While Carrie Bradshaw may have been the ultimate girl-about-town, Sarah Jessica Parker is the kind of mother, advocate, businesswoman (and fashion plate) to take after.
It’s almost impossible to talk about Sarah Jessica Parker without mentioning New York City in the same breath. The actress is so woven into—and some may say responsible for—the fiber of modern Manhattan that when she recently found a $4,700 check on the street, a local blog joked, “It was likely presented to her by a Manhattan sidewalk for miscellaneous favors and services rendered, such as stiletto-hype consulting and a 4 percent cut of all Cosmopolitans sold after 1998.” (A die-hard good Samaritan, Parker took it upon herself to personally track down its intended payee.)
On nearly a daily basis, the megastar-turned-founder of new accessories collection SJP is snapped by paparazzi near her West Village home, where she lives with husband of 17 years, Matthew Broderick, their son, James Wilkie, 12, and twin daughters Loretta and Tabitha, 5—walking her children to school, running errands or recovering the occasional lost funds. Most often, she’s dressed in a version of her no-nonsense working mom uniform: cropped jeans or cargo pants, an oversized sweater and fashion sneakers.
And yet Parker can’t help but wonder whether her unofficial status as No. 1 New Yorker would have come to being had she not starred in a movie about Los Angeles. “If it hadn’t been for L.A. Story, I probably never would have been cast in ‘Sex and the City,’” Parker says, referring to the 1991 “half double decaffeinated half-caf” satire in which she appeared as Steve Martin’s free-spirited love interest. “Because before that I’d always played the cerebral best friend of the pretty lead. It was the first time I’d ever played the woman a man had lustful feelings for. In many ways, L.A. Story changed the course of my career.”
Parker, 49, never committed much time offscreen to the West Coast (“New York is where I feel most like myself,” she says) but there were stints. While shooting the 1982 television series “Square Pegs,” she attended Hollywood High School “maybe for two days,” she says. Nearly a decade later, she and Broderick, both in town for work and just having begun to date, would save up for once-in-a-blue-moon dinners at exclusive Brentwood trattoria Toscana. Now, with her multi-hyphenate career and active family life on the East Coast, Parker’s more likely to make a vacation out of it and visit friends like “SATC” writer-director Michael Patrick King or co-star Kristin Davis (with whom she’s electrified the Twitterverse by exchanging cryptic tweets about a possible SATC 3 film). “A lot of New Yorkers have an us-versus-them mentality toward Los Angeles, but I have very friendly feelings about the city,” Parker says with her signature graciousness. “Los Angeles always felt like a place someone kindly had brought me to work. I stayed because I ended up getting jobs, but in the end I was a journeyman actor.”
She may be a global icon, but Parker has never abandoned the hardscrabble work ethic that was instilled in her as one of eight siblings growing up in a modest Midwestern household. (The family lived in Ohio prior to moving to New York when she was 11.) Since snagging the lead in the Broadway production of Annie at age 13, Parker consistently booked gigs through the ’80s and ’90s (from “3-2-1 Contact” and Footloose to Honeymoon in Vegas, “The Larry Sanders Show” and The First Wives Club) before skyrocketing to worldwide fame with “Sex and the City” in 1998.
Though she’s still acting after the series’ end, Parker’s post-“SATC” chapter is best defined by her extracurricular activities. She is a tireless philanthropist (Parker is the vice chair on the board of the New York City Ballet and serves on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities), and has dived head first into the business of fashion. SJP, her latest passion project, is a collection of accessible and stylish shoes and bags that she launched in February with business partner George Malkemus, the CEO of Manolo Blahnik. Spring 2015 will be its third season.
“I think it’s what people expected of me most because of Carrie Bradshaw,” Parker says with her characteristic self-awareness. What they might not expect, however, is that an in-demand celebrity like herself would be so hands-on from the design process through manufacturing decisions, even kneeling on the floor in the shoe department of a Seattle Nordstrom fitting shoes to a woman’s feet, as she was during a recent nationwide tour that introduced the collection to clients. “One of the great rewards is meeting the customers,” she says earnestly.
Parker also is canny enough to know she’s her own best advertisement, and so when she hits the red carpet for events like New York Fashion Week or the annual New York City Ballet fall gala, morphing from off-duty mommy to high-fashion superhero in adventurous, graphic dresses from designers like Mary Katrantzou and Prabal Gurung, she’ll accessorize her look with a knee-high laser-cut boot or perfect pointed-toe pump from the SJP collection (always hiking up the hem of her skirt, if necessary, so the photographers can get the shoe). On top of that, Parker mans the label’s Instagram account (@sjpcollection), as well as her own (sarahjessicaparker); a recent post on her personal account showed her lining up nearly a dozen colorful SJP T-strap stilettos (called the Carrie) on the stoop outside the Perry Street apartment where her character lived. “It was take your shoes to work day,” Parker wrote cheekily in the caption. Then, “#runninginheels #taxi!”
By Emily Holt.
Photographed by Richard Phibbs.
Fashion Editor: Erin Walsh.