Cuisine Couture: henghengzhou’s Digitized Fashion Restaurant

In recent months, a hot topic has been popping up in eco-slash-sustainable fashion circles online: we’ve been getting something very, very wrong for a really long time: “Vegan Leather” is almost always a bad idea and can actually be horrible for the environment. While we may technically be saving animals from the slaughterhouse, vegan/faux leather/PU/etc is a wolf in sheep’s clothing –  a greenwashed idea that essentially means we are wrapping our bodies in plastic. However, the sustainably conscious fashion enthusiast have been quick to point out a few brands – Stella McCartney and Rombaut to name a few –  that are experimenting with actual earth-friendly alternatives to leather. Submission Beauty decided to take it one step further and look at the next generation of innovative clothiers and came across a stellar example: recent Pratt-graduate Elena Zhou and her collection henghengzhou, which features a variety of incredible fruit and vegetable-based materials. Have a look below at how good it looks to wear good.

HAIR CHIKA NISHIYAMA @chika_nishiyama @87artists  

“My collection ‘Digitized Fashion Restaurant’ explores the relationship between food, people and the way of documenting it. The collection is developed with edible fabric and zero-waste-cutting techniques. I want to convey the idea that sustainable is not a serious and abstract topic, it can be interesting and down-to-earth.”

“When designing with sustainability in mind, the most important element to me is diversity. My  common sense guided me to make it as soft and smooth as possible, or make it lighter. Sustainability is a lifestyle. It’s not just a hot topic or thesis. I define sustainability as something I have to learn and think about every day and try to live sustainably from small details.”

“I chose to create edible fabrics  inspired by the period of the  pandemic, when materials were hard to access. Learning more about sustainability and the environmental problem we have in the fashion industry, I was so curious about all these alternatives. Since they were so hard to touch and feel in person – I decided to make them myself!”

“The aim was to create a collection that is easy to make at home, using discarded fruit and vegetables to make all the fabrics. My raw materials – food waste – was sourced  from friends, school and food companies. By researching baking and natural fabric, I experimented with several methods to develop the fabric such as fondant cake, fruit papyrus, etc. This fabric collection is finally designed in different weights, scales and texture using tea powder, fruit peels, egg shells, etc.”

“I tried not to see my fabric design as fabric. I have a croissant bra, a bagel belt – I named the materials after their food shape. I want to break the boundaries between fabric and natural texture. I make fabric not in a flat sheet but also consider it in three-dimension.” 

“My collection can be washed and reused – or put in the compost. I also used the edible fabric to create beads, bras, buttons, accessories and bags. With multi-color choices and recreated food shapes, the whole collection is designed with the to be modern, elegant and sustainable.”

“I think my childhood influenced me a lot. I had quite a happy childhood in Shanghai, a modern and fast-developed city in China. I loved playing the piano and listening to classical music, I remember playing football with my parents on a big lawn at night, where I observed bugs and insects on the court. My mom and dad love cooking as well, they pay much attention to the food platter. As a child, I always noticed how my parents make the color and shape of food interact with the dinnerware. This made me love nature and the organic shapes I see from this world”