Manolo Blahnik CEO George Malkemus On His SJP Collab…And His Dairy Farm
(NEW YORK) The buzziest shoe collection to hit stores this month was undoubtedly Sarah Jessica Parker’s namesake chaussure line, which came to fruition with the help of Manolo Blahnik’s CEO, George Malkemus. While the spotlight has been steady on SJP, your Daily took a moment to chat with the other star of the shoe label, who spends his free time running a dairy farm in Connecticut. Stilettos and ice cream? A match made in heaven.
BY DENA SILVER
When did you first meet SJP?
I met Sarah Jessica in 1985 when she was dating Robert Downey Jr., at a shop called Madeleine Gallay on Sunset Boulevard, where Manolo Blahnik was doing a trunk show. From the moment she stepped into the store I had a sense that this woman had great style. She was incredibly young at the time, but she knew what she wanted! We sat on the floor with Manolo and she picked out some shoes and decided on the details and colors.
She picked out five pairs of shoes and she was like ‘I can’t afford these. But I want them all!’ I told her that we would figure out a layaway plan when she picked them up. It took a year for the shoes to get made and we never really worked out a layaway plan, but all the shoes were stolen! She never forgot that.
How did the SJP shoe line come to be?
One day, Sarah Jessica called me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a line of shoes with her. I asked her what time she could be in my office to start designing. She came in the next day. We ordered some chicken noodle soup, sat on the floor, and started talking about shoes. Week after week and soup after soup, we designed a collection of shoes.
What were the specifications for the line?
We decided the shoes had to be made in Italy, because that’s where the best quality shoes are made. We decided to work with this man that I worked with many years ago, who is a third generation shoe maker in Tuscany. Sarah Jessica wanted to do a collection for women who watched Sex and the City and were inspired by Carrie. But that character spent too much money on shoes; she wanted her customer to be able to buy shoes that were affordable but beautifully made.
Aside from SATC, what was the inspiration for the line?
We both came to New York during the mid-‘70s and we talked about how shoes were made during that time. They were very iconic. I’d say to Sarah Jessica, ‘Do you remember Charles Jourdan?’ And she would say ‘They had a citrus yellow pump…’ and I knew exactly which pair she was talking about. It was all about having a love affair with shoes.
What was it like working with Sarah Jessica as a designer?
This relationship was very different: I’ve never designed with a woman before. Manolo works on everything himself and is a creative genius, as is SJP, but it is a different sensibility because women know exactly what they like. She said her shoes have to be comfortable, and she didn’t want the little rubber piece of the heel to twist or get caught in a grate. I was like, ‘I can fix the first part, but not the second part.’ You’re always going to get caught in a grate in New York City!
Is there anyone else that you would want to collaborate with on a shoe line?
No! When you work with lawyers they always ask those questions; her lawyers ask questions and my lawyers ask questions and they just don’t get it! Sarah Jessica is the only person that I want to do this with and as long as she wants to work with me, I will be in heaven.
So in addition to all this shoe business, you moonlight as dairy farmer, right?
I do indeed.
How did that come to fruition?
My partner Tony Yurgaitis and I owned a house in Connecticut for many years and it overlooked an old horse farm that was going to be turned into tract housing. To protect our vista, we bought the farm. We found out that it used to be a dairy farm 100 years ago, so we went to the town hall and bought the name Arethusa for $25. We converted the land back into a farm and over the course of many years got into the dairy business big time.
So how’s the dairy business treating you?
The farm is going great! Tony really runs that whole show. We just opened a restaurant, we have a dairy store where we sell our cheese, and our yogurt and our ice cream is in Whole Foods now.
Has Sarah Jessica Parker been to the farm yet?
No, but she’s dying to come visit!
How about Manolo?
He’s not a country boy. He prefers to be in the city, watching movies.
What’s the farm lifestyle all about?
On the farm, you see a different George. You see jeans, boots, and me working with the cows. I love seeing calves being born. It’s more about the love for animals, the love of the land, and farm protection. I think the common denominator in everything I do is passion.
Sarah Jessica uses her middle name all the time. What’s your middle name?
My name is George Dewey Malkemus III.
Do people ever call you GDM?
I go by G3.