A wise person once said, “Sometimes we need to stop analyzing the past, stop planning the future, stop figuring out precisely how we feel, stop deciding exactly what we want and just see what happens.” It wasn’t but a few months ago that I decided to leave my New York City dream behind and return to Minneapolis, the choice city of my secondary education. The wise person whose sage council comforted and encouraged me through all the highs and lows of the concrete jungle? Carrie Bradshaw.
An effervescent enigma, Sarah Jessica Parker has served as muse to the modern world of style, culture and beyond. From Broadway to the big screen to building a fashion empire, her unmatched career is the ultimate love letter to New York City. In our exclusive interview with the icon, we chatted about SJP’s arrival in the Midwest, her first encounter with Manolo Blahnik and how she defines original in the age of the Internet.
Have you ever been to Minneapolis before?
Yes, I have. I have many, many times actually. My mother used to travel here a great deal because my father was at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and I remember them saving up their money and we’d go up to Minneapolis and go to Dayton’s. It’s truly a wonderful city with great regional theater like the Guthrie and a very generous amount of culture.
And you’re from the Midwest originally.
I was born in Ohio, and I lived in Cincinnati. Well, first in Athens then Nelsonville then I moved to Cincinnati when I was 5 years old and lived there until I was 11 then moved to New York. I don’t really have any family left in Cincinnati, but my mother still has a lot of best friends there so we visit a lot.
How did discussions begin about opening your first Midwest location at Mall of America?
The Midwest location happened because the developers of Triple Five had been paying attention to our retail spaces in New York that were doing really well and they reached out to us. After a really lovely courtship, we struck up a deal. Everything moved quickly, and I’m really excited to open at Mall of America. I’ve haven’t been there my whole life.
Wait, really never?
How would you describe the SJP-wearing woman?
I wouldn’t describe her. She’s countless women from different backgrounds that are all shapes and sizes and ages. That was a major goal from the beginning because SJP is not just for one woman. We have customers from 17 to 87 and everywhere in between. We have a really diverse customer base with a very strong brand loyalty.
As a designer, where does your process begin when creating and introducing a new design?
We are always in the process of designing and launch up to four collections a year. We pay close attention to what is doing well and what our customers are sharing with us [that] they need and want. Of course, we are always trying to design with success in mind to either continue growth or longevity of a certain collection.
SJP is a company that doesn’t take away favorites. There’s a long history of a lipstick disappearing and everyone being like, But it was my favorite. So we created evergreen pieces, which is advantageous for many reasons. The first is that the customer can always replace a pair. And the second is that it’s good for business because there are no markdowns on evergreen.
When we know that a silhouette is working, the next thing to do is add a new color and so on, but we pay a lot of attention to our customers. We are in the stores and on the floor, and I receive evening reports after every single business day. We are very aware of our reach, and I think because we have continued to pay keen attention to that, that’s how our small business has grown.
What are some references that you’ve gone to whilst creating and growing the brand?
My business partner, George Malkemus, and I both came to New York the same month of the same year, January 1977. We share a lot of the same fashion references and find a common inspiration in the late seventies. I think that’s why we have worked so hard to invest in the single sole with color and femininity but with strength. We source a lot of images from that particular period, and while there are things that we take into consideration like proportions, we really try to understand the feel of the piece.
I went to Mall of America to see the SJP store, and I recognized very quickly that these are luxury designer products.
This is a very, very important point and something we’ve worked really hard to achieve. The shoes are all handmade in Italy, which has an important history of shoemaking, and all of our materials are sourced from there. That’s a very difficult thing to do at our price point. We are made in the same factories as a lot of shoes that are three to four times our price. SJP has arrived at a sweet spot after much due diligence, but it’s because these shoes are meant to last a lifetime. They are not a trendy piece or a fad. I’m really glad that you could see and recognize the quality of the shoe. We are really proud of the product.
Can you recall the very first designer piece you ever owned?
In the eighties, I had this friend named Rina whose father owned a store at the Sunset Plaza and whose mother was opening a store and she invited me to a trunk show. I really didn’t have a lot of money, but I had an Amex Green Card. It was one of those February days when it’s pouring rain in Los Angeles, and I showed up to the store, and there was Manolo Blahnik and George Malkemus. I ordered some shoes that I really didn’t have the money to pay for, but I could definitely tell that this was a really important designer and that the shoes would become really important for me.
If you could join any person dead or alive for an afternoon of shopping, who would that be?
What is one thing you’ve recently found yourself obsessed with?
Finally, living in the age of the Internet, how do you define the term “original”?
When you’re completely stopped and arrested by a thought, a feeling or an image that you know you have never seen or heard or smelled or listened to before.