Saturday, July 18, 2009
Fashion Lights Up the UC Botanical Garden
An isolated garden at the top of the Berkeley Hills may not be the most obvious venue for a high-end eco-fashion fundraiser, but the organizer behind the recent Green Gala garden party is not your ordinary botanist. Deepa Natarajan, the mastermind behind this event had long thought about a way to join the world of fashion with that of the garden. Her vision was realized on a blistering hot Sunday afternoon in June inside the gentle shade of a towering redwood grove.
The event – a fundraiser for the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley – included a live and silent auction, an eco-fashion runway show, and wine and hors d’oeuvres by local artisans. The highlight of the afternoon was a fashion show in the Redwood Grove Amphitheatre, with over 10 local designers each showing 3-5 pieces from their collection. Many pieces were made with plant materials that can be found in the garden, and even the hair and makeup team used the garden for their creations.
Having to contend with Gay Pride weekend and a cab driver who drove me round and round the canyon, I was devastated to arrive right after the first designer, Casey Larkin showed her pieces. I have been reading about her and was eager to see everything up close. Luckily I was able to see the entire collection during the final walk-through at the end of the show. Her designs, under the name Mr. Larkin, are some of the most exquisite and wearable pieces I’ve seen in eco-fashion, and are in fact called “an eco project” on her web site. The “Elsa Dress” has been receiving some press lately as it’s made from 100% milk fiber and is dripping with recycled paillettes from the 1930’s – completely perfect for the red carpet. Not to mention her clothing has already been worn by a few celebrities. Her more casual jumpers and dresses are made of 100% Japanese organic cotton and happily mingle old Hollywood style in a modern fit. While this collection was shades of white, I hear her collection for the fall will have lots of navy, a la Comme des Garcons.
Of the designers represented on the Redwood Grove runway, my other favorites (besides Larkin) were from Cory Brown & Cassidy Wright (“The Moon”), Molly De Vries for Ambatalia partnered with Tierra Del Forte denim, and Jonathan Baker. The Moon experimented with weaving together scraps of silk shirts and scarves, handkerchiefs, tulle, doilies and even napkins. If it sounds like too much, the peachy blush gown out of vintage silk was fairly simple and elegant with many intricacies. De Vries repurposed an 80-year old Asian hand-felted vintage wool jacket and gentleman’s 70-year old wool vest and paired them with a denim pencil skirt from Tierra Del Forte and round-toe heels. The effect was cool and sweet. Finally, Baker closed the show with the most modern and sharply cut dresses made with seaweed and organic cotton. He stuck to black and white and it worked.
After the show, guests walked over to the terrace where items for the silent auction had been set out for bidding and the wine by Quivira was poured for the taking. Amiee Alan provided the catering and music was provided by Elias Reitz, Roger Reidlebaur, Jordan Glenn & Nate Brenner. Despite the heat, I suspect guests didn’t mind taking in the natural surroundings and breathtaking views. What other secrets the garden holds we don’t know, but someone like Deepa Natarajan will surely find a way to show us.
*Photos courtesy of Cara Gardner for Cara Mia Photography