Is Issey Miyake an artist or a fashion designer? He’ll say he’s a designer, but there are university students out there willing to argue—and bet their bachelors—that he’s an artist. Because liberal arts colleges constantly dare their students to think outside the box, many style-minded types incorporate fashion into their theses or course studies. And it’s not just topics such as the sociological ramifications of the supermodel obsession on teen body image, either. The catwalk and its goings-on pop up across all disciplines of established curriculum. Here’s a look at just a few undergrads and maverick professors proving that fashion has at least one foot in the worlds of both art and academia.

University of Virginia: Architecture professor Susan Carpenter asked her third-year studio class to come up with a hypothetical SoHo design co-op, a "resource center for independent fashion and industrial designers," as noted in the syllabus. After meeting a Parsons professor, students started to think more along the lines of what a fashion school or house would need "in terms of places where the clothes would be made, fitted and shown," says Carpenter. With final projects in, most feature some sort of integrated catwalk structure. Throughout, one of the biggest class discussions has been the permanency of architecture versus the ephemeral nature of fashion.

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