Sarah Jessica Parker: Shoes, ‘Sex,’ and Instagram

Sarah Jessica Parker is off and running again.

The actress-turned-designer, who just last week won FN’s launch of the year award for her SJP collection, was in Dubai this week for her latest shoe tour.

Before she hit the skies, the star shared some insight about her first year in the footwear business.

On her early success in shoes:

“I’m not someone who assumes success would happen. I work really hard, and we’ve never been casual about our efforts or assumed we would have success. There are lots of options for women in the shoe category, and we have great, extraordinary designers who have been around a lot longer than I have who are gifted and experienced people. The thing about a launch is that you have to maintain it. That one moment is really exciting, but it’s the long run that we’re looking at. We want to be around for a lot of years, and we want to grow in smart ways and be prudent. I would say the success is surprising but enormously gratifying.”

On what she’s learned so far:

“The more we branch out to more retailers, the clearer it becomes that retail is a complex machine. Each buyer is different. Just because we make 60-odd samples doesn’t mean they’re going to want the ones we want, and they have their reasons. You have to become very good at convincing them your reasons can eclipse their hesitations. Even though our retailers have welcomed our thoughts and ideas behind the brand, this concept of color all the time, all year long, is different for a price point like ours. A Manolo Blahnik or a Louboutin or a Charlotte Olympia, they can [take more risks]. For us, we’re looking at a different customer. We want to teach her new ways of looking at neutrals, and this idea of a special-occasion shoe can be something you wear every day. It’s been a complicated but interesting experience to listen to our retail partners. All of it’s really new.  I’m learning about minimums and sourcing and materials. I consider myself really fortunate I have a partner, [George Malkemus], who wants me to learn with him. He doesn’t want to tell me what’s going on, he wants me to have an understanding myself so I can really participate in these conversations.”

On the loyal “Sex and the City” audience and new generation of viewers:

“I’m stopped on a daily basis more often than I was a few years ago. It’s really interesting how the audience has grown. There is a new generation of women who have a new relationship with the show and those characters. There’s something strangely fortifying about that. I spent a lot of years doing it, and doing it with people I love.”

On Nordstrom, her launch retailer:

“It was a retailer I really wanted to be with, I loved the history of the company and the family members. I loved their relationship with their customers. They’ve traveled with me on the road and on these whistle-stop tours. I’ve become very fond of them. It’s been wonderful. I’m in a position to understand my new retail partners because of the time I’ve spent with Nordstrom. If I were coming out of the gate with three different retail partners, it would be a lot to learn. I wouldn’t have had the foundation on which to have these conversations.”

The power of her shoe tours:

“The whole experience has been so moving, thrilling and exciting. I often talk about Laura Mercier and how she built her business 20 or 25 years ago. She’s a dear friend of mine, and I’ve known her for 20 years now and watched her build her brand by doing these PAs. She didn’t have a penny for advertising or marketing for years. It was just her going on the road, telling her story. I knew from the beginning, I wanted to do it that way.”

Her must-haves for the collection:

“I wanted to make these shoes in Italy. I wanted them to be comfortable. I wanted them to be relevant in two or three or five years from now. I wanted the single sole, which was not when I first started thinking about this. I wanted a certain price point. It wasn’t as inexpensive as I would have liked it to be, but I wanted a really quality shoe. So i’’s been fun to wear them, and I wouldn’t do it any other way.”

On learnings the ins and outs of social media:

“I only had the courage to do it because I was producing this documentary series on the New York City Ballet, and it was a helpful way to talk about that documentary. When we launched the brand, I knew it would have to be part of this experience. We started an Instagram page and we had nobody. It was just myself and my assistant. We shot every single picture ourselves, posted everything ourselves and tried to answer every comment, which was impossible. But it’s important to be in touch and run it ourselves and tell our story in a personal way. We think about it as much a part of the business as other things. We don’t have marketing dollars and PR money, so it’s a way we have to work. It’s a lot of work, but it’s been really interesting.”

The clamor surrounding her Instagram photograph at Carrie Bradshaw’s brownstone:

“I heard them call it a photo shoot, but Alyssa [my assistant] and I literally stopped by for four minutes, and there were so many other people there taking pictures as they always do. We were coming home from work, and we had the shoes, and so I just did it. I certainly didn’t mean to be disrespectful and probably could have handled it better, but it’s my neighborhood and I work hard with my community leaders and I’m very involved.”

On her new film, “All Roads Lead to Rome”:

“It’s a simple, lovely story about a woman whose daughter is in trouble. She goes back to a place she spent time in about 20 years ago. Her daughter needs a distraction from a bad boyfriend. She takes her daughter to a little town in Italy, and this boyfriend she herself had as a young woman has moved back. So it’s really just a story about figuring out what’s really important to you and where is home. Three generations of women who are trying to sort their lives out in an span of 48 hours.”

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