Adam Glassman, O's creative director, loves Gayle. Okay, he's not particularly crazy about the clogs; in fact, he'd sell his soul to get her into sharp-looking flats from time to time, but he has come to accept her, peds and all. He wants only the best for his friend's feet, and today that means one thing: a visit with Sarah Jessica Parker—Emmy winner, fashion icon shoe goddess.
While Sarah Jessica's alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw, may have gone looking for love in all the wrong places, she did it in all the right footwear. For six seasons on HBO's Sex and the City, we rooted for her success, we applauded her guts, and we envied her lust-filled relationships with Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, and the one who carried her through nearly every broken engagement and book tour, every kinky fling and co-op sale, every bruising affair and Hamptons fiasco: Manolo Blahnik.
Having cemented her shoe cred, Sarah Jessica has had myriad opportunities to put her name on a line of her own. But she couldn't bring herself to endorse something she wouldn't actually wear, nor did she want to ask people to open their wallets for products that were mass-produced in China. Enter George Malkemus, CEO of Manolo Blahnik USA. "Sarah called me and said she'd been thinking a lot about shoes." Malkemus smiles and adds, "Before she could finish that sentence, I said, 'Be in my office tomorrow morning.'"
On February 28, you can see the results of their meeting and subsequent partnership, exclusively at Nordstrom. But Adam wanted to treat Gayle to a sneak peek at SJP, Sarah Jessica's first foray into shoes, with a guided tour from the very passionate new designer herself. You see, Adam understands that, at least from the ankles down, these women are members of the same tribe.
And so it comes to pass that Gayle and Adam, Sarah Jessica and George meet at a hip yet cozy, shoe-filled suite inside New York City's Crosby Street Hotel. Gayle has that giddy kid-at-Christmas look that, in her case, comes with the promise of brand-new shoes. She enters the room in a state best described as frenzied bliss.
"Say hello to the girls," Adam announces by way of introduction.
Sarah Jessica laughs. "Yes, these are all the girls I didn't get to have," she says, pointing to Inez, Fawn, Iva, Ina, Tanny, Bobbie, Brigitte, and, of course, Carrie—shoes she's named after people who inspire her.
"By any chance is there a Gayle in the group?" Ms. King asks, floating a trial balloon.
"She'll name a clog in your honor," Adam answers, bursting it.
"Silvia was for an A.R. Gurney play I did years ago," the designer explains, holding up an aquamarine suede high heel topped with a demure little bow. "And Jill is my best friend from L.A.," she says, reaching for a strappy crisscross look in raspberry champagne.
"Very pleased to meet you, Jill," says Gayle.
"Oh, and here's Slim," Sarah Jessica says, showing Gayle a sling-back with lines as elegant and sophisticated as the socialite Slim Keith. "I really wanted to bring back the single-soled shoe with this collection," she tells Gayle, "so there isn't a clunky black pair in the bunch."
Next: "I feel like I've died and gone to shoe heaven."
It has taken everything Gayle's got not to swan-dive into one of the giant mounds of shoes clustered around the room, scoop as many as she can get into her arms, and make a run for the border. But she knows that if you're planning a getaway on foot, your shoes better feel good when they're pounding the pavement. "Show me something that's really hot but also really comfortable," she says, "and I swear I will marry you!" Gayle has laid down the challenge, and Sarah Jessica is ready, willing, and more than able to respond.
She grabs a pair of minty green Bobbies, kneels at Gayle's feet, and shifts into expert shoemaker mode. "Do you feel that extra padding under the metatarsals?" she asks, as she slips the shoe onto Gayle's foot. "These are all manufactured in Italy. I wanted to make something with great attention to detail," she explains as she traces her finger over the lovely scalloped edge of her label, then slides the shoe onto Gayle's other foot and urges her to go for a walk. Adam, who may have been a geisha in his former life and is certainly an expert in all things Gayle, sweetens the deal with a strategically placed box of her beloved Cronuts 12 feet away. She takes a tentative step, then, realizing that the padding makes a genuine difference, heads straight for the carbs. High heels, fresh pastry...if Adam could get Josh Groban in to serenade her, there's a pretty decent chance she'd never leave the room.
Still, the bargain hunter in her has a question. "How much are they?" she asks, and braces for impact. "They range from just under $200 to just under $500, but most of them are mid-$200s to high $300s," Sarah Jessica says. Gayle nods her approval. The shoes are pricey, until one compares them with virtually any other shoe made by Italian artisans. "Those are hard-earned bucks," Sarah Jessica continues, "so I really tried to give women beautiful silhouettes and colors and excellent quality for their money. I didn't want to do anything that says, 'Oh, these shoes are 2014.' I want my shoes to be part of your world for a long time to come." Between deep bites of Cronut, Gayle agrees: "I want that too!"
She tries shoe after shoe, and they do not disappoint. They're all surprisingly comfortable and carefully made. And they have something else in common: Each shoe has a thin touch of grosgrain ribbon running up the back seam or a tiny ribbon tab on the side of the slip-ons. "What's this?" Gayle asks, charmed by the small surprise.
Sarah Jessica smiles. "The thing is," she says, "when I was growing up, we really didn't have two nickels to rub together, but my mother always made sure that my sisters and I had two grosgrain ribbons in our hair. The rule was that we ironed them every single morning. We even had a special bureau dedicated to hair ribbons." She touches the stripe of ribbon on a jade green Ina. "I have them for my own daughters now, and my nieces wear them too."
Sarah Jessica pauses for a sip of lemonade. "How about trying a flat?" she says, handing Gayle a deceptively simple melon-colored sandal named Wallace. Gayle is shocked and saddened that Sarah Jessica has chosen to drop the F bomb. She stares at Wallace, she stares at Adam, she stares longingly at Etta, a dusty rose T-strap with an ethereal silk flower perched on top.
"See how good it looks on," Sarah Jessica says, scrambling to model the offending flat.
Gayle eyes it suspiciously. "And where would Wallace and I go together?" she asks, as if Sarah Jessica had offered her a grass skirt and a coconut bra.
Sarah Jessica looks to Adam for backup, but he has seen this movie before and knows it will not end with Gayle's opting to become three inches shorter. "Well," she begins slowly, "you could wear it on a boat, or maybe by the pool, or...um...have you met Etta yet?" Sarah Jessica hands the high-heeled beauty to Gayle, and all is instantly right with the world. They chat and laugh, mix and match; they even split a Cronut—sole mates once more.
The collection will be available exclusively at Nordstrom starting February 28th.
First Look! More Glamorous Photos of Sarah Jessica Parker's New Shoe Line, SJP