It’s no great wonder that the “Sex and the City” actress who brought Carrie Bradshaw to life (and won a few awards along the way) is at the helm of her very own footwear line, SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker.
Naturally, the on- and offscreen fashionista has fielded plenty of offers to get in the shoe game, but, she insists, to enter the market on anything but her own terms felt “disingenuous;” she wasn’t interested in get-rich-quick-schemes or designs for shoes that compromised on quality. One day at lunch, a powerful posse of female friends encouraged her to call her dream collaborator, then Manolo Blahnik CEO, George Malkemus III. “So I went home and I called George, and I said, ‘I know it’s a long shot, but would you ever consider producing a shoe line with me?’,” she recalls. “And he said to ‘meet me at my office tomorrow morning at 9:00,’ and I went, and thus was born our shoe line.”
Since the line’s launch in February 2014, Parker has committed all of her time outside of filming and family to developing the business, which centers around shoes that are handmade in Italy and feature a single sole. “I think the thing that has allowed success for us is that we have been so insistent upon customer service,” she reflects. “When we launched exclusively with Nordstrom, I just went store to store to store to store, and I would just work the floor and work the floor and work the floor.” Customer service, she adds, “is such an integral part of business and it can get overlooked a lot.”
Another thing that’s helped the brand quickly find footing in a competitive market — and what Parker advises all entrepreneurs to consider — is its truly unique value proposition. “What we are, who we are is color as a neutral.” Parker warns fellow businesswomen to be cautious of the potential pitfalls of social media; with such an endless, overwhelming stream of content, it can create an urge to “compete,” when a better strategy is to focus inward on developing the best, most authentic product — coming from the most authentic place — possible. “I think the big challenge is to be yourself,” she says. “To be your unique and special self, and that’s when people stop and look and listen.”
Though the enterprising Parker is more than happy to share her story and the tips and tricks she’s learned along the way, she’s quick to stress that her circumstances are far from ordinary. “I was really lucky that I could call George Malkemus and say, ‘Would you have a meeting with me?’ That’s not typical,” she admits. “I know that it’s hard, and I know it’s especially hard for women who are already working two jobs and sometimes three jobs to pursue their dream,” Parker acknowledges. “Because the reality is they’re pursuing survival, and that always gets in front of the dream.”
One thing that holds true, no matter the circumstances, is the importance of support. In some cases, it can even come from an unexpected source, like a competitor. “Sometimes, even in our business, there’s an initiative that I want to try,” Parker notes, “and I don’t have a clue as to where are the vendors, who can help me realize this. I’ll call it a business that I’ve seen do similar things and I’ll say, would you be willing to share this information with me? It’s scary and it’s sometimes hard to get the right person on the phone, but I just keep trying.”
For Parker, that connection, won with persistence, is key. If she could pass along just one piece of advice, she concludes, it’s “that there are women out there who want to help. Be your most brave self and ask for it.”
Emily Gawlak, [email protected]