Back when I visited Paris this summer it was recommended to me by Justin Fitzpatrick, The Shoe Snob, to stop by a new French shoe brand called Septieme Largeur (Seventh Width). At first I was apprehensive, as I do not care much for the French shoe silhouette (but that is not to say there are not quality French shoes out there). But, given the expertise of Mr. Fitzpatrick I decided to trust his judgement and I am glad I did.
What Septieme Largeur tries to do, and it does do it well, is to combine the best of two worlds; to create a synergy if you will. It takes the traditional English shoe and adds a very subtle dose of French influence to it (which is among other things a slightly more pointed toe). Normally I don’t care for the french shoe aesthetic, but this watered down version I love.
Septieme Largeur was started in 2010 and is based out of its store front in Paris at 59 Rue Saint Lazare in the 9th Arrondissement. It is run by an uncle and nephew duo of Marcos Fernandez and Mathieu Priess. Marcos has considerable experience in the shoe industry, he was the president and designer at Bowen and Emling, among other things.
Its history is intertwined with that of another French shoe brand, Markowski. At one point a few years back the duo was working together at Markowski, which is that Marcos created few years prior. Although they were happy with the Markowski products they also desired a different shoe than Markowski was offering, they wanted something with more flare. So they searched for a suitable maker and decided on a great factory in Spain that would be able to fulfill their desires. What was created was an Oxford shoe, the Gedéon, and it was in a raw leather. Mathieu patinated the shoe himself to a dark blue with help from his uncle (a patina is a coloring technique in which an artist can apply different colors to the leather creating a more dynamic and artistic aesthetic, but more on that another time). As more people saw and desired the shoe Mathieu and Marcos realized there was an void in the marketplace, thus Septieme Largeur was born.
A full range of shoe styles and colors is offered; oxfords, bluchers, loafers, saddles and monkstraps in black, brown and a reddish brown (similar to oxblood/burgundy). And not to mention they just started working with cordovan. They also work with unique and limited edition leathers they find. The shoes they use for these are not their normal offerings but shoes that are specifically designed to go with the special leathers. The most unique thing Septieme Largeur offers is custom patinas. That is, they take a shoe of raw uncolored leather and paint it to whatever color the customer wants (see the pictures below). There are only a few other shoe companies that do this that I know of, they are also French and also out of Paris. Both companies shoes cost over $1,500 whereas Septieme’s are only a few hundred. When I visited the store I got a chance to see some of the custom patinas in progress. The process looked to be simple, however, I know that in actuality it is not so easy. The result is something unique, personal and beautiful.
The value, in terms of cost/quality is superb, above the average of most shoe brands that I have seen and worn. The price point, when converted to US Dollars is between Alden and Allen Edmunds. The leather is French calf, I judge it to be finer than the Allen Edmonds and comparable, if not nicer than Alden. I cannot yet speak for how the leather holds up over time, as I have only had the chance to wear the shoes a few times. But so far the leather of the upper is breaking in well. The leather of the sole seems to be a little soft, but again I cannot say how it holds up over time. This softness could be attributed to the ‘Comfort Welted’ design that Septieme Largeur developed which is supposed to allow a Goodyear welted sole more flexibility and comfortability but still maintain the level of quality and durability of a conventional Goodyear welt. But it should be noted that the leather of the upper is of more importance than that of the sole.
(Update: as of November 2013 both pair of shoes I have from Septieme Largeur are holding up exceptionally well. They are also some of my most worn shoes. That said, I highly recommend the brand)
All of Septieme’s dress shoes are Goodyear welted, except for the current stock of limited edition shoes which are Norwegian welted. Many people believe Goodyear welting to be the gold standard of shoe construction, but I believe it to be a matter of preference. Norweigan welting is similar to Goodyear welting except that it adds another layer of leather to parts of the stitching with the goal of making the shoes more water resistant, it also creates a heavier and thicker aesthetic, especially around the sole. Although the shoes are designed in Paris by Marcos and Mathieu the shoes are constructed in Spain, as I noted before. Which, to be honest, before I encountered Carmina and Septieme Largeur I did not know Spain made such great shoes.
As is the case with almost all young businesses Septieme Largeur plans on expanding. Both domestically and internationally. There is already a shop in Madrid and plans to open shops in Paris’s left bank and in the 16th arrondisement as well as Berlin. There is also talk of opening shops in some other world cities. A big dream for a brand in an already crowded marketplace. But that is by no means to say that there is not an opportunity for this to happen, especially given a shift toward men taking more care (and expense) in how they dress and the growing Asian market for western men’s clothing.
Septieme Largeur is a young brand, however, there is a lot of knowledge and experience behind it in Marcos Fernandez and creativity with Mathieu Priess. Given this promising mix I plan to keep an eye on Septieme Largeur for years to come, I suggest you do as well. Especially if and when it makes its entrance to the US market. For that will be a great day.
Note: In keeping with the promise to not Blur The Line, FYGblog would like to note that no material compensation was received from Septieme Largeur in return for showcasing the brand and its products.