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Foodie Fashion

Berkeley designer Cari Borja looks to the lunch plate for fashion inspiration.

All photos by Gabriel HarberIf you look hard enough at Berkeley fashion designer Cari Borja’s new summer collection, on display now at the Lireille Gallery of Contemporary Jewelry and Art in Oakland, you may see vegetables—from carrots and beets to cauliflower and artichokes. The unique "Chez Panisse Collection" was inspired by Borja’s recent prep-cook internship at the Berkeley restaurant, and the colors and shapes parallel the dishes she served at the café.


For instance, a green gown looks like an inverted asparagus, and the colors of beets are mirrored in a burgundy and gold silk ruffle top and layered skirt. In this two-part collection, Borja uses her signature fabrics such as satins and brocades but also includes some new touches, such as dramatic layering techniques to create “artichoke petals” and gathered “cauliflower florettes” in place of her usual ruffled hems.

The collection is sophisticated yet whimsical and playful. “It’s funky, but not too funky,” Borja says.

The next installment of Chez Panisse, which will be revealed in August, has its own interesting twist; inspired by wine and a different blend of seasonal vegetables, Borja says the second part provides a “complete meal” that is sure to leave many satiated.

The Lireille Gallery will host part one of the collection through July 25 as well as a reception and trunk show with Borja this Friday, July 1.

Yan Liu, owner of Lireille, says Borja’s collection is a good fit for the gallery, which carries contemporary jewelry and fine art from emerging and nationally acclaimed artists.

“Her work is original and we both do one-of-a-kind pieces, so there is good chemistry between the gallery and her collection,” Liu says.

The Cari Borja reception and trunk show will be held Friday, July 1 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, July 2, from 12 to 6 p.m. Part one of Borja’s Chez Panisse summer collection will be on display through July 25. The Lireille Gallery of Contemporary Jewelry and Art, 3980 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, (510) 547-3455, www.lireille.com.