaids at Bad Binch TONGTONG

Story by Alexandra Hildreth / Photography by Ben Jastremski

While many fashion shows could be boiled down to a lookbook, Bad Binch TONGTONG made sure to give us a performance with Designer Terrence Zhou’s NYFW runway debut this week in Brooklyn. The Spring 2023 show, which opened with a mermaid dragging herself down the concrete runway, was filled with Hussein-Chalayan-like creatures that bounced, stalked and fluttered across the room alongside his ready-to-wear athletic line.

Zhou, who grew up as a formally trained dancer, is constantly inspired by motion. “I want the movement in the clothing to feel subtle,” he says, having collaborated this season with choreographers Stefanie Nelson and Maya Orchin. Throughout the show, tethered models, like the two connected bulbs, demonstrated this through pull and release in their performance. At one point, each model crawled through a stretched mesh tube, demonstrating the motion and breath of the materials.

Several of Zhou’s garments resemble playful, otherworldly characters. Among his mermaids were beatle-like pairings chasing a flower-shaped light, a young boy holding candy, and even a couple of it-girls too busy texting to notice the supernatural world unfolding around them. A fun highlight of the performance included model/dancer Shaun Ferren (of Boston Conservatory) floating down the runway as a bright green butterfly, weaving in and out of the other bug-like garments.

But each featured dancer had a moment worth mentioning (and sending into virality across TikTok). Beyond Ferren, Jessica Alexander, Sabrina Bennett, Tyrone Bevans, Santi Braz, Shawn Brush, Ching-I Chang, Kayla Gonzalez, Claire Jones, Maya Orchin, Laura Peterson, Kalyan Sayre, Emily Tellier, Tang Yi, Damon Kyap Tsering, Effie Peng, Amy Su and Kami Woo all delivered noteworthy spectacles.

"Working with Stefanie and fellow dancers for my debut show is absolutely a dream," Zhou says. "It is interesting that we leave much room for the dancers and Stefanie to interpret what the designs mean to them as well as the movement. While the process for me is more like an 'unlearning' process that we are so used to be human, during the rehearsal, I would encourage dancers to think themselves as real mermaids or bugs attracted by lights and bugging the audience. What would the movement be like?"

Stefanie adds, "My work is instinctual, untamed and edgy, and leans into the beauty of unexpected and awkward moments so this collaboration has felt very natural for both of us. Terrence has impressed me with iconoclastic designs that defy expectations and I am thrilled to see how our visions formed a synergy in this presentation."

After the show, PAPER Editor in Chief Justin Moran DMed with Ferren to talk about his whimsical New York Fashion Week debut at Bad Binch TONGTONG.

@justintmoran: Did you ever imagine your runway debut would be as a butterfly?

@shaunferren: I don't think anyone would imagine their runway debut being as a butterfly, but now I know it's possible and it was so thrilling that it happened that way. Who doesn't love a butterfly?

@justintmoran: It was so cute, the best way to start what can be a very serious FASHION-y week. What was the preparation like? Did you rehearse?

@shaunferren: Right! There were rehearsals all throughout the week, but I actually only came to one rehearsal yesterday the day before the show. Terrence was there with a few pieces and some direction of what his image was, and we quickly put a whole piece together with choreographer Stefanie Nelson and assistant choreographer Maya Orchin.

@justintmoran: She’s quick! A fast learner. What’s the first thing you did after the show?

@shaunferren: The choreographer popped some champaign to celebrate, and then I zoomed over to Manhattan to attend another event my friend invited me to and saw some more lovely fashion.

@justintmoran: What show? I went to Collina Strada after. Also very whimsical!

@shaunferren: I'm not exactly sure [Sends photos from New York Men's Day].

@justintmoran: Cute! What vibe are you getting from NYFW so far? Is this your first time? Also, did you see anything you liked at that presentation?

@shaunferren: Everyone is such an individual it can be a bit intimidating, but today I received lots of support and love which was so refreshing. Overall, I feel everyone has such a strong love for fashion and art in general, and it's lovely to feel the energy of this community first hand. Besides all of the cute boys, I really enjoyed the street wear vibes from the event.

@justintmoran: The models definitely make things better. Back to the butterfly, was it hard to get in and out of?

@shaunferren: Yes, so difficult. I would run to change out of my last look and then have someone hold up the butterfly, while I sat on the ground and pushed my head through without messing my hair and then I would need to be helped to stand up. Then I would have to squeeze out and throw on my next look to go right back on in seconds. Very stressful.

@justintmoran: How does it compare to the choreo and on stage work you usually do? You’re a dancer?

@shaunferren: I am a dancer, yes. The work that I usually do is a lot more about the dancing and more complex choreography that requires a lot of rehearsing. This was more experimental and improvisation based, which was nice because you just go with the flow and are more in the moment.

@justintmoran: Do you ever think you’ll return to the NYFW runways? And if so, as what?

@shaunferren: I have a feeling it could happen and I would actually really want to, but maybe next time walking as a model. That's a big goal, but it would be a dream come true.

Photography: Ben Jastremski