An Interview with Mathieu Preiss, Founder of Septieme Largeur

Septieme Largeur

Mathieu Preiss is the founder of French welted shoe brand, Septieme Largeur, and also the friend of Justin FitzPatrick, the ShoeSnob.

Justin FitzPatrick

His uncle, Marcos Fernandez Cabezas is regarded as one of the most powerful man in this industry.

Marco Fernendez Cabezas,picture credit to SHOESNOB

The establishment of Septieme Largeur was naturally supported by Marcos, but it’s really Mathieu who took the lead.

Mathieu Preiss

The abbreviation for Septieme Largeur is 7L, which will be used below.

At the price point of €275, 7L is the only one that features wood pegging, why did you choose this design?

Septieme Largeur Gedeon

This is definitely a 7L signature. Our soles, both design-wise and handmade, are of a very high calibre.

Of course, we didn’t invent woodpegging construction, it was the Mexican cavalry boots that inspired me.

Mexican cavalry boots

Our wood nails are unique in that they are bamboo.

Wood nails made of bamboo

The purpose of wood nails is to provide a better connection between outsole and midsole.

The wood nails allow for a tighter connection

Then all of our shoes are close channel, which is better for protecting the stitching.

Close channel outsole

Such a sole is something I am personally very happy with.

Considering that price and craftsmanship, do you compromise the leather quality?

There is no compromise on leather quality! We source only the best leather from Europe, Du Puy (FR) , Degermann (FR), Annonay (FR), Stead (UK) and Sciarada (IT).

Leather from French tannery Degermann

We have rubber soles as well, so it’s not like we’re getting the cost back from the leather of the upper because our soles cost labour.

Smith with rubber outsole

The only thing compromised is my profit.

What is the selling point of 7L? French flavour?

French flavour is certainly in our DNA.

French taste

We use French lasts, not as pointy as the Italian ones, but not as round as the English ones.

French lasts

But unlike many French brands, we don’t use Blake construction, but Goodyear.

Goodyear construction

So we use British techniques to finish French pieces.

Another major selling point is patina. 7L was created with patina in mind. We have 11 years of experience in patina.

Patina in progress

Finally, I think it’s superb value for money. Our patina, workmanship and ingredients, at this price point, I think are absolutely thrilling. And, the consumer support is what allows us to achieve this price point.

I’ve heard that 7L is made in France, but there are also claims that it’s made in Spain, and even Portugal, so what is the correct answer?

Our various collections are made in Spain.

Spain has a long history in the shoe industry.

I’m sure many of you know that Spain is good at Goodyear shoes and has a long history.

Many people cite your uncle Marcos as their mentor in the industry, how did he support 7L?

My uncle Marcos has been in the business for over 50 years! His experience is certainly unrivalled.

Paraboot Michael

He founded and developed Bowen, Emling, Markowski and Orbans after working for Sebago and Paraboot.

Bowen, made in the UK by Alfred Sargent

He founded 7L with me 11 years ago and our aim was to make patina accessible to more people, and they could buy shoes in their favourite colours at a cheap price.

French are very in love with patina

To this day, my uncle is still supporting 7L and he is a huge asset.

You insisted that 7L expansion had to be a mono-branded brick and mortar shop, why?

Because we are very patient on growth and want to keep our feet on the ground. We are not a start-up or a big multinational group.

Our goal is to make high quality dress shoes more affordable and to provide superb service.

I use the word high quality rather than luxury because I think it’s overused and often times a gimmick.

Our shops can offer this service, and our staff are highly trained and have considerable expertise. Moreover, all our staff are also trained in patina.

Staff in the Singapore shop is applying patina

Of course, we are considering the boutique model due to increased demand, but we are very selective about such shops.

Almost every brand says the US is their biggest market, is 7L too?

7L’s biggest market is France, and it is also the strongest market in Europe for high-end dress shoes.

Candy colours

The US is second, mainly through our official website. I plan to open a flagship shop in New York.

Asia is of course very important, we have flagship shops in Singapore and Taipei and are very keen to open our own shops in Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

In Taipei shop

I think Asian men have pretty good taste in clothes and know a lot about details.

What are the goals of 7L? What are the challenges now?

Our goal has never changed, high quality shoes at affordable prices.

Furthermore, I have a more “noble” goal, which is to educate men on how to wear and care for their shoes. Fewer and fewer men in my generation wear quality shoes, and even fewer know how to care for them.

That’s why we are very eager to communicate with our customers. Once a month we organise a soirée glaçage, a shoe shine party, where customers can bring their friends along to our shop to observe and chat.

The biggest challenge is of course how to expand, such as opening more flagship shops.

We are discussing options with a number of groups and welcome passionate individuals to join the journey.

Talk about yourself, you got into this industry very young, so do you still have the passion now? Or is this just a job?

I joined 11 years ago because of abundant of passion for the craft of shoemaking, which I felt was innate, and today, I’m even more passionate.

Shoes on

I aspire to create works of art and then watch people wear them.

My goal is to give men all over the world high quality affordable dress shoes, a goal worth fighting for my whole life.

Do you have plans to bring 7L to the Chinese market?

Our shops in Taipei and Singapore have been very successful and this has given us insight into the Chinese taste.

Our website has also been selling into China, and sales figures show that Hong Kong customers are the most numerous, followed by Shanghai.

We are looking for partners in China as the way we developed the US market. Just like making shoes and patina, it takes time to build a good relationship with a partner, but I am sure 7L can succeed.