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Unique Style


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Photograph by Caroline Schiff

Cari Borja has been creating unique clothing since she finished her Ph.D. in 2001. Her doctoral degree from UC Berkeley is in anthropology and film, and the clothes she creates—one-of-a-kind women’s wear and a line for toddlers—are inspired by her studies around the world.

How did you get started as a designer?
While honeymooning in Italy, I flippantly said that I would like to “make clothes for the Sirens.” My husband gave me a sewing machine and built a studio in our garage as a wedding present. Over the next five months, I wrote my doctoral dissertation while learning how to sew.

How long does it take for you to create a look, from concept to reality?
Everything is created in my studio, so, usually two to four days. I design as I’m laying out the fabric—I can’t draw. My drawing is the cutting and sewing and putting together on the table. I will look at a piece of fabric and think, “I can make this the bottom of a skirt or the collar of a jacket,” and then go with whichever I like better.

Who wears your clothing?
Everyone from stay-at-home moms to socialites in San Francisco and Piedmont—women who enjoy “art to wear” because each piece is unique.

Cari Borja’s boutique is open Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m.–5 p.m., 2117 Fourth St., Studio B, Berkeley, (510) 981-0067, www.cariborja.com.

Photograph by Claudia GoetzelmannPhotograph by Caroline Schiff

Photograph by Caroline Schiff

Cari Borja’s Style Tips


- Find a great piece that you love and dress it up for evening, or dress it down with jeans and boots.
- Use one piece as a focal point and play down the rest of your outfit.
- Consider other colors related to a favorite. If you like brown, try green, eggplant, burgundy, or teal.

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