Sarah Jessica Parker is bringing her unique point of view on fashion to The Thread and chronicling her adventures as a designer. Join the conversation on SJP and get access to her style inspirations and creative process. Take it away, Sarah Jessica:
Let me start off by saying Happy Valentine’s Day! Designing SJP has truly been a labor of love, and in only two weeks you’ll be able to experience the collection for yourself and see how hard I’ve worked on every detail of this line…I hope!
Countdown to February 28!
I’m thrilled to share some insight on my partnership with George Malkemus. Even though we are from different backgrounds, different ages and different genders, we both have this common point of reference: New York City, late ’70s, early ’80s. There was a very specific look from this era that is vivid in both our minds.
Strangely enough, a lot of our design process started not with sketching, not with tearing pages out of books or magazines or anything contemporary. Rather it materialized through memories…
I call her ‘Carrie’.
I recall being a younger girl in New York City, arriving in 1978, say, and looking around, as many young girls do, at women who were older and more sophisticated. They seemed to be cosmopolitan; they seemed to have an air about them I was convinced I did not have but seemed possible to acquire after time spent in this sophisticated urban city.
Just people-watching while sitting on the crosstown bus that went across 59th Street—carefully observing who got on and off, what they wore and how they carried themselves—the one thing that stood out, and has stuck with with me, was the simplistic beauty of leather goods and shoes at that time. There was an enormous French and Italian influence in our country then, and that is what I thought maturity was. It was an aspirational look I thought any woman could achieve once she was grown up, had money of her own and could make her own aesthetic choices.
George remembers that time very well. He, too, had come to New York around then, was a bit older and started working in the shoe business.
From leather to suede swatches to inspiring grosgrain, here’s a peek at how it all began.
We pinned down several key aesthetic and design elements that stood out in our memories, the first being the allure of the single-sole shoe. Then we talked about color and envisioning silhouettes.
Neither George nor I really sketch, at least not well enough to create a tech package to go to Italy. But we certainly had the foundation we needed to tell our story to Ricardo, who is crafting our shoes in Tuscany.
To be sure our visualizations from this period were indeed on point, we poured through magazines from the late ’70s and early ’80s to see if our mind’s eye was playing games or if there was a reality to what we were recalling. What we discovered was that proportions were really different. You wouldn’t actually want to reproduce shoes from that time because we were different people then. We had different influences.
“A shoe has to make you look beautiful. You can be wearing a simple dress, but if you have something exquisite on your feet, it becomes a perfect look.” —Maud Frizon, a source of inspiration
You have to think about the modern woman of today, what her expectations are, and what you want to do as a designer and marry these ideas. We worked from that point on. We looked at—oh, my gosh—I don’t even know how many heel options. In the shoe business, you can just have a box filled with heels, just heels, isolated. I mean every kind of heel you can imagine, in every height.
We had to figure out what the SJP heel was. I had an idea about doing not a kitten heel but a lesser high heel—what in the ’80s they might have called a “court shoe” or a “court heel.” Heels can change, even for a long-standing designer. Manolo recently changed his heel and it’s interesting to see. It’s like the wand of a mascara. Every woman has her own wand, and that type of versatility is necessary when launching a new collection. I wanted the shoes to be strong in color, and to toss away this idea of neutrals and ‘appropriate’ colors for the office and everyday, and give the customer something else and help her along the path of accepting my new neutral— asparagus, a flat purple, charcoal, geranium and French navy.
Behind the scenes from the SJP Collection photo shoot at Pier 59 Studios in NYC.
Honestly, the whole design experience has been an amazing process. I can’t break it apart, because I think it’s a lot like producing a movie, which I love so much. Every conversation is important because it all adds up. You’re in a constant state of revelation, a constant state of learning.
I suspect that the very best part of it all will be when I’m visiting Nordstrom stores throughout the month of March and watching a woman try on a pair of SJPs for the first time—a woman I’ve never met but I’m going to learn about that day. I think that’s going to be, for me, the greatest part of this entire journey.
Until next time,