It’s been a decade since the ladies of Sex and the City last kicked off their stilettos. But even after all these years; a pair of blockbuster films; and a very real re-examination of what it means to live, date, and shop in New York, few women define our relationship with shoes like Sarah Jessica Parker’s Manolo-sporting Carrie Bradshaw. This week, the actress will launch a line of her very own with (who else?) Manolo Blahnik CEO George Malkemus. The wares are simple, single-soled, everyday pumps, flats, and sandals that will retail in the $300 range at Nordstrom starting February 28. No sky-high spikes or flame-embellished mules here. Just Italian-crafted (save the Spanish-made espadrilles), warm-hued basics meant for the women looking for a taste of Carrie’s sartorial adventures. We sat down with Parker and Malkemus to talk about why color is the new neutral, what it takes to design the perfect—and not too cheap, not too pricey—heel, and how the SJP shoe philosophy has evolved over the years.
How did the collection come about?
Sarah Jessica Parker: The opportunities had been orbiting and I kept having a hard time saying yes—and that puzzled me. I would honestly lay in bed at night and think to myself, “What is the problem?” And I went to lunch one day with a group of successful women, and they were encouraging me to do a shoe line. They said, “Well, what’s the problem? You have all this money and all these opportunities.” And I said, “It’s just not about that, obviously. Do you know what? To be honest, what I would really love is to be a partner with George.” I didn’t know him super well, but we had spent the past twelve years working together on Sex and the City and I certainly admired his business and the way he conducted his relationship with Pat Field and me. And they said, “Why don’t you call him?” And I said, “You know what? Screw it. I’m just going to be brave. Because the worst he can say is ‘no.’”
George Malkemus: Which I didn’t!
SJP: And so began this thrilling conversation.
Can you tell me a bit about the concept behind the collection?
SJP: We wanted to revisit the single sole—where did it go? We found, much to our delight, that our reference points are the same, and we had an idea of this particular woman in our head. She wears color as a neutral and doesn’t think black totally is necessary. “Appropriate” footwear was not something that we were interested in. And we thought of all those great shoemakers from the late seventies, all those wonderful shoe stores…that’s how it all began. George found us a great shoemaker in Tuscany.
GM: Third generation.
SJP: We found a great person in Spain to make our espadrilles—to really make the shoes the way we wanted at a price point I felt comfortable with.
The shoes are an investment, but they’re not unobtainable.
GM: That’s the key word! Investment. That’s the thing we want to have. If you have a pump from Sarah Jessica’s collection, five years from now that pump will still be in our collection in many different colorways.
SJP: You shouldn’t feel regretful when you look in your closet and think, “Boy, that feels out of fashion.”
Well, these shoes are simple. There’s nothing super-trendy about them.
SJP: That wouldn’t be something I would do well.
GM: And I don’t think that’s what I would want us to do. I take personal offense when a woman spends huge amounts of money, and then after a certain amount of time, feels like she can’t wear it. Or, if she walks into a party and someone says, “Oh, my God! You wore those last wedding when so-and-so got married for the first time! And now they’re getting married for the second time and you’re still wearing the same shoes…and you’re still not married! Because you bought those shoes!”
SJP: Wow! What an amazing leap to those connections!
So who was this woman you were envisioning?
SJP: The idea in my head is this woman who’s walking down the streets of Florence and she has a bag with a little piece of hardware and she’s in a jean with a simple flare. She’s wearing a Henley. It’s that late seventies, very clean, simple, superchic—but not better than you or me. Just simply getting dressed in the morning and being herself. That’s what I learned from my mother. And that’s what I learned from my grandmother. Extremely simple. Beautiful. Sexy. Feminine shoe, bag, coat.
GM: Not overdone. It’s like the perfect white shirt or the perfect little black dress. It’s so easy to talk about those things, but they’re the hardest things to make. To make a beautiful, simple shoe is not easy, and [Sarah Jessica] got that.
What were the challenges in designing this collection?
GM: To make shoes at the price she wanted was challenging. It’s so lovely to have a partner who cares about every little thing that we do. Ten million women watched Sex and the City. You hear people say, “God, I love Carrie! That’s me!” And I’m like, “You live in Iowa. How is that you?” And she says, “You know what? It is me in some way.” That’s the woman Sarah Jessica wants to make shoes for.
Has what you want in a shoe changed since the Sex and the City days?
SJP: Well, the character I played had a very—some might say it was a reckless relationship with shoes. Financially, she wasn’t particularly careful or prudent. My tastes have changed. But if I saw a beautiful shoe ten or fifteen years ago, I’m inclined to say that today I would still think, “My God. That’s a beautiful shoe.” What I wear has changed because if I’m able, I take my children to school every day, and I dress for the weather. I was never as committed a consumer as Carrie. She will buy anything. She will buy a trendy shoe.
What are you excited about as you move forward with this project?
SJP: I’m nervous. I’m nervous that George has invested so much time and effort and money into this project. Will it prove to be worth it? Will people respond to these shoes? I’m excited to have the opportunity, but I’m extremely nervous. I’m going to five cities to talk about the shoes, and this is what I will hear: “Are you sure I can wear this to work?” And I’ll say, “Why does this make you any less capable in the office than your black pump?” Who told us these things? No one’s at fault, but it’s a real adjustment to say to someone, “Absolutely, you can wear that to your meeting. Absolutely, you can wear that to your parent-teacher conference or for a wedding.”
GM: Sarah Jessica is saying, “It’s OK!”
SJP: I’m not going to hold them hostage!
You’re giving them options.
SJP: Yes. It’s been interesting, too. There are women who wouldn’t feel confident wearing this teal pump. Women want to wear the teal. They’re just slightly afraid that somehow it diminishes them. They think the shoes aren’t as smart or as serious. Women just really need to know that it is all right if they want to. We’ll always have this in black for them. But why not French navy?