SHE’S STILL GOT IT

NEW SHOP, NEW SHOW, SAME SARAH JES­SICA PARKER. THE DIS­ARM­INGLY MOD­EST SCREEN STAR AND STYLE ICON CHATS WITH MANOLO BLAH­NIK’S GE­ORGE MALKE­MUS ABOUT RE­TURN­ING TO HBO AND DREAM­ING UP A DE­SIGNER SHOE COL­LAB­O­RA­TION THAT WAS AL­MOST TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

Capitol File - - CONTENTS - by AMY MOELLER

New shop, new show, same Sarah Jes­sica Parker. The dis­arm­ingly mod­est screen star and style icon chats with Manolo Blah­nik’s Ge­orge Malke­mus about re­turn­ing to HBO and dream­ing up a de­signer shoe col­lab­o­ra­tion that was al­most too good to be true.

Sarah Jes­sica Parker has spent decades build­ing a per­sonal brand that’s syn­ony­mous with fierce fash­ion and au­ton­o­mous women, abet­ted of course by a cer­tain iconic tele­vi­sion show. Shortly after Sex and the City came to its tri­umphant con­clu­sion on HBO, and be­fore the cam­eras started rolling on the film se­quels, Parker tried her hand at a fra­grance (Lovely, in 2005) and an af­ford­able cloth­ing line (Bit­ten, 2007). Three years ago, with the launch of SJP by Sarah Jes­sica Parker, she ex­panded her port­fo­lio as a de­signer with a ven­ture that sounds like some­thing Car­rie Brad­shaw dreamed up: a high-end footwear col­lab­o­ra­tion with none other than Manolo Blah­nik CEO Ge­orge Malke­mus. Parker’s epony­mous la­bel has grown from a small col­lec­tion at Nord­strom to a life­style line—com­plete with shoes and other ac­ces­sories, her sig­na­ture fra­grances, even lit­tle black dresses—wor­thy of its first stand-alone store, which Parker has opened this year at the new MGM Na­tional Har­bor.

In­trigu­ingly, Parker and Malke­mus say the roots of their col­lab­o­ra­tion pre­date Car­rie Brad­shaw and her love af­fair with Mano­los. We sat down with the duo to talk about their part­ner­ship, their MGM store, and sum­mer with SJP.

You’ve been friends for a long time.

Sarah Jes­sica Parker: We ac­tu­ally met in 1984. Ge­orge was com­ing out to Los Angeles with a young shoe de­signer, and they were hav­ing a trunk show. The young shoe de­signer was called Manolo Blah­nik. Though I was in no po­si­tion to go to this trunk show, I of course wanted to. I ar­rived, and it was a scary, typ­i­cally rainy Fe­bru­ary, a win­ter day…

Ge­orge Malke­mus: A Satur­day.

SJP: Pour­ing rain. I re­ally wasn’t in any po­si­tion fi­nan­cially to buy any shoes, but I did. I bought, I think, three or four pairs.

GM: Ex­actly.

SJP: Ge­orge and I met that day, and then when I did Sex and the City, Manolo Blah­nik shoes, and there­fore Ge­orge, be­came an es­sen­tial char­ac­ter in the show and our friend­ship grew… There had been lots of con­ver­sa­tions about pro­duc­ing a shoe line, all lovely and a va­ri­ety of po­ten­tial part­ner­ships, and I kept say­ing no. Ul­ti­mately, I was sit­ting with a small group of busi­ness­women who I ad­mired very much, and they were kind of in­ter­ro­gat­ing me. Why was I so slow to say yes? What were my reser­va­tions? I said to them, “The truth is, while these part­ner­ships might be lu­cra­tive and look right on pa­per, what I re­ally

want is to partner with Ge­orge Malke­mus, but he’s spo­ken for.” They said, “Why don’t you just call him?” [So] I walked back to my house and I called, and Ge­orge said, “Be at my of­fice...”

