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Concept Korea Takes the ‘Korean Wave’ to New York Fashion Week

Yohan Kim, Heejim Kim, and Younhee Park following the Concept Korea show at New York Fashion Week Photo by Dan Lecca

Korean pop music and beauty products have spread across the world in recent years, with conventions dedicated to Korean culture taking place in the United States and South Korea exporting nearly $800 million more in beauty products than it imported in 2014. As New York Fashion Week (NYFW) launches this week, Korean fashion designers will contend that Korean fashion is the next big thing.

This year, Concept Korea, a collaborative project aimed at helping Korean fashion designers break into the U.S. market, returns for its fourteenth season at NYFW. Organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of the Republic of Korea and the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), the project first launched at NYFW in 2010. It will also be held in Milan, London, and Paris.

“Globally, there are many countries, including the United States, that are fond of Korean culture. These different markets are interested in Korea’s lifestyle, music, beauty, and fashion. Concept Korea celebrates this ‘Korean Wave’,” Sung-gak Song, president of KOCCA, told NBC News.

Since its debut, the project has given numerous Korean fashion designers an opportunity to showcase on a global stage, including Lie Sangbong, Son Jung Wan, and Kye, accoding to Song. Since 2010, international sales of Korean designers have increase 9.5 times, he said.

This season, three designers were chosen to represent the best of womenswear design in Seoul. “By showing with Concept Korea at NYFW, we aim to build a business platform for the new, up and coming designers who are entering the global market to gain recognition," Song siad. "Concept Korea will support, promote, and assist the designers in their attempts to break into the U.S. market.”

Selections from the Yohanix line at the Concept Korea show at New York Fashion Week. Photo by Dan Lecca

The first designer, Yohan Kim, presented his label, Yohanix, with a collection that reflects the designer’s view of today’s society, and his frustrations with the aspiration to be perfect while struggling to be accepted, according to Concept Korea. A spirit of punk rock and asymmetric angles were the result. His current label mixes strong material like leather juxtaposed with metallic threads, embroidery, and studs.

Kim was born in Korea, graduated from London College of Fashion in 2007, and has worked for esteemed haute couture brand Balmain Paris, where he specialized in leatherwear.

A selection from Kimmy J by Heejin Kim shown at the Concept Korea Show. ?(C)DAN LECCA

Kimmy J, a label headed by designer Heejin Kim, will offer a more youthful, edgy take on fashion, according to Concept Korea. Taking inspiration from old school hip-hop and retro vintage patterns as well as East Asian culture, the designer mixed futuristic material with nostalgic styles of the past to join two time periods: the childhood years of her parents, contrasted with her own, demonstrating her statement of “Karma” and fate. The designer’s work evokes streetwear set on her aesthetic of structural design.

A selection from Greedilous by Younhee Park shown at New York Fashion Week. Photo by Dan Lecca

Concept Korea’s third designer, Younhee Park, presented her collection from her label, Greedilous, according to Concept Korea. Describing her aesthetic as one expressing “future modernity,” Parks’ designs combine feminine haute couture with masculine undertones, giving way to a look that is both classic and out of the ordinary. This season, the designer is inspired by an amusement park that conjoins reality and fantasy. Park has been previously nominated for the 2014/2015 International Woolmark Prize.

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