SHE’S STILL GOT IT!

Ama­gansett’s SARAH JES­SICA PARKER, the dis­arm­ingly mod­est screen star and style icon, chats with Manolo Blah­nik’s GE­ORGE MALKE­MUS about her hit show, Di­vorce, and dream­ing up a de­signer shoe col­lab­o­ra­tion that was al­most too good to be true.

Hamptons Magazine - - Contents - by AMY MOELLER

Ama­gansett’s Sarah Jes­sica Parker, the dis­arm­ingly mod­est screen star and style icon, chats with Manolo Blah­nik’s Ge­orge Malke­mus about her hit show, Di­vorce, 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 opened this year at the new MGM Na­tional Har­bor near Wash­ing­ton, DC.

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 in­spi­ra­tions, and sum­mer with SJP.

You’ve been friends for a long time. Sarah Jes­sica Parker: We 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, 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... 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. We talked about great names in shoes—charles Jour­dan, Maud Fri­zon, Wal­ter Steiger—and I was so im­pressed that she knew those stores. 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 clued into the same phi­los­o­phy about shoes. And that’s how we be­gan. How do you bounce ideas off each other? SJP: It’s one of the eas­i­est pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ships of my en­tire life. It’s an enor­mous source of pride for me that I get to work with Ge­orge, hav­ing ad­mired him pro­fes­sion­ally for so long, but also [for] the man he is in his per­sonal life and the way he con­ducts him­self. He has a busi­ness model that is not just to be ad­mired, it’s [about] de­cency and prin­ci­ple. The dy­namic is me learn­ing a lot, but also an end­less con­ver­sa­tion. GM: I love that she is a busi­ness­woman, not just a fan­tas­tic celebrity that lent her name to this pro­ject. And I’ve never seen any­one who works the floor like Sarah Jes­sica Parker. She wants to hear from the cus­tomer and know the shoe fits the right way and feels the right way and ex­plains her phi­los­o­phy to the cus­tomer. 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— you know, the the Ryan Mur­phy 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. Were any pieces in the Spring/sum­mer col­lec­tion in­spired by your life­style in the Hamp­tons? SJP: I think 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 the idea of warmer weather, ca­sual... you can be more ca­sual about sum­mer. GM: Well, I think the way you wear a shoe at the beach, it might be the same shoe you have in your wardrobe in the city. But it feels dif­fer­ent at the beach. You dress it up dif­fer­ently. You dress it down dif­fer­ently, so I think that be­comes part of beach dress­ing. Sarah Jes­sica, when did you first start com­ing to the Hamp­tons? SJP: Oh my gosh, the first house I rented out here was in 1989 or 1990. I shared a house with five other peo­ple on Buell Lane in East Hamp­ton, [which we drove to with a] car from Renta-wreck. We rented a cou­ple of bi­cy­cles from Ber­muda Bikes, which is a great lo­cal, fam­i­ly­owned bike store that’s been there for­ever. And that’s how we got ev­ery­where, on those bikes, be­cause I couldn’t af­ford to keep the car—i could get me out here or I could take the jit­ney. GM: Are there five pieces from the col­lec­tion that you’ll be tak­ing to the Hamp­tons with you this sum­mer? SJP: Ah­hhh! GM: Only five, Sarah Jes­sica. Only five. SJP: 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. And maybe the new Ur­sula flat. GM: How about some heels for evening? SJP: I would say Al­ways or Bluff Ser­pen­tine. GM: And of course Me­teor. SJP: Me­teor in ev­ery color. Our new sneaker I’m 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 stand-alone bou­tique out­side of Wash­ing­ton, DC. 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, and are cur­rently shoot­ing sea­son two. 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: I love, love, love, love the show. And I love you, Sarah Jes­sica.

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