The final installment of The Crown hits Netflix on Dec. 14, and the teasers have promised fans of the show a chance to relive the romance of Kate Middleton and Prince William. But while their meet-cute story is all well and good, the fashion set will likely be most interested in the Duchess’ style moments recreated for the silver screen. Indeed, much like the late Princess Diana’s wardrobe, Middleton’s sartorial choices have become the stuff of legends, with her timelessly chic looks fascinating on-lookers around the world. In particular, her footwear seems to be a point of interest; her stamp of approval is the Midas touch for many brands. Just ask Penelope Chilvers, founder of the eponymous label behind Middleton’s go-to riding boots, which will also be prominently featured in the final episodes of The Crown.
Chilvers recalls Middleton and her mother popping into her London shop in 2004 (when the future royal was still dating Prince William), just a year after the brand launched, and picking up a pair of the now best-selling Long Tassel Boots in the rich brown Conker shade. The classic knee-length design is a beauty to be sure, made of sustainably sourced Spanish leather and cut close to the ankle for “a more feminine fit.” The subtle scallop detail at the opening and playful leather tassel on the zipper pull add interest without making the boot overtly trendy.
While Middleton was photographed at several events in the boots, it wasn’t until some six years after this fateful purchase that the owner would feel the impact of the royal touch. “When Prince William and her got engaged, the photo that the press seemed to love more than any other was a picture of her sitting on a stool wearing a short tweed Twinset suit and our boots, and that image just went viral,” Chilvers recalls of the pair’s 2010 engagement news. “Here was this beautiful, new princess, but suddenly she was the darling of the world. And there she was, wearing the boots. That image was on the front cover of every other publication in seconds. And of course, I sold out.”
The thing about the Princess of Wales is that she’s very loyal to the pieces that most resonate with her personal style. When she loves a particular piece she sticks with it for years, which is why Middleton is still photographed in the sturdy brown riding boots to this day — and why the silhouette remains a best-seller year after year for the decades-old company. “Those are the boots that she's been most photographed in,” says Chilvers, crediting the style’s classic country chic look and elongated leg for keeping the princess’ attention after all these years. “I admire her for being one of the first people in such a limelight that was brave enough to not wear new product all the time. She polishes them. She's been wearing them for a long time and they look like old friends.”
The shoe designer says she was “delighted” when she got the call from The Crown’s producers requesting to feature her shoes on the show. “I'd prefer them to be wearing the real boots rather than some copy or any other brand!” she says. With the series airing in less than a week, Chilvers is more than ready and stocked up for the next surge in requests for the tasseled boot that she calls the “kingpin” of her collection. “It was the first boot I ever made,” she says. “[Since then,] I've designed many other boots in that family. So we offer it in three different calf measurements. [And there’s a] waterproof version, which is called the Inclement, that is waterproof for up to 20 hours when submerged.”
While boots may be the star of the show, Chilvers roster of additional footwear — which now spans clogs, sandals, loafers, and more — is not to be ignored. Made of natural, sustainable materials, her designs are meant to stand the test of time (as we’ve learned from her most prominent client), and are often inspired by the founder’s travels. “The collaboration I'm working with at the moment is with the most amazing group of hotels and safari camps in Rajasthan in Northern India,” says Chilvers. “And so we have created a boot and a smoking slipper where a percentage of sales will go to the conservation of the tiger, the Indian tiger, which is an endangered species [...] So travel is a big inspiration. But these slippers are really something else. They'll photograph very well.”
Did you hear that Kate? Looks like there’s another new shoe to put in rotation.