PARIS — Penélope Cruz has landed a new role: as the face of Spanish leather goods firm Loewe, WWD has learned.

The “Vicky Christina Barcelona” star has signed a three-year deal with the Madrid-based house, founded in 1846 and owned since 1996 by French luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. It kicks off with her appearance in the spring 2013 advertising campaign, to be shot soon by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott and break in international magazines in January.

This story first appeared in the November 12, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Penelope is Spain’s most famous woman. For us to collaborate feels right and natural,” said Stuart Vevers, Loewe’s British-born creative director.

The actress has already impacted Vevers’ collections, which are presented in Paris.

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“I always start with the woman and a character. I find film very useful as a fictional character can be liberating creatively,” he explained. “Pedro Almodóvar’s work is a constant reference and Penelope’s characters in his films have often been an inspiration — the strength and complexity they have. I am a big fan of Penélope’s work.”

Loewe chief executive officer Lisa Montague said Cruz’s fame would help power the brand as it continues its push into new markets.

Next year, Loewe plans to open its first boutique in Italy — in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna — along with a flagship store on Nanjing Road West in Shanghai. Also, its Paris flagship on Avenue Montaigne is to be refurbished and will reopen next spring.

“Working with an Oscar-winning actress with international recognition will be impactful,” Montague said. “I see it as a major step forward.”

While she declined to quantify media budgets, Montague said, “We are looking at how we can optimize investments.”

At present, Loewe runs campaigns in its main markets: Japan, where it has about 40 directly operated boutiques or shops-in shop; Spain, where there are 22 stores, and China, Asia-Pacific, the U.K. and France.

The current fall campaign features five notable Spaniards from the worlds of film, modeling, art and music.

Montague and Vevers characterized the choice of Cruz as a continuation of the theme, rather than playing the fame game. “It was specifically Penelope we wanted, rather than working with a celebrity,” Montague said.

“The things that I’m drawn to in the Spanish women I know is a bold attitude and that feels unique to Spain, a strong feeling of sensuality and passion,” Vevers said.

Cruz has been involved with several fashion brands in recent years. She and her sister Mónica Cruz are collaborating with Agent Provocateur on its first diffusion line, and the sister act once did a line for Spanish chain Mango. She has also appeared in ads for Ralph Lauren and L’Oréal.

Despite a morose economic climate in Spain, Montague said Loewe “enjoyed good progress” this year and she said its largest store in the world — a 7,000-square-foot unit in Barcelona that opened last March — has been “absolutely super well received.

“There aren’t many good-news stories coming out of Spain and so people in Spain and outside of Spain are really pleased to hear one,” she said.