Wit h her new col­lect ion for Gapk ids, Sarah Jes­sica Parker re­flect s on the beaut y of ha nd-me-dow ns

InStyle (USA) - - Directory - BY ERIC WIL­SON

In­side Sarah Jes­sica Parker’s new Gap­kids col­lec­tion

Sarah Jes­sica Parker has never been shy about the hard­ships she faced grow­ing up poor with her seven sis­ters and broth­ers in Cincin­nati, nor how that ex­pe­ri­ence—and the bonds of her fam­ily—helped shape the woman she has be­come. It even plays an im­por­tant role in how she de­signs.

“My mom had lots of opin­ions about how we should look when we walked out the door,” Parker re­calls. “We may not have come from money, but she had some pretty grand ideas about how pre­sentable we should be. She had to be very in­dus­tri­ous, and very thrifty, to make some of our cloth­ing last.”

Rum­mage sales, con­sign­ment stores, and the fac­tory out­let for Polly Flin­ders, a by­gone la­bel of well-made girls’ cloth­ing in Cincin­nati, were the sources of much of the fam­ily wardrobe, with clothes passed from sib­ling to sib­ling as each one aged. Parker car­ries on that tra­di­tion to this day with her own chil­dren, al­beit for nos­tal­gic and con­ser­va­tional rea­sons rather than out of ne­ces­sity. In a world that is now filled with lux­ury kids’ clothes and dis­pos­able fast fash­ion, it was this wist­ful­ness for a sim­pler time that in­spired Parker when she set out to de­sign her first chil­dren’s col­lec­tion, in part­ner­ship with Gap­kids.

“That’s sort of why we’re call­ing it the Hand-me-down Col­lec­tion,” Parker says. “My sib­lings and I al­ways made fun of my mother be­cause she saved ev­ery­thing, and we would haul it all around from house to house. But when we came to have our own chil­dren, we were re­ally thrilled to have all our

clothes from child­hood. There are 12 grand­chil­dren, so we’re al­ways pass­ing around cloth­ing.”

For Parker, whose long as­so­ci­a­tion with the fash­ion in­dus­try has ex­panded in re­cent years with her SJP Col­lec­tion, work­ing with Gap rep­re­sented some­thing of a home­com­ing since she ap­peared in the ad­ver­tis­ing for the re­tailer more than a decade ago, post– Sex and the City. Gap­kids has pre­vi­ously col­lab­o­rated with Stella Mccart­ney, Diane von Fursten­berg, and Kate Spade, and be­gin­ning this month its de­signs with Parker will sim­i­larly be sold for a lim­ited time on­line and in stores.

The first pieces are adorably all about car­toon bun­nies, which ap­pear as il­lus­tra­tions on Ts or shaped as crit­ter­friendly back­packs and hand­bags. They’re con­ve­niently timed for Easter but in fact re­fer to the long-held su­per­sti­tion that rab­bits bring good luck. On the first of ev­ery month, fol­low­ing the habit of English folk­lore, “rab­bit, rab­bit” are the first words out of Parker’s mouth (and also typed in the cap­tion of what­ever im­age she posts on so­cial me­dia that day). In the de­signs, de­vel­oped with her older sis­ter Rachel, Parker is as sen­ti­men­tal about de­tails like smock­ing, rick­rack trims, and ging­ham checks as she is about her su­per­sti­tions. She never says the name of Shake­speare’s “Scot­tish play” in a the­ater ( known as­mac­beth to ev­ery­one else) nor whis­tles back­stage.

“Be­cause it’s a pretty tight col­lec­tion, we re­ally just had to be dis­ci­plined about how those ideas ended up,” Parker says. “We also wanted a lot of things to be gen­der­less, be­cause cer­tain pieces in our house moved back and forth be­tween the boys and the girls.”

Parker her­self never had a choice in the mat­ter. She didn’t own any pants un­til she was 11, and then it was a pair of Rachel’s jeans that had been length­ened for years us­ing strips of flo­ral ta­pes­try tape. It wasn’t un­til af­ter she moved to New York City to be­gin her Broad­way ca­reer as a teen that Parker be­gan to form her own sense of style, and even then she found her­self at­tracted to vin­tage stores like Alice Un­der­ground and Scream­ing Mimis. Once she had her own kids, it proved im­pos­si­ble to break the habit of re­cy­cling older clothes.

“I was most as­suredly dress­ing them for as long as I could,” she says. “But even­tu­ally, your chil­dren start telling you that they have ideas about them­selves, and far sooner than my mom al­lowed us, I al­lowed my chil­dren to make their own choices. I think my mother was right, and amaz­ing, but I just don’t have the same will.

“So the rule in our house is that from Sun­day night through Thurs­day night, my per­sonal ob­jec­tions don’t mat­ter as long as what the kids are wear­ing is ap­pro­pri­ate for the weather and what­ever the school re­quires,” Parker con­tin­ues. “But on Fri­day and Satur­day, I like to en­cour­age them to make an ef­fort that isn’t re­lated to ripped-up leg­gings and T-shirts.”

Parker is pleased to re­turn to Gap af­ter so many years to make a point that peo­ple, like good clothes, shouldn’t be treated as dis­pos­able. Af­ter her last cam­paign for the store ended in 2005, right as Parker was turn­ing 40, sev­eral news­pa­pers re­ported she had been fired and re­placed by a younger model— some­thing that both Parker and Gap have long de­nied.

“I was re­ally up­set about that, be­cause there was no in­ten­tion of ever ex­tend­ing it on ei­ther side,” Parker says. “And I feel like I never got to cor­rect the record, you know? So it’s nice to be back with them and to be wanted. I feel like, in some sub­tle, quiet way, it kind of is a nice lit­tle pe­riod at the end of that sen­tence, you know?” n

This col­lec­tion is filled with sen­ti­men­tal fa­vorites.”

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