Branching Out

Banyan Tree duo create a fair-trade line inspired by the evolution of womanhood.

Those of us hovering around the 30-year mark are typically loath to admit that we still occasionally sneak into Forever 21, gorge on $15 tops and squeeze into the largest skirts we can find. It can be hard to find clothes that strike the right balance between youthful esprit and adult sophistication — and some of us are just not quite ready for the grown-up stores.

Christie Murdoch, owner of Tremont's Banyan Tree, and designer Sara Sandberg are two such kindred spirits. Their recently launched clothing line, Figwood, straddles that long, transitional stretch of womanhood that's so difficult to dress for.

"It's right at that point where you want it to be something you can wear to work, but something also that you can wear out and not feel frumpy," Murdoch says.

At 33, the lithe, blond mastermind behind Banyan's ever-appealing home decor, clothing and jewelry selections has overseen the tastes of Cleveland shoppers for almost 10 years. She's been traveling to Indonesia on purchasing trips for the entire decade that she's owned the shop. Because of her connections there, she knew exactly how to set up the fair-trade clothing line she'd always dreamed of offering to her shop's clientele — fashionable, on-trend women looking for easy-to-wear clothing. But for years, it remained just a dream.

Then two years ago she hired Sandberg, a Kent State grad newly returned home from a stint designing for Anne Klein in New York, as a salesperson. The women talked about creating a line, and this past December, Murdoch finally greenlighted herself and the project.

Sandberg drafted sketches, keeping in mind the connection to nature inherent in the names of the shop and the line. The resulting jersey-knit pieces flow and cling organically to the body. A small leaf motif drifts down a tank top ($56) while a double-lined dress ($76) is cut to flatter.

For fall, Murdoch is spearheading a Figwood line of sweaters and scarves that includes a cozy white wool sweater vest and voluminous, square cropped sweaters with funky buttons and wide sleeves. Her hip, carefree approach is the soul of all the pieces.

"It's fun," she says of bringing Figwood to life. "Just all the little details that we're running around doing, it was so fun."

Cleveland necklace
Sterling silver
A-line dress
With gathered front
With pockets
Wing tunic
Rayon jersey
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