Nicole Ari Parker Channels AJLT’s Lisa Todd Wexley In Her New Edit For Karen Millen

And Just Like That's new leading lady is making her mark on the high street...

Nicole Ari Parker

by Natalie Hammond |
Updated on

And Just Like That’s Lisa Todd Wexley isn’t the new Samantha Jones (she’s married and she’s a mother) but, in terms of upping the show’s fabulous quotient, she fits the bill. Enough of a legend to command her own acronym, LTW sleeps in 100% silk and braves snowstorms in Balmain. The actor who plays her, Nicole Ari Parker, says it’s a departure from her day-to-day. ‘I don’t pick up my kids in Saint Laurent. What a joy it is to play a woman who does.’

Now she’s joining another line-up of powerhouse women: Karen Millen’s Icons. With five previous collections curated by the likes of Tyra Banks, Elle Macpherson, Elizabeth Hurley, Paulina Porizkova and Helena Christensen, the high street retailer has pitched itself as one of the savviest when it comes to collaborations (see also, Victoria Beckham for Mango).

Karen Millen Nicole Ari Parker
©Karen Millen

Parker’s collection looks distinctly influenced by her on-screen alter-ego’s. There’s a whip smart LBD, with a fringed cape that fans to the floor, a classic-with- a-twist trench coat and a strapless white cocktail dress with a black flower blooming at the hip – an instant favourite with Parker. ‘I felt secure and strong and delicate. That’s quite a feat in one garment.’ Her first encounter with the brand was on set. ‘I was like, “Who made this dress?” Wow, their fit model must be the same size as me. They have real women’s sizes.’ To get a call from Karen Millen, four years later, was a ‘lovely surprise’, a similar experience, in fact, to when she first got wind of AJLT, probably the most-hyped reboot in the history of TV. ‘I was a fan,’ she says. ‘When I got that call, I was surprised and overjoyed.’

Picking up over a decade after the events of Sex And The City 2AJLT introduces a circle of new friends including LTW – Charlotte York-Goldenblatt’s ‘mom’ ally – whose storylines range from the salacious (hot schoolboys) to the serious (an unexpected pregnancy and miscarriage). While the first season was criticised as being a mea culpa for the original show’s lack of diversity, with toe-curling scenes of pronoun misuse, they got it right with the new characters. ‘I often say that the city now actually looks like the city,’ says Parker, who remembers being something of a ‘fan girl’ on her first day with Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis. ‘They are such mighty women who, with all of their superstardom, are very grounded and real. They welcomed all of us with open arms.’

Karen Millen Nicole Ari Parker
©Karen Millen

If SATC centred around 30-something escapades, AJLT is about the ups and downs of 50-something womanhood. If that makes it sound like a slog, it’s not. In fact, it’s refreshing that the show focuses on the lives of middle-aged women. ‘A woman goes through many phases of her life, but there is a through line between 20 and 50, dealing with relationships, identity and personal, unresolved issues,’ says Parker. ‘The magic of this show is that it captures the universality of all the different things a woman goes through, regardless of age, race or personal belief.’ To put it another way: ‘Love and fashion terrorises us all,’ quips Parker.

And was she, if not terrified, then intimidated by the fashion? Because while she’s no stranger to well-dressed shows, appearing in three seasons of EmpireAJLT is another beast, where every fitting is like a private appointment at Bergdorf Goodman – and even the underwear not seen on camera is silk or lace. ‘It’s just a dream come true,’ says Parker. ‘There’s nothing on me that’s not the cost of my children’s tuition.’

Karen Millen Nicole Ari Parker
©Karen Millen

While life doesn’t always mirror art – ‘If I’m wearing a gorgeous dress by Valentino, my undergarments might be Target,’ she laughs – the joy of dressing up has followed her off-set. ‘I’ve always wanted to wear a party dress to the grocery store but never did. LTW has given me that permission,’ she says. The conscious decision to regard each day as special, and dress accordingly, is one that reminds her of Ghana, where she spends every Christmas, and the women who take pride in making an effort for the everyday. ‘They dress up all the time,’ she says.

With a personal style she describes as a ‘mash-up of danger and conservative’, Parker says getting older has taught her to let go of what other people think. ‘Most of us want to be “appropriate” in quotation marks. I think that you can decide what’s appropriate. That happens when you’re a grown-up.’

Something else that happens is that you regard each day as an opportunity to stand out. ‘I think fitting in and being taken seriously are big concerns historically for women. I have a really fabulous friend who dresses up every single day. Since doing the show, I’ve understood her impulse,’ says Parker, who admits that she used to consider it showing off to put on her regalia for a simple lunch. Her friend’s response? ‘What’s wrong with showing off?’

SHOP: Nicole Ari Parker's Edit For Karen Millen Icons

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Beaded Embellished Woven Mini Dress
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Natalie Hammond is Grazia’s Senior Fashion News Editor. She loves winter, hates summer and can often be found writing about the weather (and what on earth to wear).

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