Art and fashion have long been intertwined, and a recent local collaboration is quite literally weaving the two together in a series of fabulous, luxury cashmere scarves featuring richly colorful (and monochrome) imagery by a pair of celebrated Hamptons artists.
The scarves by James Paul Cheung Cashmere, available at celebrity facialist Thuyen Nguyen’s Curated by THUYEN boutique at 94 Newtown Lane in East Hampton, showcase striking works by Sagaponack artist Steve Miller and Montauk and NYC painter Marcia Lorente Howell.
Each scarf design is made in limited quantities, creating their own level of collectability, much like the artworks on which they’re based.
“At James Paul Cheung Cashmere, we design for an art collector who’s blurred the lines between fashion and art, it’s all modern luxury and it should be a part of everyday life,” designer James Paul Cheung explains, describing his scarves made from 100% Mongolian cashmere of the highest quality, “because that’s what a work of art deserves, and it ensures that it will last.”
In fact, an untrained eye might not even realize the ultra-thin and not-furry scarves are cashmere at all. “I wanted to reinvent the luxury scarf market by re-mastering a classic material — cashmere — that had become overpriced and stale,” Cheung adds. “I wanted to make it accessible, young and modern through better design, and ethical and sustainable sourcing.”
Miller has put his artwork featuring X-rays of living Brazilian wildlife, women’s stiletto heels, musical instruments and fruit, as well as handwritten science notations, and imagery from Brazilian slums called “favelas,” on a variety of items, such as skateboards, surfboards and clothing over the years. And he says he couldn’t be more impressed with the material Cheung found for the scarves.
He and Cheung met through Miller’s late girlfriend, Sag Harbor publicist Jeanine Pepler, who the designer hired to find talent for him to collaborate with on the line of art scarves. The artist first attempted to provide names of others who could participate, but in the end his work proved perfect for the Cheung’s vision and Pepler convinced him to take part.
“They produced the scarves and we launched it, which was her idea, in 2018 at the Hampton Classic. That was the start of the project,” Miller says.
“We work hand in hand with artists and they profit from every sale,” Cheung adds. “We only produce small quantities, limited editions of every artwork so our clients can be assured their James Paul Cheung cashmere scarf is rare and unique.”
This rarity, according to Cheung, is what makes the scarves sustainable — because no one in their right mind would send one to the landfill. “We know that while cashmere isn’t technically sustainable, a high-quality scarf that doesn’t go out of style that you can pass on as heirloom might be,” he says. “We believe in leaving the Earth better than it was, we only use natural dyes and work with local farmers to ensure every scarf is animal cruelty-free.”
Both Miller and Howell — founder of Surfergirl NY, a gallery project promoting emerging women artists — have contributed numerous works to be made into scarves.
Among Miller’s designs are meticulously detailed prints of his paintings, such as his 2016 inkjet, enamel and silkscreen on paper “Voyage to the Heart of the Matter” and a 2014 diptych using the same processes on canvas called “Elastic And Defractive.”
Both highlight imagery from photographs Miller took while visiting the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) Large Hadron Collider project in Geneva, Switzerland — a massive particle accelerator and the infrastructure around it going some 30 stories underground within a 17-mile circumference ring that scientists hope will reveal a theoretical particle, called the Higgs boson, or “God particle.”
The source photographs, which Miller paints and stylizes with physical and digital mark making, include CERN scientists’ notations on chalkboards and white boards, along with complex machinery and posters from around their offices and corridors that combine fine art imagery with scientific jargon that works as readymade poetry.
These and many more pieces from the series are at the core of the artist’s new book, Surfing the Cosmos: Energy and Environment, due for release on September 27 and available for preorder now. The book also has a photograph of playwright Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) modeling a monochromatic scarf and mask with chalkboard markings from CERN.
“I’m putting information on the cashmere and getting it out into the world,” Miller says of the project. “… it’s a way I can communicate with someone who would never go to an art gallery and make them maybe think or question or wonder,” he continues, adding later, “The fashion is a way to engage in that larger conversation about the world we live in.”
“When it comes to design, I believe a scarf design should last and the only thing that doesn’t go out of fashion is art,” Cheung says.
“I decided to revolutionize the art market by printing fine art with only living contemporary American artists on my scarves. By working with living contemporary artists, it allows for the collector who loves both fashion and art to have a chance to follow the artists’ work,” he adds, noting that Miller’s scarves are shown in his 2019 book Surf/Skate: Art and Board Life as well as Surfing the Cosmos.
“Clients are thrilled to be able to visit Miller’s art studio and hear him speak about his inspiration for his artwork. This is only possible with living artists,” Cheung points out.
In total, Miller has about 35 scarf designs, while Howell has 20 depicting colorful landscapes of locations that are close to heart — her “happy places,” such as Montauk, Madrid, Marbella and New York.
“James literally turned them into cashmere hugs of happy! I loved working with James because he’s obsessed with quality and color the same way I am in my art. He approaches scarf-making the same way I go about painting, there’s no compromise. These are not just scarves featuring my artwork, with his scarves, you are wearing my art,” Howell explains.
“We believe in diversity in the arts, we represent male and female artists equally,” Cheung says. “We are a small brand and represent living artists because we believe in bringing undiscovered modern art to the fashion world. We design for people, not gender. If you love art, this scarf is for you.”
Find more scarves and info at jamespaulcheung.com. See more art by