Born and raised in England, Penelope originally trained as a painter at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London, and was granted a scholarship from the Spanish Ministry of Culture, to complete an MA at Complutense University in Madrid.
Her love affair with Spain and local craftsmanship began long before. As a child she spent every school holiday in the province of Girona where she first came across rustic, handmade alpargatas. She has been trying to make the perfect raw edged, bullhide moccasin that only exists in her childhood memories ever since!)
Penelope lived for a few years in the city of Barcelona, as a painter and designer where she collaborated with artists and artisans. She worked with wood turners, designed for the textile industry and worked on interesting projects eg. the Restoration of the Picasso Museum.
Whilst riding with friends in Spain, she wore traditional Spanish riding boots, and saw their potential to be worn not only on horseback, but also as a fashion boot.
She continued to pursue the idea of bringing the Spanish Riding boot to England, unearthing a small number of traditional artisans in the hills of Spain and commissioned them to make the perfect equestrian boot, to her own specifications, that is still a firm staple in her collection. This boot has received extensive attention since it was worn by Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.
In the first months she sold over 100 pairs to a fashion boutique in Notting Hill, called The Cross. This was quite remarkable for such a tiny shop, and from that moment on, she got to work, designing her first comprehensive collection for launch at Paris Fashion Week seven years ago.
The collections have since grown to include some iconic styles, such as the Impossible Boot, the Intrepid, both highly sought after urban snow boots, and a solid offer of Goodyear leather-soled outdoor boots for autumn.
Chilvers is fast becoming recognised as a specialist for her Dandy slipper, made to the most exacting standards on the market. Her bespoke online service, and its design led offer, is unique in every way. So named the Dandy because of its flamboyant feel, and inspired by the decadent 70s aesthetes who fled to North Africa to absorb themselves in the lavish and beautiful things that they discovered there, now available for men and women.
For summer, Penelope Chilvers’ staple is a collection of authentically made leather espadrilles incorporating the traditional Catalan methods of espadrille making using natural jute and hand-sewn construction.
Her designs can be purchased directly from the Penelope Chilvers online boutique, and from fashion stores and boutiques in over 17 countries worldwide including Selfridges, Liberty and Harrods in London.
Embracing fashion but not conforming to the idea of a throwaway wardrobe, Penelope Chilvers designs accessories to fall in love – and stay in love - with. Combining a modern, fashionable edge with lasting style, these are timeless pieces, made to last, that work seamlessly with this season’s trends
The brand has an avid following of sophisticated women who know instinctively how to make fashion work for them; Alexa Chung, Cate Blanchett, Claudia Schiffer, Jemima Khan, Pixie Lott, Rebecca Hall and Erin Wasson to name but a few.
Penelope Chilvers is featured regularly in Vogue, Grazia, Harpers Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, The Times, How to Spend it (FT) the Independent, Lucky (US) etc
Penelope insists on using 100% natural materials of the highest quality – her shoeboxes are handmade, and some are hand printed for her.
Her passion in local sourcing and protecting local industry is what keeps her style so authentic.
“I have been fortunate to meet wonderful people with rare skills; some of which are dying away. I have learnt from the best and worked closely with local artisans that have taught me my trade.”
She endeavours to source each component of every product, which is crafted by hand, using traditional methods, ensuring the durability of each shoe made for her label.
Penelope gives utmost importance to building long-lasting relationships, with her factories and suppliers and fair wages and good working conditions are a minimum requirement.
Traditional techniques in leather are nurtured and continue to inspire. “It’s about going with the grain and not against it," she says, “and when it comes to leather, I like to enhance its natural texture, and imperfections - nothing is uniform - each piece is unique and only improves with age."