GM: “Come to my of­fice at nine o’clock the next morn­ing.” She came at nine o’clock the next morn­ing, and we fell in love with the idea of do­ing shoes the way Sarah Jes­sica wanted to do shoes. I had long ad­mired her for her style and her in­ner sense of taste, but that was al­ways from afar. That morn­ing, we or­dered chicken soup and talked about her ideas, and her rec­ol­lec­tions of shoes in New York from 1977, when she first came to New York. Al­most the same year that I came to New York, if not the same year. What she wanted to do and what I wanted to do were ex­actly the same: sin­gle-sole shoes—not plat­forms, noth­ing trendy, noth­ing too eso­teric—and made in Italy, be­cause that’s where the great­est shoes and the finest ma­te­ri­als in the world are found. That morn­ing, we glued into the same phi­los­o­phy about shoes. And that’s how we be­gan.

So what are you look­ing for­ward to this year?

SJP: I’m ex­cited about how our part­ner­ship with Bloomingdale’s has grown. I’m ex­cited about our in­ter­na­tional busi­ness. I think we’re go­ing to cap­ture the UK in the com­ing year. I’m ex­cited about MGM and all the op­por­tu­ni­ties for growth within MGM.

GM: We both love our re­la­tion­ship with MGM, and we’re prob­a­bly go­ing to be­come part­ners with them in some other ven­tures very, very soon. Are there any de­sign de­tails in the [new MGM Na­tional Har­bor] store that you es­pe­cially en­joy? SJP: I’m crazy in love with the wall. Our fun wall. GM: The Lucite wall.

SJP: It’s a rec­tan­gu­lar, mas­sive, beau­ti­ful piece of Lucite that’s bro­ken up into cub­bies. I think we have, how many—10, 12 rows, maybe six or eight across? I can’t re­call...

GM: About 70 in to­tal.

SJP: ... and it’s the backs of all of our shoes, so it’s all the col­ors and all the dif­fer­ent gros­grains. I feel as if it’s as close to mod­ern art as I will ever be part of cre­at­ing. I just think it’s ex­quis­ite and enor­mously se­duc­tive. It’s hard to re­sist—for any­body walk­ing by, that’s for sure.

GM: I think what we love about it is that ev­ery­thing dis­ap­pears ex­cept the color of the shoe. It’s amaz­ing. It’s just like a blank slate that Sarah Jes­sica writes upon, or col­ors her pal­ette of that sea­son, and it’s won­der­ful be­cause, as she says, it’s a piece of art and

it’s our way of say­ing hello to the world. As many times as you’ve both been to the MGM store, is there a cer­tain client that you think of as a Wash­ing­ton, DC, Na­tional Har­bor client?

SJP: Well, it’s in­ter­est­ing. I feel that we’ve seen women of all shapes, sizes, back­grounds, and eth­nic­i­ties, and they’ve come from all over the world. It’s re­ally lovely be­cause, ob­vi­ously, MGM is a re­sort and a des­ti­na­tion for good times, so peo­ple are trav­el­ing there, and also I think a lot of lo­cals are en­joy­ing that as an op­tion for the en­ter­tain­ment, restau­rants, and shop­ping. So we’ve seen won­der­fully di­verse cus­tomers, and that’s re­ally im­por­tant to us.

What in­spires you?

SJP: We both live in New York City, so that’s a real treat and priv­i­lege and end­less source of in­spi­ra­tion. I just got off the sub­way and

I’m look­ing ev­ery­where, I’m watch­ing peo­ple. When I travel, I’m al­ways look­ing down be­cause, es­pe­cially in large cities and in­ter­na­tional air­ports, you’re al­ways see­ing things that are in­ter­est­ing. I’m al­ways look­ing at color, and Ge­orge trav­els a lot and he could be in­spired by a paint­ing at a mu­seum or the color of a ter­ra­cotta pot or...

