Sweethearts of the Rodeo

Way back when, we used to work in the Fashion Department of Vogue with Charlotte Pilcher and Vanessa Gillingham.  As Fashion Editors, they were always extremely stylish in a classic but definitely non-trad way.  They dressed individually, taking elements of the current fashion whilst making them all their very own.  When they left, Vanessa became Fashion Director at Glamour for 10 years and both were consultants for top fashion and accessories brands whilst also working with celebrity clients. After spending some years searching for the perfect boots, they decided to set up a company and design them themselves.  Called Sweethearts of the Rodeotheir mission was to make boots that were understated, insouciant and timeless, made out of the finest leather in Tuscany, handcrafted by skilled Italian craftsmen. You can judge the results for yourselves but we think you’ll agree that whilst they might be an investment, these are boots to love and wear for life.

How did you come up with the idea for Sweethearts of the Rodeo?

CP: I have always been a shoe and boot lover. After 18 years at Vogue and being a creative consultant, I had a deep-seated urge to create the kind of boots that I wanted to buy but couldn’t find all in one place. I felt that there was a gap in the market for boots of uncompromising quality and design integrity. Boots that aren’t one hit wonders but for women of style, not women of fashion. Boots that are inspired by the way men buy their shoes: to love for a lifetime and become your timeless classics, boots for the connoisseur with a sprinkling of rock’n’roll. 

Why did you choose Vanessa as your partner?

Vanessa and I worked together at Vogue in the Fashion department and have been long standing friends. We shared a vision, boot addiction, and are mothers collectively to 5 boys! We knew we would enjoy working together, learning and doing everything together with this start up. It has been a wonderful ride and rewarding journey so far. With a lot of funny stories …   

What has been the most surprising part of the business so far? 

Getting the boots made from beginning to end, and not just talking about it but actually realising it, is totally another thing. If you thought about quite how difficult it would be to do, you’d never start!  Of course, both of us being fundamentally creatives, image makers, and stylists, the conceptual, design and image making parts of the process have been perhaps the easiest.  Grappling with others such as building an e-comm website, learning about logistics, tax etc has proved in many ways the most satisfying as we’ve been out of our comfort zones but learning a massive amount.  Ultimately, it’s been incredibly fulfilling to achieve our original vision.  The most uplifting moment was when the very first pair of boots sold on the first day the site went live – a pair of liquid gold Grams (below)! And one customer, a day later buying two pairs of Quakers in different colours, they loved them so much. 

And the most difficult? 

Working out how to use an excel spread sheet!  And the very first shipment coming from the factory in Italy: the lorry had its tarpaulin side slashed when the driver was on his sleep break.  Thankfully nothing was stolen, I suspect they were looking for fags, booze and trainers. We were horrified!

Which are your favourite places in London for eating and drinking?

CP: Endo I nearly had to sell a kidney for the experience, but it was totally worth it. My husband booked it for a birthday treat.  It describes itself as ‘Sushi in the clouds, where the sea meets the sky and it’s the newly opened 16 seat restaurant designed by Kengo Kuma, at the top of the redeveloped BBC television centre in White City.  The Rotunda is the realisation of a lifelong dream for Endo, a third generation Japanese sushi master, who had watched the masterful cutting techniques of his grandfather, who also instilled the passion and values of his cuisine. He uses only ethically sourced fish from independent fishermen, with whom Endo himself has built personal relationships with over the years in Scotland, Cornwall and France. It is the most wonderful experience of theatre meets taste bud treat.

The Havelock pub.  A short walk for those Sundays when I can’t be bothered to cook lunch.

Dehesa in Soho for tapas.  Always good and quick.  

VG: The River Café, because the staff feel very handpicked, always remember you, and are the most professional and friendly of any restaurant. It never disappoints with delicious fresh fish, and ingredients and it is the one place I always have three courses!.  That and drinking a delicious glass of red wine in my new home with all of my boys, in front of the fire.

Who are your 3 top IG accounts that you follow?

CP:@twistedknits2014 it is the Instagram of my late friend Jessica Berens, who always had a unique sense of black humour and thankfully it is still up, so we can still enjoy her fabulous take on life.

@duroolowu as a designer and curator his Instagram is a great gallery of art, fashion, music, jewellery, and all the good stuff.

@policedoghogan my husband’s Americana band, which is for discerning lovers of folk and country. 

@hamishbowles my great friend, so I can keep up with where the hell he is in the world and try not to be too envious as I see one beautiful location after another.

VG: @henitalks award winning documentaries which reveal the stories of art and art history. 

@8hollandstreet for great interiors curated by Tobias Vernon, who has fabulous taste, and his shop still a little known secret in Kensington.

Which 3 fashion shops (including online) do you most buy from?

CP: Sacai, for being masters of their craft, subverting traditional designs and materials with radical experimentation, mixing up traditional fabrics in an interesting way without making you look like a street style blogger.

Holland and Holland, as I love what Stella Tenant and Isabella Cawdor are doing with the brand.  Traditional English country wear injected with their much-needed contemporary sensibility.

Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, as I love Justin and Thea’s effortlessly modern, deconstructed London cool, dresses, soft suits, oversized tailoring and prints.

VG: “I haven’t been into a shop for 3 months as have had no time what with launching the brand and renovating my house, so it’s all about interiors for me at the moment, but when I do indulge, it is MATCHESFASHION, Dover Street Market and Uniqlo.

What items are on your Xmas wishlist?

CP: Frederic Malle Iris Poudre scent (below), Santa Maria terracotta pomegranate room fragrance and more Jubilee Celebration roses from David Austin.

VG: A Duro Olowu dress, a new Visprung superking bed, and of course a pair of our boots!” I heard a great quote from a friends grandmother…”Never skimp on beds or boots, if you’re not in one, you’re in the other” 

Sweethearts of the Rodeo champions longevity over quick one-season fashion fixes – which items in your wardrobe have you worn the most?

CP: Celine (I think Phoebe Philo first collection for Celine 2009) sleeveless trench coat,/dress, which I wear in Winter and Summer, and still love.  Scanlon and Theodore low crotch jeans. A beautiful black and white herringbone thick cashmere coat from Egg, given to me some Christmas’s ago by my husband. 

VG: J Crew cashmere v neck sweaters, which never pill, and bobble and the moths don’t like, and vintage finds from over the years that never date.

You haven’t changed a bit – please tell us your beauty secrets! 

CP: Try to drink water, and I know I should drink more, I am a virgin in terms of injections, fillers, botox, knives etc, (maybe too late now) but I use Sensai bronzing gel (incredibly light) which is so much better than ageing foundation, however light and non-cakey, they say it is. Charlotte Tilbury, her ‘wonderglow’ facial primer cream, Nars, ‘orgasm’ Illuminator cream, Chanel lipsticks and a sucker for a lipgloss! 

VG: I take day and night Lumity supplements, use Environ skincare, I don’t smoke, and I love having Yvonne Martin facials.   


If you want to try on the boots in person, don’t miss Sweethearts of the Rodeo at the Pop Up Sale curated by Fiona Golfer and Jayne Pickering.  Held from 11am – 6pm on Sunday 1st and Monday 2nd December at 119b Portland Road, W11 4LN.

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