By  on May 11, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS — "Can you feel the love, girl?" shouted a visibly animated Sarah Jessica Parker fan during her appearance here.

And how. Parker, who appeared April 27 at Macy's downtown store in support of her first scent, Lovely Sarah Jessica Parker, drew an estimated crowd of 2,500 — ranging from blonde soccer moms to metrosexuals and grandmothers — not to mention a sales figure estimated by industry sources at more than $43,000. The fragrance, which was launched in September 2005, continues to draw healthy sales — in its first year, it was said to have generated worldwide retail sales of $60 million — and Coty has often stated that it would continue to invest behind this first fragrance, even as the company gets ready to launch Parker's second fragrance, Covet Sarah Jessica Parker, later this year.

Parker's girl-next-door appeal drew all sorts of responses from the crowd, many of whom seemed to view her as a friend they hadn't seen in a while. "Meet us for cocktails later —we'll be having Cosmos!" said one thirtysomething blonde, making a reference to Parker's "Sex and the City" alter-ego's favorite cocktail. A teen stammered, "I love your shoes!" (Pink sparkly Alexander McQueen heels). Still others, speechless, burst into tears. Parker even came across a long-lost high school friend in the line.

"I'm always excited to see how many people show up," said Parker, seemingly unfazed by the thousands of Minne­sotans bearing cameras. "I always worry [that the] more [public appearances], the less money we'll do."

But even before Parker took the floor, her fragrance had done an estimated $20,000 in pre-sales, including 25 $400 sets that entitled their buyers to a private meet-and-greet with Parker. The appearance here was particularly significant to Parker, whose mother used to shop at the store when it was Dayton's downtown flagship. "I remember my mom saving up and coming here to shop," Parker told the cheering crowd.

Parker is surprisingly dedicated to — and knowledgeable about — the brands that bear her name.

"My thinking is, the more I know, the better I'll be at this," Parker said, deftly signing and quickly sliding Lovely bottles across the polished surface of the desk of Frank Guzzetta, Macy's North chairman and chief executive officer. "The more I understand the practical and sometimes intimidating business of fragrance, the better. For instance, now I know that Federated [Macy's parent] is 65 percent of Coty's business, so I understand its place in the business and its relationship with the fragrance industry more clearly. The more I know, the better equipped I am to help sell the product."I know there are a lot of women and notable actresses who have their names attached to a lot of things, and I think that's grand, but because I'm controlling, I can't do that, because that means I would have no time for a family or to be an actor," she continued. "I want to be involved with every step of everything. I can't spread myself that thin and still be involved with the process, and I don't want to do a bait and switch with the customer. I don't want to lure them and not be around to make sure it's everything I originally said it would be."

She's also adamant about knowing every aspect of the fragrance business. "I know the realities of the business — I know what it costs to launch a fragrance. . All that's information that makes you nervous, but I'm better off knowing. Sometimes I don't want to hear it, but I really like being involved. It's my nature. As the industry changes, we're constantly learning, too. There are so many launches, and so many personalities involved with fragrances. The environment has changed, and you have to keep up with that, what people like and what they don't."

Parker likened creating a fragrance to making a movie or a TV show. "You have to know what's going on, but not abandon the way that you do things anyway. You try not to do it thinking, 'Will this character be likable? Are people going to like the story? Will this be the happy ending?' You have to tell a good story, regardless of what people think and what you assume they're going to think."

Next up is Covet Sarah Jessica Parker, which will enter its first door, Macy's, in mid-July. Coty positioned Lovely as a modern classic, while Covet is intended to be the edgy sister scent. "Creating the juice for Covet came together fairly quickly, but getting the initial feeling was harder for me, because I knew what I wanted Lovely to be [before signing with Coty], even though it came a long way after I started to learn the fragrance business," said Parker. "We really wanted them to be different, because there'd be no point in creating a redux of Lovely. None of them should be slightly cloned."And Lovely and Covet will have to coexist on the same piece of real estate, too, so that's important to take into account," she continued. "Once we figured out where we were going to go with it and brought in Ann Gottlieb, it was amazing. [Covet] came together with relative ease. The hardest part was getting the colors on the box and the bottle right — even the shades of topaz have subtleties of variation that are mind-blowing, if you care about that kind of thing."

