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Back to art school with Phillip Lim and Alexander Wang 

Works in progress

Keith wears a vintage Pierre Cardin shirt from Electric Blender.

Photo by Derek Anderson

Keith wears a vintage Pierre Cardin shirt from Electric Blender.

Photos by Derek Anderson; Makeup by Khourtney Smith

Once, our understanding of art and the people who make it was fairly straightforward—there is a canvas, a subject, a painter-artisan and the beautifully rendered sacred tableau or royal portrait.

Today, our notion of art and artists is more complicated. One factor is the necessary but vexing critical attention to race, gender and class concerns that began in the 1970s and '80s, but recently there is the skyrocketing market for new art, a cultural phenomenon that has turned artists into careerists. As a result, there is a creative malaise and no easy cure—a dilemma that became the subject of trenchant movie satire, Art School Confidential.

Rachell (left) wears a Grey Ant cropped jacket from Apple Boutique and a vintage dress from Roulette; Lauren wears a Vince sweater coat from Uniquities and a vintage slip dress from Roulette. - PHOTO BY DEREK ANDERSON
  • Photo by Derek Anderson
  • Rachell (left) wears a Grey Ant cropped jacket from Apple Boutique and a vintage dress from Roulette; Lauren wears a Vince sweater coat from Uniquities and a vintage slip dress from Roulette.

Terry Zwigoff's 2006 film about cultivating and perfecting artistic narcissism successfully exposes the pretensions and contradictions of enrolling in art school as if one were learning medicine, engineering or the law. One of the film's chief targets is the concern for appearances encouraged by today's art culture, where finding the correct persona is just as important—or more important—than learning to draw or paint. Which "self" will the film's protagonist (played by Max Minghella) embrace: the earnest and naïve boy who entered art school and tries to be the next Picasso, or the maligned, ethically irresponsible pained artist? Both images, as the film shows, are clichés. Why can't art simply be the process and not about the end result—the jackpot of a masterpiece?

One of the virtues of viewing fashion as art is that its designers turn out creations that will be transformed by the people who wear them. This is the guiding principle of this month's shoot. We decided to place art kids in an art studio to highlight and reflect upon the process of creating and making art, in an attempt to recreate the feel of Art School Confidential. Thanks to the generosity of Malik Wagenseil, Lucia Marcus and Tom Dunne, three artists who work in downtown Durham's Arts Place, we were able to shoot in colorful working galleries, filled with beautiful, partially finished pieces.

Lauren (left) wears a dress by Erotokritos from Apple Boutique; Rachell wears a Vanessa Bruno top from Uniquities and Christian Dior sunglasses, courtesy of Jamie Holland of Apple Boutique. - PHOTO BY DEREK ANDERSON
  • Photo by Derek Anderson
  • Lauren (left) wears a dress by Erotokritos from Apple Boutique; Rachell wears a Vanessa Bruno top from Uniquities and Christian Dior sunglasses, courtesy of Jamie Holland of Apple Boutique.

Here, we spotlight two visionary contemporary American designers, Phillip Lim and Alexander Wang. Lim's eponymous line emerged in 2004; with strong roots in American sportswear, the designer has been able to keep that signature aesthetic while still turning out artsy pieces with individuality. His works seen here include a gold button shoulder dress with belt worn by Shanna and a blue silk flutter sleeve top with gemstone detail and jersey bow top. Lim's look is laid back, but the pieces are always fresh.

We also feature an Alexander Wang blue sweater dress, which we have paired with a Phillip Lim belt. Wang, who delivered a stellar spring '08 collection at New York Fashion Week last Thursday, provides a look for the girl who wants to appear polished and proud of her fashion-forwardness in an understated manner. Getting ready for fall, our model Kendra makes a bold statement with an Alexander Wang dress and wool and patent brown boots by Aquatalia.

Kendra wears a dress by Alexander Wang, a belt by Phillip Lim and boots by Aquatalia, all from Uniquities. - PHOTO BY DEREK ANDERSON
  • Photo by Derek Anderson
  • Kendra wears a dress by Alexander Wang, a belt by Phillip Lim and boots by Aquatalia, all from Uniquities.

Included here is a cropped jacket by Grey Ant, L.A. designer Grant Krajecki's campy line of clothes that circulates around 1970s and '80s references. We also found a vintage Pierre Cardin lightly printed floral shirt, which we've paired with a vintage velvet rust-colored blazer, as well as feminine pieces by Parisian labels Erotokritos and Vanessa Bruno, such as a mint green jersey dress and vibrant yellow top from the former and a lavender lightweight mesh-like top from the latter. And L, our DJ, kept our shoot loose with his turntable, dropping the rhythms of a fabulous art school party.

L wears a vintage shirt and pants from Roulette; Shanna wears a dress and belt from Phillip Lim, both from Uniquities, and gloves from Electric Blender. - PHOTO BY DEREK ANDERSON
  • Photo by Derek Anderson
  • L wears a vintage shirt and pants from Roulette; Shanna wears a dress and belt from Phillip Lim, both from Uniquities, and gloves from Electric Blender.

Send ideas and tips to fashion@indyweek.com.

  • Why can't art simply be the process and not about the end result—the jackpot of a masterpiece?

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I'd like to point out that by shopping at the Durham Rescue Mission thrift store you are supporting the work …

by Natalie Spring on Learn to Wreck the Racks at Local Thrift Stores (Fashion)

Wow, really well-said. Love the reflection on Durham's identity and how what-it-was and what-it-is are colliding. I feel the same …

by annftilley on What Kind of City is “Durm,” Anyway? Runaway Ventures an Answer With Its New Downtown Store (Fashion)

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