Why Sarah Jessica Parker Doesn’t Give Advice

Photo: Courtesy of Zappos Couture.
Before last week, the most memorable time we saw Sarah Jessica Parker in Las Vegas, she was decked out in a showgirl costume watching Nicolas Cage skydive dressed as Elvis. Of course, we can blame that on the fact that we watched Honeymoon in Vegas on the flight to McCarran International Airport. But, several years after the ’92 flick and many pivotal career moments later, we found the iconic NYC celeb in Sin City once again. This time, she wore a snakeskin Smythe suit sitting face-to-face with us, and the chorus girl sparkle was thoughtfully placed on her exclusive designs for Zappos Couture. In teaming with the online retailer, the SJP collection — which the actress owns with Manolo Blahnik CEO George Malkemus — has expanded its customer reach in a major way while opening the door for capsule collections, like SJP's The Strip, the aforementioned party-ready shoes we were in Vegas to celebrate. However, if we’re being honest, that’s not the only reason we found ourselves at The Shops at Crystals for a three-day pop-up.  While we can’t help but group Sarah Jessica and really amazing footwear together, there’s a lot more to SJP than just soles. In fact, when we ask her to impart some wisdom to millennials, as Carrie Bradshaw had once done for thirtysomethings over 15 years ago, we start to wonder if shoes are really just one of the many tools that the actress, muse, and mother uses to connect with women everywhere. Outright, she tells us, “I don’t give advice.”  But, she does give shoes (some for navigating the unpredictability of Vegas nightlife, some for just getting through the day) and perspective on why some of the most empowering women are not the ones you find in the pages of a magazine, starring in a TV dramedy, or fitting any particular mold. We also chatted about style, the media, and Hillary Clinton's run for office, and though Parker might claim not to give advice, that doesn’t mean we didn’t take any away.
Tell us about this new shoe collection, The Strip. How is it different from other SJP collections?
“Well, obviously it's unique for the customer that might be living in Vegas or visiting Vegas. We named it ‘The Strip’ for a reason. Like anything, you're thoughtful about environment, lifestyle, entertainment, fantasy, whimsy — so there's a huge amount of glow and metallicized leather and sparkle. I think that, probably rightfully, the reputation of the time spent in Vegas is a sort of notion of the evening and all of the adventure that might bring, so we want to be a part of that. "It was actually, in all sincerity, really inspiring not just for this exclusive stuff for Zappos, but it really sort of opened the door to other ideas that can be used for some of our other retail partners, and just in general. To think about what women love most — obviously sparkle and bright color and a kind of naughtiness — that is really exciting for us to build around.”
Most people recognize you as a New York celebrity. What parts of New York do you think we'll see in these Zappos Couture exclusive designs, as opposed to Vegas? Is there a bit of both?
“I don't think I separate geography when I'm designing a shoe. I only have the point of references that I have, no matter where I travel or no matter what I'm building for, so I don't know that you're gonna see New York in these shoes. I think you'll see myself and my sense of humor, and maybe my delight in whimsy and fantasy. So, if you see that and that's familiar and that's me and I'm from New York, I guess that's the New York touchstone that's probably part of the collection.” Is there ever a certain woman that you're thinking of when you're designing?
"No, I think of every woman. Same with my fragrance and lots of other things I've done. We have flats, we have boots — as much as our price point allows, I really don't want to have one woman in mind because I think that's kind of problematic in this country: building clothes for one type of figure, one size, one shape, one ethnic background... I'd like to think that we have something for everyone. I think a lot of women want to tell their story through their outer layer, and I want to help them if I can."
How did you decide to team with Zappos Couture? Why is right now the right time to collaborate?
"I don't know if it's the right time. I mean, we'll find out! Thus far, it's been a really successful partnership and collaboration. I think, for us, they're really exciting... For the most part, as they presented themselves, there's really no rules. They serve a huge customer base, so I think there are people on [the site] that are looking for recreational things and people that are looking for flats, or ridiculous and fantasy and decadence and luxury. It really allows us to tell a complete story of the brand that we are. It's not a specific customer and I think a lot of retailers do have a customer that's really specific, but Zappos has this really big base. It allowed us to share even more about what the ideas and pillars are of this brand." Generally speaking, what do you find most compelling about e-commerce right now?