GM: Or Feud last night. There’s a new Ryan Mur­phy film—you know, the new se­ries with Jes­sica Lange and Su­san Saran­don. I was very in­spired by that.

SJP: There’s so much! You can spend a day with your chil­dren and have an ex­pe­ri­ence. They are the lens through which you’re see­ing things. It’s all dif­fer­ent col­ors and ac­tiv­ity and struc­ture and ev­ery­thing—art, lit­er­a­ture.

GM: It can come from many places. Are there five pieces from the col­lec­tion that you’ll be [wear­ing] this sum­mer?

SJP: Ah­hhh!

GM: Only five, Sarah Jes­sica. Only five.

SJP: Sum­mer is al­ways an in­spi­ra­tion, no mat­ter where you are in the world. Even if you don’t live by that con­ven­tional cal­en­dar, I think with warmer weather, you can be more ca­sual about sum­mer. I al­ways, al­ways, al­ways love Veronika. I wear her all sum­mer. Let’s see, Ser­pen­tine. Is that our new one that I’m crazy in love with?

GM: Yes, yes, yes.

SJP: The san­dal is beau­ti­ful. I think I’ll prob­a­bly have Jackie a lot, which is our bag, what I call our mu­seum bag. Def­i­nitely a back­pack… maybe the Ur­sula flat and...

GM: And of course Me­teor. SJP: And Me­teor. Me­teor in ev­ery color. Our new sneaker I’m so, so, so, so in love with, I can’t even tell you.

GM: It’s Sarah Jes­sica’s take on a sneaker. She’s in love with it, I’m in love with it, and ev­ery­body that sees it is in love with it.

SJP: I’ve al­ready worn it when it’s not re­ally even warm enough. I’ve pushed it.

GM: We were so care­ful in nam­ing a shoe Car­rie, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, so it took Sarah Jes­sica a long time to fi­nally de­cide on the shoe to name Car­rie. So then she said, “Let’s do a Car­rie flat,” and we did a Car­rie flat. And then she said, “Let’s do a Car­rie sneaker,” so Me­teor is her sneaker ver­sion of a Car­rie. This year you’ve opened a new bou­tique. You’ve just launched the new col­lec­tion. You’re film­ing Divorce. You’re a wife. You’re a mother. Sarah Jes­sica, how do you un­wind?

SJP: I don’t know. Ge­orge, what do you do? Ge­orge has my lit­tle busi­ness, Manolo Blah­nik, one of the most in­cred­i­ble dairy farms—if not the most in­cred­i­ble dairy farm—on the East Coast. He owns restau­rants and cafés. Ridicu­lous.

GM: I don’t un­wind. [Laughs] I don’t un­wind, but you do. You read. You al­ways have a book in your hand.

SJP: I read a lot. I get in bed after all the lit­tle kids are hope­fully con­tent and tucked away and per­haps even asleep, and I watch tele­vi­sion. But I also go to the the­ater a lot. And I take a sub­way there, which I love, be­cause I can read the en­tire time. I love go­ing to the the­ater and bal­let by my­self. I also love to be joined by friends.

GM: I love go­ing to the the­ater, too. I’m go­ing to see Matthew’s play to­mor­row, Sarah Jes­sica.

SJP: Oh, that’s right! Now you’ve re­turned to HBO with Divorce. What’s it like to be back at HBO? SJP: It’s great to be home. It’s like be­ing with you, Ge­orge, work­ing with you. It’s fa­mil­iar, it’s the peo­ple you want to please most, it’s chal­leng­ing, stan­dards are high.

GM: And the show is so fan­tas­tic.

SJP: It’s so de­light­ful to be back there and telling the story I want to tell and be­ing sup­ported and given the op­por­tu­nity and the re­sources to do it and work with the ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­tors who I love, who I think are in­cred­i­ble and in­spir­ing. It’s been a to­tal thrill.

GM: This show is so fan­tas­tic. I love, love, love, love the show. And I love you, Sarah Jes­sica. .

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