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Sarah Jessica Parker talks shoes, partnership with Manolo's CEO

March 04, 2014|By Ingrid Schmidt | This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
  • Sarah Jessica Parker knows a few things about shoes -- now she's started her own line of them.
Sarah Jessica Parker knows a few things about shoes -- now she's started… (Nordstrom )

Carrie Bradshaw, “Sex and the City’s” shoe-loving character played by Sarah Jessica Parker, is often credited for familiarizing the masses with luxury footwear labels Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin. Now the 48-year-old Parker, whose head-to-heels style off-screen rivals that of her most famous character, has launched a signature shoe line in partnership with Manolo Blahnik CEO George Malkemus.

Parker’s namesake SJP Collection debuted Friday and consists of 25 made-in-Italy shoe styles ($195-$485), three handbags ($245-$375) and one trench coat ($495), sold at Nordstrom stores and nordstrom.com.

The collection seems like a Cinderella fit, for obvious reasons.

How long have you been wanting to design a shoe line?

For the past 10 years, people have been offering me this opportunity. I kept saying “No,” and I couldn’t figure out why… Ultimately, I was sitting at a lunch with a couple of [business] friends, and they said, “What do you want?”

I said, “I don’t want to make a shoe that costs $69.99, because I know it’s not going to be a shoe that I can talk about with true enthusiasm and affection. It’s not going to be a shoe that will last five or 10 years, feel really good on the foot, and tell the story that I want to tell.”

And they said, “Who would you want to be in this business with?”

I said, “George Malkemus, whom I’ve known for years now. I think I know his taste… [With their encouragement], I went home, picked up the phone and said, “Would you ever consider being a partner in a shoe business with me?”

He said, “Be at my office tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.”

How did you and George connect on a concept?

We both came to New York in the latter part of the ‘70s, and that particular time period in the shoe business was really exciting. There was everything from Bonwit [Teller] to Maud Frizon, Charles Jourdan, Ferragamo, Susan Bennis/Warren Edwards and Stuart Weitzman. It was the era of the single sole [a shoe without a platform], and that kind of went away.

What I wanted to do is to revisit that single sole that can look so feminine and beautiful and sexy on a foot … to go back to a simpler time [and colors like] matte purple, aubergine, asparagus….

The colors are brilliant. How does that reflect your approach to style?

There are only about three black shoes, two nude shoes and no brown shoes, except for the Alison boot. … I mean, are you any less capable at the office because you are wearing a purple shoe? No! I think you have to think differently about yourself…. All those ideas about neutrals and what is appropriate and what’s not [don’t] really have to apply, because you are still your same self. Your brain will still function in all the wonderful ways that it does.…

Let’s talk heels. No sky-high stilettos?

I didn’t want sky-high, because I think other people do them really, really well, and I wanted to show that you can have a shoe that’s not sky-high that is still significant and still feels sexy and powerful and feminine [without being] impossible to navigate the streets [in]…

Is there a story behind the female name of each shoe?

Some, but some are just names I like… Tanny is named for Tanaquil Le Clercq, a ballet dancer that I love. You know, it’s rumored that Audrey Hepburn’s real name was Etta. In all the research I’ve done, sometimes that story stands up and sometimes it doesn’t, but I like the name, and I think it’s a nice little acknowledgment of the role she’s played in so many of our lives. There’s Pola for [actress] Pola Negri, because I loved her so much. Ina is named after my publicist, Ina Treciokas, and Alison is named for Alison Benson, who runs my company at HBO.

Any family member shoe names? I don’t see a Tabitha or a Marion.

You’re not supposed to name shoes after your children, so I didn’t. It’s supposed to be bad luck. But the Bobbie is named for my mom. My mom’s name is Barbara, but everyone has called her Bobbie her whole life.… The style is slightly old-fashioned, like she is.

[For The Record, 12:11 p.m. PST March 4: An earlier version of this post stated that Sarah Jessica Parker's SJP Collection consists of two styles of handbags and 24 shoe styles. It has three handbags and 25 shoe styles.]

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