"Gosh... I think just the accessibility of it. I think people can live anywhere in the world, for the most part, and have access to things that once upon a time you had a geographical advantage based on where you lived. Also, the ability to learn and know based on the Internet just has huge advantages. Obviously it's a business that keeps redefining itself. I think in the beginning people were really afraid of e-commerce, there was such a large percentage of returns, but I think you also start to get to know your customer better; they know themselves. And, the longer they spend on a site, the less likely they are to return things because they'll know their brand, they'll know their fit, they'll know how shoes feel on them. For us it's just wonderful to be able to say, ‘You can go here no matter where you live, and hopefully we can provide for you.’ And, the more retail partners we have, the more selection of shoes we have, too, because everybody details and curates differently based on their customer. It's an enormous advantage to have this kind of manpower behind us, this kind of heft in the world of e-commerce." Back in 2011, in an interview with Katie Couric, you mentioned that you weren’t tired of talking about Carrie Bradshaw but you were tired of people assuming you love shoes. But, a few years later, you did launch a shoe line. What changed?
“I think that a few things were happening. For the last 10 years or more, people had been very kindly coming to me with this opportunity to work in the shoe category and it just simply hadn't been the right partner for me. But, I think you want to make sure that it's clear that you are more than one idea of a person. I like to think that I'm a person that's curious about a lot of things, that I take my time to learn about a variety of things. And so, I think the assumption that because I played Carrie, I therefore like shoes, is a rather simple lead. What I was probably struggling to say is that I'm much more complicated than that and I'm a much more complicated person, but this category's interesting to me and it was prior to playing Carrie. I met George Malkemus, my business partner, in 1986 — that's when I started buying Manolo Blahniks on layaway plan. It wasn't really Carrie Bradshaw that introduced me to this particular affection — and her fevered affection is very different than my own — but it was awfully fun to play somebody that had access to that many shoes and that kind of a variety of shoes.”
Photo: Courtesy of Zappos Couture.
Let's talk about Carrie for a moment. She and her friends are memorable because they were such an empowering, honest reflection of women in their 30s. What was most inspiring was that they gave women a vocabulary and a confidence to talk about certain aspects of their lives — be it their relationships, careers, friendships — in a way that didn't really exist before. Looking to millennials today, what advice would you give them that perhaps is different than the advice we once gleaned from Sex and the City?
“Well, I don't give advice, first of all. My life and what my experiences have been aren't necessary applicable to anybody else, as I've had good fortune, I've had disappointments, I've had successes... I'm no more an expert on life than anybody else who are every bit as equipped to give advice as I am. I do parent and that's because they're my children, but my hope for women of all ages is that they find something they love and that they're curious and they're civic-minded and that they're decent and kind to one another and that they don't hurt each other and that they don't say ridiculously unfriendly things because it feels good. I don't give advice, but I hope that the cultural low we are experiencing in terms of how we treat each other is a passing phase, and that women who are in their 30s or entering their 30s decide that it's far more interesting and feels much better to be decent to each other. That's my hope.” Do you think there are any women right now who have a similar empowering effect to what Carrie and the show represented?
“Sure there are. There are women all over the globe that are. I'm not an expert in that. There's lots of women. I work with some of them. I don't know some of them. Some of them I've heard about, read about. Some I might see on the subway. Some are students, and some are single mothers — they exist everywhere."

Do you think it's important that they're represented in the media?
“No. It's not up to the media to tell us that. We have to find that on our own. And, once they are in the media, everybody screams and yells about how they're not deserving of it. If we are gonna talk about it in the media, let's talk about the women who either put themselves through college and are single parents or working seven jobs or helping a neighbor… Let's talk about those women. It's not up to anybody to talk about it, but if we do, I'd love to talk about the women that don't get talked about in the media, frankly."

And finally, what are your thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s big announcement last weekend?
“I’m excited. I'm always excited about an election cycle, let's just start with that. I was thinking about it this morning. I was thinking about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and basically I feel like they tread water for a couple years and then they get back into the election cycle. And I think it's just enormously exciting for people who care about politics and I think it's an exciting time for people who haven't been involved for young voters to start paying attention. I'm always hopeful that a woman will be taken seriously as a candidate. Obviously, Hillary Clinton is really deserving of being taken seriously as a candidate. But, I'm not someone that thinks she thinks it's a foregone conclusion. And, I don't think it's a foregone conclusion. It wasn't the last time and it's likely not [going] to be this time, because we're a democracy, and people run for office, and we have choices, and I'm excited about those choices.”   

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