How Sarah Jessica Parker Made a Lucrative Business Out of Being Carrie Bradshaw
Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw was known for her fantastic fashion. Now, 14 years after the series ended, Sarah Jessica Parker has turned Carrie’s style and spirit into profit.
In a 2001 episode of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw agrees to appear in a runway show as long as she can keep her fabulous Dolce & Gabbana dress after walking. (Of course, wackiness ensues when plans change just before showtime, and Carrie has to prance onstage in jeweled panties—that’s fashion, baby.)
Now Sarah Jessica Parker’s life is imitating her most famous character’s woes. According to court documents, luxury jewelry designer Kat Florence has accused the actress of not returning $150,000 worth of jewels she “borrowed” after a photoshoot.
In a statement provided to The Daily Beast, Parker’s lawyer Ira Schreck called the claims “plain false,” adding that his client “has never and would never hold onto anything belonging to someone else.”
Schreck went on, “[Parker] has been asking ever since Kat Florence wrongfully stopped paying her to have the pieces returned, but Kat Florence didn’t seem terribly interested in getting them back.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the lawsuit, Kat Florence’s lawyer Jeremy D. Friedman told The Daily Beast how his client views the issue. At first, Kat Florence’s people “felt comfortable” sending SJP home with the jewels. “We expected her to return the items,” he wrote in an email statement. “Unfortunately, she has not done so to date.”
SJP’s team told Page Six the sides met for a mediation session on Friday, Sept. 14, in an effort to resolve the matter.
It was the kind of muddled mess that Carrie the character might find herself in. SATC featured similar plotlines, like when her Manolos were stolen after the host of a baby shower insisted she take them off before entering the party. (The woman ultimately reimburses Carrie—but not without shoe-shaming her for buying $485 stilettos.)
But of course, this is all happening to Sarah Jessica Parker the human. But no matter what happens in court, it’s clear that Parker has handsomely commercialized her famous alter-ego, and not just through royalties from the show.
It all began in 2004, not long after SATC wrapped after six seasons on HBO. Riding off the success of the show’s finale, Parker was paid $38 million to exchange her Chanel rose pins for Gap chinos in a multi-season campaign with the brand.
Gap, found in malls across America, was a far cry from the chic and beautiful outfits Carrie sported in the show, as designed by Patricia Field. That said, SJP’s image wasn’t cheapened for this campaign, and she didn’t try to reinvent herself as an everywoman. Instead, the ads resembled lost SATC montages.
One commercial showed SJP trotting down a stoop similar to the famous 66 Perry Street stairs that were featured in the show. In another spot with with Lenny Kravitz, six silhouettes of Parker headbanged along to a guitar solo. Each one wore Bradshaw-ian 4-inch heels.
A year later, in a move worthy of its own SATC episode, Gap replaced the 40-year-old spokeswoman with a teenage Joss Stone. But just as Carrie got back up after falling on the runway, SJP moved on. She hawked Bitten, a line of under-$20 finds with the now-defunct Steve & Barry’s chain, and launched Lovely, a fragrance that spawned five more iterations.
In 2014, SJP out Carrie-d herself with the debut of her eponymous shoe label. Parker tapped George Malkemus, CEO of Manolo Blahnik, to co-design, and one of their first drops was a T-strap stiletto named after her character.
The SJP Collection has since left its original home at Nordstrom and is now sold at a plethora of retailers such as Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, and Saks (Parker herself and reps from all stores and the shoe line either declined or did not respond to inquiries from The Daily Beast).
The shoes’ designs are unabashedly aspirational. Silhouettes are simple and polished, but bright color schemes, bows, and embellishments add pops of whimsy.
Many pieces are sequined, such as a pair of pointed-toe glitter booties called Apthorp. Presumably named after the historic New York apartment building that was home to the likes of Nora Ephron and Cyndi Lauper, the 4-inch heels are enough to make anyone fall flat on their face—no wet Dior showroom floor necessary.
The shoes cost between $285 and $595—not exactly Manolo pricing, but definitely out of budget for a freelance writer with only $957 in her bank account. But, just as SATC earned fans by portraying New York as a fantastical playground where everyday men buy co-op apartments for the women they love, the shoes are not meant to be practical.
In the typical scene-stealing fashion one would expect from “The Carrie” of their friend group, SJP’s latest store opened in New York’s South Street Seaport on New York Democratic primary day, while Cynthia Nixon ran for governor.
The politics didn’t end there. Parker was present at the opening when animal rights activists gatecrashed the occasion, chanting “Fur trade, death trade.”
Parker engaged with at least one protester, who asked “How do you feel about rocking fur in every single one of your coats?” and accused the actress of having “no compassion.” For the most part, Parker remained uncomfortable but composed, asking the protester her name and saying she “appreciated” her protest. (At least no red paint was thrown.)
Hours after the fracas, a musical theater student named Lauren DelGenio stopped by the store. Though the Gen Z-er has memories of watching the show with her mother when it aired (leaving the room for the “inappropriate” bits), she rewatched it in earnest as a young adult and will forever associate its star with her character.
“I’m an actor, so I know that she must hate it when people refer to her Carrie Bradshaw,” DelGenio said. “But with things like this shoe line, she definitely took part of her character and broke that off to make an empire.”
“Empire” might be too strong a word to use just yet, but it’s clear that, no matter how many anti-Carrie think-pieces have graced the internet in recent years, shoppers still idolize her style.
As the Financial Times reported in 2017, SJP grew 30 percent in its first year, 40 percent in its second, 25 in its third, and is projected to grow 300 percent by its fourth anniversary.
But unlike her debt-ridden alter-ego, it appears that Parker is not destined to become the old woman who lives in her shoes. (Indeed, the West Village townhouse she shares with her husband Matthew Broderick and three children reportedly cost $34.5 million.)
Parker profits from a plethora of creative business ventures including a book line with Hogarth, which she intends to use as an spotlight for emerging writers. Its first release, the novel A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, was published in June.
She has also designed a bridal collaboration with the e-commerce site Gilt and returned to Gap (no hard feelings!) for two children’s collections. Both the adults’ and kids’ lines include white tiered skirts not unlike the famous $5 tutu Carrie wore during SATC’s opening credits.
In 1992, back when Sex and the City was just a New York Observer column written by Candace Bushnell, SJP sat down for a New York Times profile. The 28-year-old fretted over how her tabloid-fodder romantic life seemed to overshadow her acting roles in films such as Honeymoon in Vegas and Hocus Pocus.
This was just a year after she casually dated JFK Jr., and Parker worried, “When I die, they are going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, Sarah once dated John Kennedy.'”
Of course, hindsight has proved that fear unfounded, just as many of Carrie's neuroses were delightfully sorted as Parker's voiceover played and end credits rolled.
Carrie got her happy ending, and Parker has helped turn the fantasy into a franchise. Let’s just hope she’s got a great podiatrist.