This week we are shining a light on another one of our incredible local business neighbours, this time in Notting Hill. Designer footwear and accessories brand Penelope Chilvers is a favourite of Kate Middleton and the Countess of Wessex and bodies the term “seasonless style” with her products that never waver in their popularity, no matter the year or season. Championing artesian craft, heritage and all things English, we sit down with the designer to talk about everything from craft, tradition and sustainability.

Born and raised in England,  Penelope Chilvers studied painting at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London before receiving a scholarship from the Spanish Ministry of Culture to pursue an MA at Complutense University in Madrid.

Her passion for Spanish traditional craftsmanship began from an early age after spending every school break as a child in Girona, where she first discovered rustic, handcrafted alpargatas. Since then, she’s been striving to recreate the ideal raw-edged, bullhide moccasin, a vision she recalls from her childhood memory, additionally to developing a range of eclectic vibrant styles from trainers, loafers and even heels which sit alongside her iconic pieces, like the designers renowned “Long Tassel Boot”.

 

 

Penelope worked as a painter and designer in Barcelona for a number of years, collaborating with other artists and artisans. She collaborated with woodturners, created textile designs, and worked on unique projects such as the renovation of the Picasso Museum. During her time in Barcelona, she enjoyed riding in the national park of Collserola in the hills above the city during her lunch break, dressed in traditional Spanish riding boots which she so loves.

She pursued her goal of introducing the Spanish riding boot to England by commissioning a small group of traditional craftspeople in the Spanish hills to create the ultimate equestrian boot – our Long Tassel boot – according to her specifications. This boot is a strong favourite in the range, having been worn by Prince William’s then-girlfriend, Kate Middleton, in 2004. Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, has continued to wear her boots to royal engagements over the many years, most recently in County Durham to visit Manor Farm.

The designer continues to work with small local businesses and traditional craftspeople, valuing these specialist skills as a core part of the brand’s identity. Today, Penelope works closely with her stylist daughter Gemma on maintaining PC’s effortless chic, expanding across a range of categories from trainers to handbags and even slippers.

Read below for our exclusive interview with Penelope Chilvers herself.

1. As our neighbours here in Notting Hill, what are your favourite places to grab a coffee, go for post-work drinks, or simply go for a walk?
Ottolenghi which is opposite to our Ledbury Road store for coffee/breakfast and lunch, The Gold for drinks & Dinner and a walk down Portobello Market on a Friday in search of inspiration!

2. Much like us here at PAOLITA, you place real importance on quality artesian craft. Tell us about your passion for preserving these rare techniques and why this is such an integral aspect of your brand?
Our whole brand was inspired by the noble leathers of Spain, and the master craftsmen and women who’ve worked with them for generations. It’s an incredible skill and a partnership we’ve built on over 20 years now, and definitely one that’s integral, as without our Spanish artisans there would be no PC!

3. In a world where brands often aim for speed, what are the key benefits you find in partnering with these small family-run factories and workshops?
Skills! We simply wouldn’t be able to create the designs we do without the skills of the studios and factories we work with. PC has never been about speed, it’s about carefully crafted slow fashion and that will never change. Our Long Tassel Boot takes two days to make with 70 touchpoints.

4. At PAOLITA, we are incredibly passionate about environmental progress within the fashion industry, tell us about your sustainability development as a brand?
Well, we’ve always believed that for something to be well made, it needs to be made well; this means using skilled artisans, working in ethical conditions, with the best possible materials. That has always been our mantra.

We’ve never used any plastic packaging and continue to develop more sustainable initiatives alongside our factories & tanneries – looking at the latest innovations in vegetable dyes and transport etc. For us it was always a cornerstone of the businesses and it will always be a point of growth too!

5. Where do you gain your inspiration from?
Travel is a huge source of inspiration for me. I love learning about different and local artisan techniques.

6. What makes a great British heritage brand?
I think a classic, timeless aesthetic is key. We feel great pride when customers, like the Duchess of Cambridge, return to our boots time and time again over so many years. A classic style that really lasts.

7. How do you ensure that your collections retain both utility and style?
This is where production is so important to us. We work with the best materials and the best artisans who understand how to balance strong leathers, with utilitarian designs and signature features, like our Goodyear welt soles – which are long-lasting, replaceable, ensuring comfort as well as style!

8. Throughout the pandemic, people really took to the outdoors as a way of escaping the monotony of various lockdowns. Did this reflect itself in a demand for any particular styles of yours?
Our boots are super versatile and so lots of our customers style them in the city and the countryside – but we definitely saw an uplift in our slippers during lockdown!