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Korean designers strut their stuff at NY Fashion Week

NEW YORK – The calming and meditative sound of traditional Korean music, or gugak, echoed across The Stage at Lincoln Center on Feb. 10, when five teams representing Korea showcased their fall/winter collections.

As models posed to show off the designers’ creations on five stages lining two sides of the rectangular venue, a myriad of fashion industry insiders and members of the press walked up and down the large open space in the center of the room to take a closer look at the garments, talk to the designers, take photos and socialize for an hour.

The Concept Korea show was part of a larger project sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the ministry’s Korea Creative Contents Agency, aimed at helping top Korean designers gain a foothold in the immensely competitive global fashion market.

This year, the show marked its fifth anniversary as part of the biannual Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week, which ran from Feb. 9 to 16.

The participating designers were: Lie Sang-bong of his eponymous brand; Son Jung-wan of Son Jung Wan; the married couple Jeong Hyuk-seo and Pai Seung-yeon of Steve J & Yoni P; Lee Ju-young of Resurrection; and Do Ho of Doho.

“Coming here for the third time, we can definitely feel the mood that the perspective of the Korean fashion among people here has turned much more upbeat,” said Pai, who is also known as Yoni P. “We are delighted to find that Asian fashion is increasingly becoming synonymous with Korean fashion here.”

She also expressed excitement about a contract that the label had sealed a week earlier with Opening Ceremony. The boutique is a multifaceted retailer with locations in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo frequented by leading trendsetters and sells clothing, accessories, toiletries, souvenirs and hip cultural content such as international books and DVDs. Through this opportunity, the Korean brand will be shown alongside such highly sought-after labels as Alexander Wang, Rodarte and Jeremy Scott.

Lee Ju-young, the female designer behind Resurrection, the sole brand to present a menswear collection at Concept Korea, said her clothes seem to be as well received in New York as in Seoul, largely because of the gothic yet sophisticated structure and her creative use of materials. Her client list includes major names in the pop music industry such as Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas.

Through her shop in Seoul, she has consigned her collection to several concept stores in New York, and the number has been on the rise, thanks in part to the Concept Korea project.

The Culture Ministry has for the past three years chosen four to five designers or teams to feature during New York Fashion Week, where their collections are displayed at renowned showrooms across the city for several months.

This year, Son Jung Wan is being showcased for buyers and fashion industry people until June at ADK showroom; Doho at Cres Cala Fashion Development; Steve J & Yoni P at EasternBlock; Lie Sang-bong at Estarise; and Resurrection at Idiel Showroom.

In addition, Otte, an accessories boutique in Tribeca, held a special exhibition of Concept Korea collections that closed yesterday.

“Concept Korea has been networking with leading fashion institutions in New York to boost promotion of Korean fashion and related cultural content,” said Lee Hyun-ju, director of the public art promotion team at KCCA. “We intend to extend support for Korean designers to enable them to break into other markets around the world in the near future.”

At this year’s Concept Korea show, backdrops emulating ink-and-wash paintings embellished the stages, complementing the gugak music playing in the background. But when the DJ switched the music to K-pop dance numbers such as “Trouble Maker,” by the group of the same name, people in the crowed were spotted moving to the beat.

About 30 minutes into the show, J. Alexander, a.k.a. Miss J, a renowned runway model and coach, and Taylor Momsen, who featured as Jenny Humphrey in the U.S. TV drama “Gossip Girl,” stepped into the spotlight.

Meanwhile, three Korean designers presented collections at separate shows during Fashion Week.

Womenswear brand Parkchoon-moo and menswear label General Idea, run by designer Choi Bum-suk, showed collections on Feb. 10, and Son Jung Wan showed the next day.

By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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