Korean Couture Sizzles on New York Fashion Runways

Getty Images

Whether it is sexy and sophisticated, colorful and playful or bold and edgy, Korean fashion designers showing their fall and winter 2013 collections at New York Fashion Week on Thursday brought an Asian flair to the runway.

Five designers selected to be part of the Concept Korea project to showcase Korean talent proved the nation's fashion industry is thriving with tailored, razor-sharp cuts, creative use of color and fabrics, whimsical patterns and architectural shapes.

(Read More: China's Metro Sexual Men Revive Luxury Shopping)

"I want to tell the story of our culture," said Lie Sang Bong, who has been a designing for 32 years and is showing for the fifth time at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center, which runs through February 14.

The antique window panes of Korean houses are an interweaving motif in his collection -- in patterns on dresses and blouses and cutouts in tailored coats and jackets.

His designs, mainly in blacks, greens and grays with accenting colors, are architectural. Many pieces have overlapping panels, accent sleeves and fine tailoring and are reversible.

"In the end I believe the story I am trying to tell is in the fashion," he said through an interpreter ahead of the show.

Contrasts, Nature, Graffiti

All the designers who were chosen by a panel of experts to be part of the government-sponsored program are well established in Korea and elsewhere, but showing in New York enables them to expand their brands.

(Read More: Online Start-Up Houzz Taps Tech to Reinvent Design Industry)

"It's an opportunity for me to market myself to an international audience," said Son Jung Wan, a former artist who describes her clothes as "sexy, fierce and luxurious."

Her designs are feminine in shades of gray, beige and eggplant with fitted jackets accenting the waist, trousers with slim, sheer panels running down the leg, coats and dresses with soft fur sleeves and lots of knits.

Choiboko, a designer for 40 years, looked to nature for his latest collection. His bold print appliques in red, greens and blues are reminiscent of primitive Korean cave art. The appliques are a sharp contrast on the structured coats, jackets, dresses and trousers in shades of black and white.

"The human body is my canvas and I create art on the canvas," he explained.

Hongbum Kim, who designs under his label Cres.E Dim., used soft, detailed leather for his military style jackets and coats, and lots of layering. A sleeveless coat was transformed when it was layered with an overlaying top with sleeves.

He combined leather, silk and sheer fabric in a slinky black evening gown with a pleated back. The designs were rigid yet soft with leather topped skirts flowing into fluid pleats that reached the floor. Each look in the collection had three different textures.

Kathleen Kye, a 26-year-old American-born designer who studied at Central Saint Martins in London and now lives in Seoul, is the youngest of the Concept Korea designers. Her Kye label is already a favorite with retailers such as Harvey Nichols in London and K-pop stars in Korea.

(Read More: Gangnam Brings Fans - and Tourism Revenue - to Korea)

Kye used plenty of neoprene with designs inspired by boxes and graffiti for her unisex boxy tops, leggings and even shoes for a total head-to-toe look.

Although the inspiration for the show came from unemployed, homeless youth in Korea, Kye's collection was youthful and fun with bright pale blue coats and jackets and casual leggings and tops.

"We always chose a theme that is slightly unconventional," she said.