If you had walked into Sarah Jessica Parker's home in Manhattan the Wednesday before Valentine's Day, you'd have had no clue that she is introducing a women's shoe collection this spring, or that she ever played the stiletto-loving fashionista Carrie Bradshaw on "Sex and the City."
"The entire front foyer is covered, with probably 6 inches to walk between the canyon of boots, my children's, everyone's," she said over the phone. "It's just boots and water and salt marks right now."
Parker's greatest fame came playing the stiletto-obsessed Carrie Bradshaw in "Sex and the City." But on this afternoon, Parker is wearing slippers as she speaks, bundled in two shirts, a long sweater and leggings, "because for some reason we don't have heat, and, oh my God, the poor dogs and my husband (Matthew Broderick) are freezing. I suppose I could put some socks on."
But she doesn't do socks. Plus:
"Soon I'll have to get dressed for my son's piano recital and then I'm hosting a book-release party for a friend, Tovah Klein, who runs the Barnard Toddler Center ... all of my kids went there," she said. "So I'll have to put on proper clothes eventually."
With the Carrie or Fawn pumps from her new SJP collection?
No. "Boots," she said.
Winter 2014 has not exactly given a warm welcome to Parker's new baby, birthed in partnership with Manolo Blahnik CEO George Malkemus. The SJP collection consists of 25 styles of pumps, sandals and espadrilles in springy colors, plus three handbags and a trench coat. It launches exclusively at 25 Nordstrom stores nationwide and nordstrom.com on Feb. 28.
Parker is hoping for a thaw before her appearance at Nordstrom Michigan Avenue on March 7, where she will present the SJP line, wear a pair and sign customers' SJP purchases from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
For this conversation, an edited transcript of which follows, slippers will have to do.
Q: Life has changed, your family has grown, since "Sex and the City." Has your sense of style evolved?
A: I'm more inclined, if I shop, which is extremely rare, to buy for the long term. I tend to be less trend-influenced than I was in my youth, and certainly Carrie had a deeper-rooted affection for fashion that played out in her daily life. Because I have children, that isn't always the case for me. I have the privilege of dressing up for events, then I come back home and get tossed into the reality of being a working mother and these stacks of snow and ice, and trying to get kids to school and being appropriately dressed for the walk.
Q: What do you wear to walk your son (age 11) and twin daughters (age 4) to school?
A: Long johns — Hanes waffle knit, the same ones I've had for 20 years. As my husband says, respect the weather. So I have a lot of practical things in my closet. I layer, that's the big thing you Chicago people know. I wear a vest or a shell underneath a parka — I love a parka — one that's below the knee but has a double zipper, so I can zip off the bottom and still have a waist. It gives me more range. I'm frugal but sometimes I will pay to have a double zipper put on a coat.
I was in Norway last year for the Nobel Prize concert, and while I was there, I met these two lovely women who design this line of parkas called Fleischer Couture; they were kind enough to leave one for me at my hotel. A parka from Oslo, it's warm. They know. They know parkas.
Q: And the shoes for the walk?
A: Foolishly, I wear high-tops a lot. I don't wear socks, which no one can quite get over. I'm so short (5 feet 3 inches tall) that I think if I always have some skin showing, perhaps it will convince people that I'm taller.
Q: You seem busier than ever. You just finished an off-Broadway play with Blythe Danner. You run a production company. You trudge with your twin daughters and son to school. Do you have any tricks for how you segue from one role to another?
A: I don't really have a great method, I just try to make it happen. The family comes first, then I try to work things that are interesting to me, outside the home, around the needs of my children. I don't complain about being tired because it's such a rare position to be in. I know how hard my mother had to work to try to pull things together, and I know lots of people who are struggling. So when I talk about being busy, I know I'm a very lucky person, to have the choices and resources that I do.
Q: SJP shoes aren't inexpensive, but they aren't astronomical either. What went into that calculus?
