One of the biggest myths surrounding Sarah Jessica Parker is about her obsession with shoes, thanks to her iconic on-screen alter ego Carrie Bradshaw of HBO’s long-running romantic comedy Sex and The City. While Bradshaw loves her Manolo Blahnik-filled shoe closet, Parker never had a shoe addiction.
“It’s amazing; no matter how many times I answer this question, people still think I have a shoe addiction,” Parker says. “I don’t shop much, to be honest. I buy a lot of used clothes, for my children as well.”
It’s quite understandable, though, Parker was spoiled with possibly the world’s most desirable wardrobe while working on the set of Sex and The City for six years – from 1998 to 2004, followed by its two cinematic adaptations in 2008 and 2010.
“As an actress, I’m always in costumes,” Parker says. “I have a relationship with [clothing] that’s meaningful and very important, which has changed the course of my life.”
Parker has taken advantage of this intimate relationship with fashion and started her own shoe brand SJP in 2014, partnering with Blahnik’s former CEO George Malkemus. She recently launched an exclusive capsule collection with luxury e-commerce site Net-A-Porter.
The series features 16 styles of colourful satin heels and flats featuring a slender Grosgrain stripe at the back of the shoe. The signature detail is inspired by hair ribbons Parker wore growing up. “I have easily tried on thousands of pairs of shoes and I really learned how things are done and why they are done,” Parker says. “I really learnt about quality and efficiency. So when the opportunities presented themselves, I decided to start my own company.”
“Sarah Jessica is very involved with the project,” says Lisa Aiken, Net-A-Porter’s retail fashion director.
“She picked up details that I didn’t even pick up. We were talking about the colour of the grosgrain stripe and she pulled out two books of colourful ribbon swatches and picked out the combinations she wanted.”
Parker might always be seen in sky-high killer heels, but she wanted to create shoes for all kinds of women.
“We have something for women of all shapes and sizes and ages and skin colour,” she says. “We have an identity that’s important to us but we also feel that there really is a shoe for every woman here – whether you are a 15-year-old buying your first pair of heels or somebody getting her first pair of flats.”
Although Parker was never trained in fashion design, spending time around top fashion designers as an actress has prepared her for the shoe business.
“I spend time with a lot of really gifted designers, and I also spend a lot of time around clothing,” Parker says. “Some of the clothing is like 100 years old, and some is fresh off the runway, hours before I’m wearing them.”
Parker has been a muse for many designers – Blahnik named a shoe after her, and high jeweller Cindy Chao co-designed the Ballerina Butterfly Brooch with her.
The effortless beauty shared her style secrets with us: “My only fashion rule is that there are no rules. Wear what makes you feel good and you’ve already won.”
Asked about her “go-to-outfit”, Parker shrugs and says: “My off-duty uniform is typically a grey sweatshirt – usually worn with jeans, sometimes with a skirt. I love to wear SJP shoes with dark coloured tights or stockings in the winter. I recently wore a pair of strappy sandals with a crazy good pair of Wolford tights which I love.”
The popularity of Sex and The City launched Parker into a style icon, yet her fashion status doesn’t solely define who she is.
Growing up in Nelsonville, Ohio, Parker was trained in ballet which has become a lifelong passion – she is the vice-chairman on the board of The New York City Ballet. Parker started her show business career at the tender age of 11 when she made her Broadway debut in 1976. She made her cinematic debut by starring in Footloose (1984), a musical drama directed by Herbert Ross. While still active on the Broadway, Parker starred in a series of romantic dramas such as Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) and The First Wives Club (1996), before making her big breakthrough with Sex and The City for which Parker won Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globe Awards in 2000 and the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series at the Emmy Awards in 2004.
“I think about that time and that experience, and understand that it was singular and monumental and a beloved period,” Parker says. “But I don’t like reflecting on myself frankly, it’s embarrassing.”
The actress is immersed in her new TV project – Divorce – now airing on HBO, which has been guaranteed a second season. In addition to being the lead actress in the dark comedy, Parker is one of the executive producers of the show. Co-starring with actor Thomas Haden Church of Spider-Man III fame, Parker portrays a woman yearning for change in her life and a fresh start to her marriage.“I love being back home at HBO,” Parker says. “I love having the opportunity to work with new people and to tell different stories. It’s been an amazing journey. The responses have been so wonderful that it’s a very satisfying experience.”
Having prepared for the show for the past four years, Parker says marriage is an interesting theme to explore on TV. In real life, Parker is happily married to actor Matthew Broderick. They have a son, James Wilkie Broderick, and twin daughters Marion Loretta Elwell and Tabitha Hodge. The couple tied the knot in 1997 and their marriage has been one of Hollywood’s most enduring celebrity marriages.
Parker says she’s looking forward to returning to Hong Kong. Her last visit was in 1997. “Hong Kong is one of the most exciting cities that I’ve been to,” she says. “I have an amazing T-shirt I bought on the street. I got one for everyone in my family. It is my goal to come back.”
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