Breakfast With Penelope Chilvers
After searching high and low for the perfect pair of riding boots, Penelope Chilvers decided to create her own, launching her highly successful shoe business. With a background in interior and product design, Penelope developed a passion for beautifully crafted footwear and never looked back. With a loyal following including Alexa Chung, Cate Blanchett and the Duchess of Cambridge, Penelope Chilvers has become a staple for stylish women everywhere.
In an exclusive interview with Bicester Village, Penelope gives us an insight into her design world, sharing the stories behind her most iconic pieces…
You originally trained as a painter, has this experience influenced your designs in any way?
I had a fine art education and left school thinking I wanted to be a painter or an artist rather then a commercial designer. The teaching I received was probably the best kind of training for anything in the creative industry. It taught me the fundamentals of craftsmanship, which has been an important factor for me in my business. I draw all the styles myself freehand in order to understand the pattern and scale of the shoe. I have a sketchbook which I take everywhere to keep all my ideas with me, starting with a new one each season.
Have your childhood memories played an important role in your work?
I’m sure nostalgia comes into my designs. Nostalgia turns design into something loveable as you can think back and remember a specific period in your life. I will always remember the way my mother used to wear her platforms in the 70s with her corduroy flares.
Spain has been a big part of your life, do you think this has had an impact on your business?
I’ve lived in Spain for ten years, and my children are half Spanish – it’s my second home. I’m very lucky to be able to always go back there due to the nature of my business – I make everything in Spain. It is definitely a huge inspiration to the way I work.
What was the inspiration behind your Autumn/Winter collection?
Bridlery, saddlery and equestrian footwear has always been at the heart of my designs, although not every pair of shoes is equestrian.
How do you balance comfort with creativity?
It goes without saying that if you make a well-made pair of shoes or boots they have to be practical. So I endeavour to make every pair as comfortable as possible.
Where did you get your idea for the Jungle Boots?
The Autumn/Winter range was inspired by a trip to Botswana. I learnt about the whole industry of Safari, which was my inspiration, but I also learnt how important it was for the future of the African landscape. That then became my subject for the season.
Predominantly you design boots and shoes for women – have you ever thought of creating a menswear range?
Yes – I’m dying to get into menswear! I do a little bit already and the inspirations behind a lot of my styles have been stolen from menswear. A lot of my styles are androgynous but I would love to create a dedicated range for men.
Can you describe the Penelope Chilvers woman?
I see someone with an active and adventurous lifestyle. My footwear range is designed for going out and doing things – it’s purposeful. I always hope the range will inspire customers to be active, be it après ski, safari or getting out for a walk in the countryside. It’s not about putting them in your cupboard in a dust bag, it’s about getting them dirty and wearing them until they have holes in them!
What’s next for the brand?
For the summer we have created a really beautiful range of espadrilles, which have been inspired from all the old espadrilles shops I used to go in when I was child. There will be range of both leather and canvas espadrilles.