SJP in the City
Sarah Jessica Parker talks new collection, Mom's influence and how Carrie became an icon
While Sarah Jessica Parker may have passed over Austin, choosing instead to share her new line with Dallas on March 9, we've still been eagerly anticipating the launch of the SJP Collection at Nordstrom.
To celebrate the launch, we chatted with the refreshingly down-to-earth Sex and the City star about the love she poured into the collection, working with George Malkemus of Manolo Blahnik and her mother’s influence on her fashion sensibilities. Plus we snuck in a few more questions we were dying to know the answers to.
CultureMap: How did the idea of the SJP Collection come about?
Sarah Jessica Parker: The opportunity to do a shoe collection had sort of been around for a number of years, to be honest, and with wonderful people and certainly intriguing opportunities. But I had a hard time saying yes. Ultimately I was looking for a partner that better suited what I hoped to accomplish.
“I want to talk with women about how you can be just as capable and reliable of a colleague and a mother and a friend in an asparagus-colored sandal,” Parker says.
I was sitting with a couple of my friends, who are very successful businesswomen, and they kind of forced me to articulate what I hoping for. Basically what I said was, you know, I would really love the dream partner to be George Malkemus [of Manolo Blahnik], whom I met and worked with over the course of my tenure at Sex and the City.
I got to know him a little bit and really became an admirer of his business. So they encouraged me to be bold, and I went home and rang him up. I said, “I know this is crazy, but would you ever consider producing a shoe line with me and being a partner?” And he said, “Meet me in my office at tomorrow morning at 9.” So that’s when the journey began.
CM: What was it like working with Malkemus?
SJP: It’s been extraordinary. He has exquisite taste — not to mention an enormous amount of knowledge about this particular business. Most important, he and I arrived in New York at about the same time, so the point of reference that I was talking about as inspiration to me were very important times for him as well and were equally vivid in his mind and memory.
He conducts his professional and personal relationships with such grace and honor and dedication. It was really a wonderful and rare opportunity to learn from him. He’s just an inspiring and great collaborator.
I really wanted the shoes to be made in Italy, and he went and looked up a gentleman that he worked with long ago in Tuscany, who is a third-generation shoe producer. He and his son are running the company, so he brings that kind of experience and knowledge that I couldn’t possibly produce on my own.
I really wanted to be at Nordstrom, as did he. He has had a long-standing relationship with them, and I launched my fragrance there.
CM: All of these pieces must feel like your babies at this point, but do you have a few favorites that you are especially excited about?
SJP: I have a hard time separating one from another, because the whole collection tells the story of the single sole and using colors as neutrals. These were the two most important things and the directive of the entire collection.
“I grew up loving and appreciating well-made clothes, because my mother always did. She was very industrious and clever about finding lovely things.”
I’m really excited about finally sitting in a room with women. Going on tour was something that was very important to me, and I specifically asked Nordstrom if I could do that so I could really sit down with women and tell the story of the collection.
I want to explain to them why we made the choices we made and how I think it can integrate into their life and into their wardrobe and how we arrived at this price point and how purple can be every bit as appropriate at the office as a black pump. I want to talk with them about how you can be just as capable and reliable of a colleague and a mother and a friend in an asparagus-colored sandal — but these are slightly new ways of thinking.
CM: Did you have an interest in fashion prior to your time on Sex and the City?
SJP: I most certainly have always had an interest in fashion. I grew up loving and appreciating well-made clothes, because my mother always did. We grew up not having a lot of money, but she really did like us to look very nice and was very industrious and clever about finding lovely things at church tag sales and factory outlets, so I always had an appreciation for lovely, fine things.
I have always shopped at thrift stores and made a purchase that seemed indulgent and extraordinary, but I think doing SATC sort of allowed me to dream a little bit bigger and gave me access that I typically hadn’t had before.
I think you learn, too, from wearing so many outfits. You learn a lot about fashion and conception, and you learn to appreciate even more than just the fundamentals of building something beautiful and what it takes. It just allowed me to love it more in a different way.
CM: Were you surprised by how the character of Carrie became her own kind of fashion icon?
SJP: Oh, yes. I mean, we never had any plans for that at all. We were just telling stories the best way we knew how.
Fashion was something that she expressed affection for, and we knew that she was singular in the way she told her stories through fashion. But you know, we shot a whole season before it was even on the air, and we didn’t have any expectations of people ... connecting to anything in particular.
The fashion was sort of a star corset and sort of emerged without us even having any expectations at all.
CM: Do you have any thoughts about Texas fashion and Dallas in particular?
SJP: I sure don’t, and that’s exactly why it was really important for me to come to Dallas to visit NorthPark. Dallas is a big, sophisticated city, and I am sure there are thousands and thousands of extremely fashionable women who live there, and I want to meet them.
Dallas was on my wish list from the beginning. One of my very best friends is from Plano, and his family still lives there. I was going to have dinner with them and see Dallas through their eyes, but now my friend is shooting in New Mexico, so it isn’t going to work out.
I’m so bummed, because seeing a city through a local’s eyes is just the best way to see it. But Dallas isn’t going anywhere, so hopefully I can start to come back more and some other local will take pity on me.