A: I'm very cognizant of the economy and how hard people are working today for their dollars. I didn't want to make cheap shoes. I wanted to make a shoe really well in Italy. So it couldn't, unfortunately, be a $69 shoe, but we could make a beautiful, sexy, feminine shoe that would last years, and do it between $250 and the high $400s, and for some people that's affordable.
Q: There are no platforms, studs or sky-high heels in your 25-pair assortment. Why?
A: The shoe industry has kind of exploded. It's not like there was a fallow I was trying to fill. But what we've done is go back to the single sole, really simple, super-feminine, bright, tossing out the idea that black and tobacco are the only neutrals — that purple, asparagus, coral and geranium can be neutrals too. If you look back at the late '70s and the shoes out of Europe, that was very much the story being told; they were elegant and sexy, had a nice heel, but not crazy high. They were slightly more practical. Not every woman gets to walk down a red carpet and then sit down.
Q: How did you choose George Malkemus as your collaborator?
A: I got brave one day and called George and said, "Would you even consider this idea?" And he said, "Come to my office tomorrow morning." I knew George wouldn't take shortcuts. We used a third-generation shoemaker in Tuscany who George had worked with for many years a long time ago; his son is in business with him. They were able to take our concepts and do them within the price range that we wanted.
Q: You wanted that Italian attention to detail?
A: Yes, we wanted that bit of padding at the metatarsal; I know what that feels like two and three hours into the day. I've spent 16, 18 hours in shoes for many years. Heels are never going to be the same as a sneaker. But it's a nice exercise to figure out what you can give women without messing with the lean silhouette. That helps her go back to it and not think, "Oh, this shoe kills me."
Q: SJP has ankle-strap and T-strap pumps, which some women feel can stunt their legs; how did you address that?
A: I had kind of an allergy to them in the past because I'm so short. But what we did is really drape the strap. On the T-strap too, the strap goes further down and meets the arch of the foot and not the ankle. It's that very '70s line.
Q: The '70s seem to be getting an image makeover; is that an effect from "American Hustle"?
A: We all kind of revisit things 20 to 30 years later and find there's something that's worthwhile. I've always liked that period in fashion; on 57th Street, we had Maud Frizon's shoe store and what those windows looked like and what women looked like on the crosstown bus — I just loved it.
Q: What is the grosgrain strip down the back of SJP heels?
A: When I was little we had to wear hair ribbons every day. We had a bureau solely dedicated to ribbons. My mother always found ways of getting them affordably. We were responsible for ironing them ourselves. I love grosgrain. We also trimmed the SJP trench coat and bags with grosgrain.
Q: Has your curly hair always been your crowning glory?
A: I've never thought that. I have never been terrifically good at doing anything other than a ponytail or bun. I'm always impressed with women I meet who can blow their own hair out every day; there are women who are skilled, it looks professional — I'm not one of them. I wash it and go to bed and wake up with it and if it's objectionable I apologize. Otherwise, I work with Serge Normant; I just let him do what he does.
Q: You've talked about color as a neutral. How would you wear the SJP pumpkin-colored Brigitte sandals?
A: I would treat them as a black sandal; I don't think they're different. If I had a cocktail dress, and the weather allowed, what could be more beautiful than a charcoal or even purple or teal cocktail dress with a pumpkin-colored sandal? You just have to adjust your mind a little bit.
Q: A theme in your work seems to be freeing women from strictures. Do you see yourself that way?
A: One has to decide for herself what's appropriate. A lot of things go into that — cultural, regional, religious. People have to keep their own counsel about that. But most women tend to ask themselves, "Is this appropriate? Is this appropriate?" all day long, at work, in friendships. We don't expect that of the other gender. Maybe the wonderful folly of fashion is in allowing yourself to stop asking that, giving yourself permission to be different from somebody.
It's easy when you're playing Carrie Bradshaw and someone is writing a script that portrays her as having an enormous sense of freedom. It's harder to reimagine yourself or even to be your true self.
The only advice I have is to find the courage to be yourself and not worry about what other mothers at drop-off or women at work wear; it's how you feel and how you want to feel. You're going to be no less capable if your shoes are purple.Copyright © 2015, CT Now