Despite the fact that she is, you know, a celebrity, Sarah Jessica Parker has no desire to be a "celebrity designer." That fact was immediately clear upon entering the intimate gathering (just ten press or so) at a St. Regis hotel room to meet Parker (who introduced herself to us individually, shaking all of our hands) and preview her new bag and shoe line SJP yesterday.
The second fact that became immediately clear is that Parker is insanely passionate about the project. She spent most of the 30 minute preview on the ground, surrounded by shoes. She personally helped the two models in and out of their heels. She thanked everyone, earnestly and genuinely, for taking time out of their busy fashion week schedule to come see the line. At the end of the session, she asked if we had any questions or feedback. "The previous group actually gave out suggestions, which was nice," she said, without a hint of irony or snark. To which, the whole room couldn't help but giggle. "Who was in that group?" Elle's Joe Zee asked.
And the third fact, was that Parker, much like her Sex and the City alter ego, really, really loves shoes. She was visibly excited over each pair. At one point, she passed a heel around--a gorgeous flat navy shoe--and invited us to smell it.
"She loves the smell of shoes," George Malkemus, Parker's business partner (and the President of Manolo Blahnik) chimed in.
"But you know that makes a difference, when a shoe isn't well-made, it doesn't smell good," Parker said. "Not that it really matters...but all those details really add up."
Parker and Malkemus have gone to great lengths for those "details." First order of business, Malkemus says, was finding the right factory in Italy; one that understood great craftsmanship but could do it at a lower price point. While exact retail points need to be worked out, the two said the range would be from $150 (for a "gateway shoe," a suede flip flop) to $400 for a pair of pumps. Malkemus says he plans on spending a few months a year at that factory in Italy, ensuring that the shoes look and feel right.
Parker, for her part, agonized over fit, color, and silhouette. "I really wanted to bring back the single sole. I wanted to go back in time and be the 11-year-old that was looking in the window at Charles Jourdan and Maud Frizon and recall those great, gorgeous colors and the way people made shoes without thinking about anyone else, just doing what excites them. Other people do trends really, really well for $99, and then Alaïa does shoes up to however much he wants to charge. But that wasn't something I could do with enthusiasm. What I really wanted to do was give those colors, regardless of the trends, to women in beautiful shapes, and at affordable prices. But still keep the quality. Because if we're talking about a few hundred dollars, those are hard-earned bucks, and they better be good."
As promised, each shoe incorporates grosgrain. Grosgrain, has personal significance to Parker: Her mother made her wear grosgrain ribbons in her hair every day when she was little, and in ode to that, each SJP has a little grosgrain tab or seam at the back.
"You know I was thinking, in a saturated market with lots and lots of shoes, how does one sort of make something identifiable? So I said, 'George, can we put grosgrain up the seam of the shoe?'" Like we said, not something you'd expect to hear out of the mouth of your typical celebrity designer.
Parker also named each shoe. And yes, one is called the "Carrie." It's a pointy-toe t-strap pump; Parker made a point to fit the ankle strap lower down the ankle so "it doesn't chop your leg in half."
Images of the line, which will be exclusively sold at Nordstrom in late January, are unfortunately still embargoed. So let me just vouch for the line: It's awesome. As of now, the collection includes a staggering amount of gorgeous and expensive-looking single sole heels. There are a handful of boots--"boot" being a relative term, since the one we saw was largely cut-out and laced up the front. And there are several espadrilles, including some terrific flat ones. Much of the line's aesthetic is inspired by a sort of late '70s/early '80s "disco-y" vibe. Some of my favorites included mutli-colored metallic strap single sole mules. It's the kind of shoe you might find in your dream vintage store.
Parker said she's less thrilled about the line's bags. "But we're working on it." We didn't find any faults--one of the bags, a very practical cross-body bag that could also be worn as a clutch, was a particular standout.