We were lucky enough to use the boots and workshop of Pendragon Shoes for our Indian Flower collection photoshoot. A big thanks to Owners and Shoemakers, Jackie and Adrian for answering our questions so beautifully.
Please Introduce yourselves briefly and let our followers know what you do at Pendragon.
We started in Brisbane in 1987 at the medieval fare and later became regulars at Riverside markets. We worked from Adrian’s house back then for many years. He had a great old workers cottage in Windsor that he restored back from its ugly 1970s green walls and orange shagpile. From 1993-1998 we had an amazing studio/shop space above the old Elizabeth Arcade in the city. In 2000 Jackie bought an old 60s beach house in Maroochydore with her husband Russell and we started doing Eumundi markets. Adrian moved up after Jackie’s first child was born and we moved the whole workshop to a shed in Jackie’s huge backyard. We’ve been there ever since, although the shed has seen some extensions and beautification. It’s surrounded by gardens and filled with treasures and is only a stone’s throw from Maroochydore beach. Adrian bought a great old timber house, known as the Pirate Ship, 700 metres up the road. (He still drives to work!) It’s great working from home, as we’re still connected with the world of course through our online presence. Both of our houses feature in the “Indian Flower” photo shoot and video.
We featured your amazing Button Boots in our location shoot. What inspires your shoe designs? What are your favourite styles for Winter?
We have always been inspired to make shoes with a story. Being self-taught shoemakers, we didn’t really have any rules to break so we just developed our own styles and techniques from the get-go. Inspirations come from historical influences, children’s story books, nature and our own pretty wild imaginations. We’ve been making button boots like those featured in the Indian Flower shoot for a few years now in various colours and heel heights. The rustic brown ones are a definite favourite with our customers, and are super comfy. They are made to measure from hand-dyed leather. I’ve been wearing mine for years – they have been patched a few times (where my dog chewed them up!) and from wearing them to death. Good boots can be repaired many times. We don’t make boots to be thrown away after a season. You can find the button boots here.
You have worked on some very high profile theatre productions and movies, like the 2003 movie Peter Pan, and have also been featured in international fashion magazines like Vogue Italia. How did these opportunities come about and how was it designing for/ or seeing your shoes in these contexts?
Very early on we were approached by the Queensland Opera to make boots for the stage. We were always keen to take on challenges and very much learnt on the job. With no shoemaking schools in Queensland and no other shoemakers to ask advice from around our area, we pretty much worked it all out ourselves. Looking back, we were pretty resilient and determined. Over the years we’ve made shoes and boots for many theatre, opera and ballet performances as well as a few movies. Peter Pan in 2003 was our biggest commission and our absolute favourite job ever. It was right up our alley with pirates and fairies to design and make shoes for. We made over 30 pairs for them although many of the scenes with the fairies didn’t make it to the final cut. My kids love that film and always point out the boots we made. We still get a kick out of seeing them on screen.
In 2009 we received a random email from the New York stylist Karl Templer’s assistant. She had googled “Victorian Boots” and we had popped up on her computer, all the way from a backyard studio in Maroochydore. She asked us about making a series of boots for an Italian Vogue photostory in the September issue. It would be photographed by the iconic Steven Meisel and would feature clothes by Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen and hats by Stephen Jones. We had about 10 days to make 9 pairs of boots which would be express couriered to the New York shoot. They emailed us a mood board of colours and told us to think Dickensian and broken-down opulence. We work well under pressure. Adrian remembered some antique documents his mother had collected in London years ago - handwritten on vellum (leather) in the late 1700s. These would make the basis of our inspiration. Using patches of velvets, braids, tapestries, and leather with iron-on transfers of the old documents, we cobbled together some of our best work. The boots we designed and made in that intense week still inform a lot of our work today although now we use digital printers to print the script on the leather.
It was such a buzz for us when the magazine finally came out. In terms of publicity, not much came from it, but for us, it was an incredible experience and catalyst for new work.
Captain Hook from Peter Pan (2003) wearing custom made Pendragon Shoes.
Captain Hook from Peter Pan (2003) wearing custom made Pendragon Shoes.
Custom made Pendragon shoes for Italian Vogue.
What do you love most about designing and making shoes?
We love to tell a story when designing and making shoes. Our workshop is filled with inspiration. We have lots of books, old library filing drawers filled with buckles, braids, patterns and tools, and lots of shoe lasts (moulds), old machines, leather and fabrics. We don’t tend to design seasonally. Because we sell our shoes all over the world from our website, it is always warm or cold somewhere. We start with an idea that can come from anywhere…sometimes from the boots we just finished…thinking how that design could go further, or from a leaf or a character in a book. We love it when someone gives us a commission to come up with a one-off design for a costume, wedding or everyday wear. We will talk personally with the customer, discussing the details and colours, even if they’re on the other side of the world. They will often have to measure their own feet and mail us the foot drawings. This is the first process and, touch wood, they seem to always fit in the end.
How are you both finding joy while we stay at home at the moment?
Funnily enough, not much has changed for us really. I work from home anyway and my husband is still working. Adrian still comes to my house every day to work. We are a lot quieter though, where people would normally wait a couple of months for their orders, now, it’s only 2 or 3 weeks. We usually supplement our online orders with stalls at festivals and teaching sandal, shoe and boot making classes. We were gearing up for a stall at Bluesfest which is always great for orders and sales as well as being lots of fun. With these other activities all being cancelled for the foreseeable future, we hope the orders keep coming in from the world wide web. On the bright side, we do have time to design some new special pieces and hopefully do a new range of bags and other accessories. It’s nice to have a breather….as long as it doesn’t go on too long!
Jackie and Adrian are just incredibly talented people and mind-blowingly humble about their many achievements. I have had the privilege of knowing these two creatives for many years as we worked alongside each other at the Eumundi markets and the Woodford Folk Festival. Jackie and Adrian have such a unique approach to designing and making shoes, and so much love and care goes into every pair. At Boom Shankar we are all in awe of their sensational creations and we encourage you to visit their website to see the breadth of their talents. Jackie and Adrian are also amazing collectors so their homes and creative spaces are enchanting treasure troves and we are so grateful to them for inviting us in to photograph our Winter collections.
I am sure you will love their marvellous creations as much as we do!
Big Love, Big Life
You can shop the Pendragon Shoes Ready to Wear range here. If you'd like a pair Made to Order, you can shop here. Pendragon Shoes also have Gifts and Accessories as well as Shoemaking Workshop which are incredible! You shop those here.
Jackie and Adrian, Shoemakers and Owners of Pendragon Shoes.
Here are some of our favourite shots from our Indian Flower shoot at the Pendragon workshop. Enjoy xx