Some salons offering custom services are thelast word in luxury, but Penelope Chilvers’ looks like what it is – a workingstudio. At the far end of Ladbroke Grove (so an appointment-only destination),it is where she designs her idiosyncratic and distinctive range of footwear, from Chelsea boots with neon elastic to daily-wear espadrilles in rich shadesof velvet. All these are made in small, artisan factories that Chilvers has helpedto revive in a village not far from Barcelona. She has been selling customisedslippers online for a year, but renewed fashion interest in the slim-legknee boot has brought her true made-to-measure pieces into focus.
Chilvers says her studio is the “force ofthe business”. Clients who visit enjoy seeing designs and prototypesat various stages, so appointments can be leisurely and, she says, “thefridge is well stocked with champagne”. Her signature piece, the Long Tassel boot (pictured), is afavourite with some very famous legs. It is tall, slender and low-heeled with a pinked cockade top and tassel and contrast trim atthe top, down the back and heel. There is a choice of four leathers and nine well-toned colours. Though many clients opt for the traditional, chestnut-brown, vegetable-dyed Spanish leather with a subtle trim, she is experimentingwith accents in stingray- or crocodile-effect and patent.
The crucial point with such a finely cut item of footwear isfit, especially height. It must come at exactly the right point in relation tothe knee, says Chilvers, to look good and feel comfortable. To ensure a closefit, the client is measured at calf, ankle and foot; some find commercial knee boots too broad in the leg and others need alittle more calf room. The boots have a welt-stitched Goodyear sole,which Chilvers regards as the best and most comfortable. The finished items are ready after four to six weeks, cost from £675 and are, she says, “handcrafted in the same way astraditional Spanish riding boots” – even if the only estancias they willever see are the property estates of Mayfair.