As for the fragrance that will follow Covet, "they'd like me not to talk about it," said Parker with a giggle. Turning to Carlos Timiraos, vice president of global marketing for the Sarah Jessica Parker and Kenneth Cole fragrances at Coty Prestige, she implored him, "Tell me what to say!"

Turning serious, Parker said, "There will definitely be more to come," she said. "We don't have a finite number in mind, but I think we have to dream big. This brand has many rooms and a solid foundation, and it's incumbent upon us to create great fragrances and work really, really hard to make everything about them the best it can be."

How about additional beauty categories? "My plate is wonderfully full right now," said Parker, who is also a spokeswoman for the L'Oréal-owned Garnier Nutrisse hair line. "I don't want to distract myself too much from the fragrance and the clothing line. I feel like I have to make sure that people know I support those things — it matters to me how Coty and Steve & Barry's feel. And this is a nice amount of extracurricular activity outside of being an actor."

Parker doesn't take one bit of the fragrance's success for granted. "My biggest fear was that no one was going to buy it," she said. "I'm sure anybody who wasn't born into a dynasty of fragrance families would be worried about that. First, you worry that no one's going to buy it, and after they buy it, you think, 'Well, is this going to be it for me?' You have to find peace with that. But then when it enjoys a modicum of success, the problem becomes, 'When can I do the next one?' So it's this sort of very seductive and terrifying hamster wheel that you're on. It's fantastic, but it makes you want to do it more. I worry a lot about everything, but I mostly want it to be liked. You don't want to have a launch and then nothing. That's the hard part. It's got to have a life."Parker's also garnering plenty of ink for her upcoming clothing line, Bitten, due in Steve & Barry's stores in June. "What's really important to me is that Bitten is well-made, yet affordable and accessible," said Parker, a member of a big family where money for clothes wasn't always plentiful. "Women can look fashionable, but still be able to pay the utility bill. I've always loved beautiful clothes, but my background as a civilian informs the way I think. I love the idea that fashion doesn't have to be a luxury. Every woman in this country should have access to well-made, affordable clothes."

Despite being offered a passel of design opportunities while appearing as TV's most highly rated fashionista, Parker declined until the Bitten opportunity came along.

"Honestly, I had been presented — for no right reason — all these design opportunities, because of ['Sex and the City']," she said. "They were crazy ones that I absolutely had no business even pondering — particularly because so many of my friends who work in the fashion industry are still having financial difficulties. I just felt like,'Go to those people, if you have that kind of money!' I also didn't want to do it just because there was a lot of money. I can't sketch, I can't drape. I didn't want to do it for the wrong reasons. So then, when Steve & Barry's came along — I, like most people, had never heard of them — I was skeptical. But I finally was convinced to go to their one store in New York, and I walked around and I was stunned. The first thing I asked about was their label practices, because at this price point [everything is under $20], you wonder. My own lawyer hired a team of people and did due diligence, to find out who these people were and what is their mission. Honestly, I really like who they are and how they work, and the idea of the company. It's a simple idea — to me, it's like one of those things, honestly, like a Post-It, where you're like, 'Why didn't I think of that?'"

As for her primary occupation, acting, Parker's got plenty going on that front. She is in post-production with "Smart People," a romantic comedy in which she stars with Dennis Quaid; it is expected in December. This fall, her film "Spinning Into Butter," about hate crimes on a New England college campus, is also scheduled to be released. She's also in production with "Slammer," a musical slated for a 2008 release, and has announced her involvement in "A Family Affair," also expected in 2008.As for a big-screen version of "Sex and the City," Parker remains optimistic. "There's no script yet, no schedule. I know that people think we're starting to shoot in the fall, but I don't know that. But I'm hopeful. I would love it, and I think the timing might be really nice."

But in the immediate future, Parker's got several refreshingly normal tasks on her to-do list. "I happen to like house chores, which is weird, but I procrastinate a lot on cleaning my closet," said Parker with a laugh. "I tend to get dressed and leave stacks of clothes, and two or three days will pass and there are more piles and it becomes this intense obstacle course. My son [four-and-a-half-year-old James Wilkie Broderick] is always saying, 'Mommy, your closet is very messy.' "

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