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Next wave of Asian designers hits New York Fashion Week

By Marguerita Choy

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Asian names are well established on the fashion catwalks in America, and a new wave of Asian designers already accomplished at home hopes to follow suit at New York Fashion Week.

The newest designers to arrive are Asian-born and Asian-trained, looking to make inroads in the lucrative U.S. fashion market.

Their early predecessors, by comparison, had Asian heritage but were U.S.-born and U.S.-trained designers. One of the best known is Vera Wang, known for her wedding gowns and who recently designed one for celebrity Kim Kardashian.

Then came designers born in Asia but trained in the United States, such as Jason Wu, whose styles have been worn by first lady Michelle Obama.

The newest wave brings a stronger sense of their own cultures, mixed with Western sensibilities, said Lie Sang Bong, who founded his brand Lie Sangbong in 1985 in South Korea.

He is opening a New York shop in October.

"I find inspiration in Korean poetry, architecture and natural landscapes, but I’m equally fascinated by the construction of traditional Parisian couture and, at the moment, by the women of New York and the way in which they approach fashion," he said.

"New York Fashion Week is really the best means of exposing your work to a global audience, so many Asian designers want to be a part of this excitement and show here to get that exposure," he added.

New York Fashion Week, which ends next Thursday, features looks for spring 2015. A show can capture the attention of thousands of fashion buyers, media and fans who attend the semi-annual event.

Two designers to make their New York debut are Zhuliang Li with his Shanghai-based luxury brand Oudifu, which has 200 retail stores in China, and Tao Wang, designer at Broadcast, one of China’s top 10 labels, which has 800 stores.

Born in China and trained in Japan, Wang is launching her own collection Taoray Wang with plans for a showroom in New York.

"I've been in this industry for over 20 years, and it's time for me to seriously look at the business rather than to show my creativity. I want a platform for the brand," Wang said, adding that the global buyers are in New York, rather than in China.

While expanding into the U.S. market, these designers are keeping a foothold in Asia, where China is set to overtake the United States as the world’s largest apparel market by 2017, according to market research firm Euromonitor.

"I don’t want to shift my focus away from any one market, but it’s important for me to expand the brand’s reach," said South Korea's Son Jung Wan, who launched in New York three years ago.

Wan said she strives for a balance between Asian and Western cultural expressions, using rough-textured fabrics in soft, feminine silhouettes.

"I think people are interested in the softness of Oriental minimalism," she said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jonathan Oatis)

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