Terrence Zhou's Balloon Dresses Reach New Heights

Terrence Zhou's Balloon Dresses Reach New Heights

Story by Mario Abad / Photography by Hatnim Lee

With their bulbous silhouettes and extreme hourglass shape, it's no wonder why Terrence Zhou's balloon dresses almost immediately went viral this year. Known as Bad Binch Tong Tong on Instagram, the Chinese-born, New York-based designer and artist hits social media gold with nearly every avant-garde creation he uploads from the hallways of his small apartment.

His latest collection, shot in the rooftop of his Long Island City studio, has both couture and ready-to-wear pieces and features his first jewelry and accessories line. Having first launched his brand during the height of the pandemic, his work quickly caught the attention of stylists and celebrities like Halsey, Camila Cabello, Karlie Kloss and Olivia Rodrigo.

His inner circle is equally as enthralled with his fantastical dresses. Friends would often come over and want to try on the balloon gowns to post on Instagram. So in November, he created a more wearable second line called Bad Binch Tong Tong. "I've worn a few pieces at a party and it quickly got attention from people," he said. "They're more functional but still beautiful and have a great movement. As a dancer, that's really important to me."

He's currently in collaboration with two artists that to make his collections virtual. "There are more possibilities in the virtual world," he says. "People can’t wear my clothes to work or gym, but in the virtual world, they can definitely do that."

For the balloon collection, Zhou was pensive on the idea of disappointment. "I really took a chance to look inward," he says. "I kind of feel that sometimes we need to let go a bit and let go of the result. Enjoy the process. It's about facing that disappointment and anxiety in your life and kind of transforming into a very visual format."

With an unconventional tech background and more traditional Parsons studies, Zhou is keeping his philosophy of duality in everything he does. "In our real life, we want to hide, or sometimes, we wouldn't say things or we wouldn't do things because we are afraid of being judged by our co-workers or friends or whatever," he says. "But then like online, it's more of a free space that we want to be hard and be seen to be understood. So I feel the online world sometimes offers more authenticity and honesty that I truly appreciate. It's kind of surreal to design within that virtual space already, that most people didn't even realize how powerful it is."

Photography: Hatnim Lee
Models: Yebecca Yoo, Akira Smalls
Agency: Fetch Model Management
Fashion assistant: Cyndi Yiqing Huang