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Last Friday, Sarah Jessica Parker made a visit to Nordstrom at Tysons Corner Center to meet fans and sign their shoes, and to discuss the fall collection of her exclusive-to-Nordstrom shoe and handbag line, SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker. But Parker wasn't content just talk about her shoes, she demanded that we smell the new shoes too. "Isn't insane? Smell it! It smells so good," she asked Racked DC, holding up a knee-high boot. "I love how a pair of new shoes smell. You have to feel the leather, it's so soft." It did smell good! And Parker is just as passionate about meeting her fans as she is about shoes. Folks lined up at Nordstrom when the store doors opened, and Parker was intent on greeting folks in line. Before she met her adoring public, we quizzed her on everything from normcore to Virginia thrift store shopping to her philosophy on social media.
You have a very sexy boot named after Pat Field [Sex And The City's costume designer]. Has she seen it?
I think she's seen it. She got in touch with me and said "Thank you." Pat was the first person I knew who would constantly say, "Isn't that fierce? It's so fierce." When I saw this boot I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is fierce. This is a really, really sexy boot." So there was no other name for it. I'm happy to call it Pat. It's so so beautiful on.
Have you discussed designing with her?
I haven't, no. I have George [Malkemus]. He's pretty great, and Pat's so busy with her own endeavors.
How do you feel when you hear that your fans came when the store opened to wait in line to see you?
It's hard to express. I feel enormously grateful and privileged, lucky, and delighted. When I first partnered with Nordstrom I said we have to agree that I will travel for this collection. It's something that's really, really important for me. I want to meet your customers and hear from them and know them and tell them our story and help explain this brand and why it exists.
And perhaps most importantly, I know it's an opportunity to look a lot of people in the eye and convey my gratitude for the time they spent with us on that show for all those years. There aren't a lot of opportunities to meet people who you have a relationship with who you don't know in some way. I know that we have one, and this association between us exists, and it's just such a nice opportunity to say thank you to somebody.
Do they tell you about the shoes, their experience with wearing them?
Definitely. They'll say, Carrie ran big, and it felt this way or that way and I thought I didn't like flats, and then I tried on the Gelsey and I loved it. One of the reasons that I wanted to partner up with Nordstrom is that they have a very long and famously wonderful relationship with their customers. It's a big part of their DNA. The customer really is in partnership with the retailer. They have a sales force that's famously good at what they do, and they are lifetime salespeople. They started off in 1901 as shoe merchants, which a lot of people don't know that's how Nordstrom started. They know the business of shoes. I could only learn from this partnership and learn from their customers.
I feel like your shoes are so ladylike and classic. I was wondering, how do you feel about normcore?
How do I feel about what?
Normcore? Have you heard of it?
Like the Birkenstocks — everyone's wearing Birkenstocks and ugly shoes. It's wearing ugly shoes on purpose.
I think it's wonderful. Here's the thing: we live in a democracy. People should wear what they feel good wearing when they walk out the door. That is all that matters to me. People are very kind and ask me about my advice about what they should wear and how they should look.
The only advice I could ever give somebody is feel good when you walk out of the door. Don't try to look or dress like anybody else because it will never suit you. If you like a Birkenstock, you should wear a Birkenstock. And if you want to wear a Birkenstock to the opera, you should wear a Birkenstock. Who am I or anybody else to suggest that we know better what suits him or her. I'm thrilled if that's what's happening in shoes. I have nothing but delight if people have some relationship with a shoe.
Were you thinking about making your shoes timeless?
Yes. Look, if we're going to ask for hard-earned dollars from people, I want the shoe to be in their closet, and in two or three years time, I want her to go to the closet and pull out this Marlene and say, this still feels relevant. I'm not embarrassed that I bought this shoe, it's not, oh that's so 2014. We're making these shoes in Italy, they're beautifully made, they're comfortable, they're made to last a lifetime. And aesthetically speaking they're made to last as well.
D.C. question: what did it mean to you for you to go to the White House for Turnaround Arts and the White House Talent Show?
I've been there a lot on behalf Turnaround Arts. I've been part of the Presidential Committee on Arts and Humanity since the president was first elected, so we're deep into his second term, this particular committee. So we've been there for a bunch of different occasions in support of Turnaround Arts. The First Lady is really our figurehead.
But to be there with the children, was almost beyond description. For many of these young people, it was the first time they've traveled. Can you imagine the first time you've traveled, you are going to the White House and you're performing for the First Lady, and then the surprise of all surprises is the President comes out and meets you.
But also this opportunity for them to really express themselves creatively, for them to have an opportunity to talk about who they are and what they're feeling and their sense of identity and how art and music and theatre and writing have opened up channels and allowed them to connect to learning more, has been thrilling. It's been an incredibly joyful occasions and it was also enormously meaningful for these students and of course for us as well. It was a thrill to be part of it.
Wow, that's great. And I saw you already went antiquing today?
Do you want to call it antiquing? I went to Goodwill. You can call it antiquing. I went to the Treasure Trove in Virginia. We were only on the Virginia side because that's where we were staying, so I didn't get to go to thrift shops in D.C. proper, but we did go the minute they opened this morning to the Goodwill and to Treasure Trove.
Do you do that every stop?
Every stop, if I have time, I go to museums, I go to thrift shops, I go to hardware stores. Those are the places I usually hit. And I try to eat local, local, local food. We tried to go to Ben's Chili Bowl when we landed last night, but the driver told us it was going to be 45 minutes there and 45 minutes back. We'd already been awake for 18 or 19 hours.
Have you been to Ben's Chili Bowl?
Countless times! Are you kidding me? A lot.
You're so good at Instagram and Twitter! How do you view social media in terms of your life?
It's not a priority, let's start with that. But, the Instagram, I really really enjoy. I'm particularly proud of the SJP Collection Instagram page. We built it from the ground up. It's just me and my extraordinary assistant Alyssa. The two of us, that's it. No one else does it, runs it, answers questions. It is just us. And that's actually a lot of work, because we're really thoughtful about everything we post. We just hit 200,000 followers in Houston, which is a really big deal for us.
But I particularly like Instagram, as I described it yesterday, Instagram is like the siblings and friends you want to hang out with all day. And Twitter is the parents you hope to please. And Twitter is, I'm figuring out that relationship. It doesn't come as naturally to me. I love the exchanges that I can have with people and what I can learn about people, but I'm also always slightly shocked at the cruelty and unkind, anonymous, unfriendly, vulgar language. But I'm a grownup and I don't feel in personal danger, but I'm always a little surprised when people aren't civilized. You don't have to like me, that's completely fine. And you don't have to love me, and you don't have to think well of me. But I do think that discourse is better than diatribe.
I'm dying to know about the car in Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.
That's my car. I bought it before that, I had just bought it. I had been looking for two years for a station wagon, and it took me two years to find that car. I was looking everywhere, I found it online from a car dealership in Missouri. I love it so much. I drive it every single day.
Every single solitary day. All my errands, everything. The kids love it.
I'm going to look for you in New York!
I don't take it in the city, just in the summer I use it. It's not good in the city, it's a gas guzzler, it takes up a huge amount of space, parking would be almost impossible. We don't drive that much in New York, we take the subway, ride bikes, walk, cabs.
· SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker [Official Site]
· SJP Says Her Latest Nordstrom Collection Looks 'Like Candy' [Racked NY]
· Follow Sarah Jessica Parker's Weekend Bridesmaid Adventures [Racked]
· Quirky Sarah Jessica Parker Has a Fetish for Station Wagons [Racked]
· Sarah Jessica Parker Makes Shoe Mischief in the White House [Racked]