IN Interviews : Penelope and Coco


On a quest to define an individual style brand, Penelope and Coco is tapping into every women’s infashuations with footwear. If every woman had a personal alter ego, what would it look like? Many have spoke of, sophisticated, flashy, fashion-forward, divaesque, and bold-sexy women for quite a while. Today’s modern-day woman is immensely different. In addition to a lady-like etiquette, today’s women are jet-setters, hard-working businesswomen, and very competitive. They also desire soft, durable items that show wear and tear and possess longevity. Their personal possessions and technology are always at their fingertips and they are more likely to take interest to items, which resemble them or at least what they want to be.

Marisa Spinella, cordwainer behind the Penelope and Coco brand, has created a collection lookbook titled, “Meet the Girls,” that speaks to women that are always on the go. Penelope and Coco is proving that Avant-garde fashion is attainable without being uncomfortable (for example, fashion elitists sometimes frown upon flat  shoes).

Penelope and Coco’s spring/summer collection is surely going to change this misconception. The label is creating classic, masculine combat boot-shaped footwear with studs. The usage of soft, pliable leathers help to tell a feminine story rather than some military spiel. And each pair of shoes in the collection tells a different story. Whether adorned with studs, covered in sequins, or decorated in a zebra print, each shoe results in a mixture of strong craft and a soft suppleness. These are the definitive equations for Penelope and Coco.


What is your weirdest & most helpful fashion tip, when it comes to footwear? Hmmm … I always carry about three pairs of shoes in my car at all times—I’m not sure if that’s much of a tip but it definitely saves my life 90% of the time!

What are the oldest pair of shoes you own? I actually don’t own too many old pairs of shoes besides a few of my favorite vintage oxfords and boots.  I have a tendency to give things away or sell them!

Do you dress according to your shoes or vice versa ? One of the things I really love about fashion is that it is constantly moving and can vary from day-to-day depending on a person’s mood. Usually my mood determines whether my day is spent in boots, flats, heels, wedges, etc. … so, I suppose I do dress from my shoes up.

What does a shoe say about a woman? A shoe can certainly say a lot about a woman and her style.  It can easily reflect her personality and how she carries herself.  Whether a woman is in a pair of boots, a pair of stilettos, or even running shoes, it is all about the way she wears them!

How did Penelope & Coco start? Penelope and Coco rooted from my passion for shoes and the business behind it. Penelope stems from my feminine side—a side that loves a perfect vintage piece and finds the beauty in anything unusual. Coco comes from a more masculine and eccentric side—having a nonchalant attitude and messy (I just rolled out of bed, but my hair is flawless) type style.  These two personas are intertwined during the design process to create a pair of shoes that find that perfect balance of masculine and feminine style.


What footwear is Marisa Spinella wearing these days, and why? When I find a pair of shoes that I really love, I definitely love them to death!  I found these vintage black ankle boots that look like distressed/worn somewhat manly hiking boots (my boyfriend HATES them), I can’t seem to take them off! Of course I’m always wearing our boots as well—they go with everything! I also love my oxfords and wedges … [the] perfect combination of comfort and style.

How does Penelope and Coco keep reinventing new footwear and stay true to a look and aesthetic? We are always aware of current trends, styles, other designers, etc.  For us, it is about understanding a trend but always staying true to our style and trusting our own judgment in the execution. Keeping true to our essence keeps us current.

How much does one shoe go hand and hand with ones profession? I think a person’s shoe (like anything else they put on in the morning) is an extension of them and certainly a daily expression. We believe in doing what you love as your profession so the two will always be an expression of whatever is uniquely you.

As time becomes more scarce, do you see intricate and intolerable high-end footwear changing or staying the same? (Is it already changing)? I definitely see a shift towards more comfortable and wearable styles from higher-end footwear designers. Consumers are definitely playing it a little safer these days, but quality and uniqueness will always take high-priority for consumers, regardless of times.


Which actress, musician, artist, career women, etc. most embodies the Penelope and Coco image? Any woman that isn’t afraid to wear something unusual and exudes confidence is perfect for Penelope and Coco. Our girl has to be a little quirky, eccentric, and beyond fashion's latest trend.  She also understands and values quality and craftsmanship. Our shoes are all handmade here in LA—the details and love that goes into each pair is unbelievable!

Styles we love: Chloe Sevigny, the Olsen’s, Alexa Chung, Emma Watson, and Kate Moss!

Describe one of Penelope & Coco's most embarrassing shoe stories? The first time we ever wore our boots out, we were overwhelmed with comments … people literally stopping to ask where we got them. We were a bit caught off guard and I think our reactions were the most embarrassing. We just could not compose ourselves and were ridiculously giddy. “Oh, these shoes? We make them, their ours!” Thank God, we are more prepared these days and act a little more put together if you will …

Future projects, anything to look forward to? We will be introducing [two to three] new styles for the classic collection Spring 2011 soon!  We will also be unveiling our three newest styles (not boots) for holiday!

-- Special thanks Marisa Spinella and Arielle Vavasseur from Penelope & Coco. All images supplied by Penelope and Coco. Interview by James Buford, and edited by Alicia Fairclough for Infashuated © 2010.