It's Upper East Side Week here! It wasn't so long ago that every celebrity wanted in on a restaurant deal, and suddenly every new cafe had a bunch of famous names attached to drum up hype, but lately among the proliferation of celebrity fashion lines (hello, Scarlett Johansson for Reebok) there seems to be a new craze for opening a boutique as a little sideline. Seriously, how many more times can we see Lisa Rinna's Belle Gray boutique on Extra or The Style Network? We heard about Phoebe Cates-Kline's Blue Tree from Women's Wear Daily, and if they were writing a serious article about it, we figured it had to be more than a hobby. Apparently, the former 80s teen temptress was so disappointed about the closing of neighborhood gift store Penny Whistle, that she took the space and opened her own shop with business partner Lisa Matlin last fall. Rather than choosing trendier neighborhoods like the West Village or Soho, Cates-Kline chose to stick close to home in low-key Carnegie Hill, which should give you an idea of her point of view as a retailer, and she does have one. No dilettantes over here.
More after the jump
First , we answer the all important question. Yes, she was there. And not just hanging around, but in the center of the action (which isn't hard in this, um...cozy space) greeting and helping customers, looking at least 10 years younger than her reported 43 years, and happy to point out what was on sale to us. We love her all over again. WWD reports:
"We are very focused on fashion, and people just come into the store and go right up the stairs to find individual pieces they aren't going to come by too often," says Cates-Kline, whose specialty is seeking out designers in Paris, London or New York who are unknown Stateside.
Her efforts show, and and the store is full of labels and brands you've never seen and probably won't easily find around town. It also also has a warm, neighborhood ambiance which is a refreshing departure from the often cold, corporate showplace flagships one finds further down Madison Avenue. The first floor holds an eclectic mix ranging from Jacques Torres chocolate to toys to European candles and bath products. A rack to the side carries children's clothing, and behind it another one holds Men's clothing from the actor John Malkovich called Uncle Kimono, which we had heard about but never actually seen anywhere. Supporting a friend's business, perhaps? A jewelry case holds pieces from various independent designers, including witty necklaces made from antique silver liquor tags. Imagine a chain with an elegant little medallion reading "vodka" or whiskey". Upstairs is devoted to Women's clothes which manage to be interesting and unusual without being outlandish. Again, you won't recognize the names on the tags, but if that's what you are looking for you should be shopping further down the street. If not, expect to be charmed by an eclectic shop and a friendly owner with a sophisticated sensibility.
Blue Tree 1283 Madison Avenue, Manhattan