While poking around the internet over the weekend, I came across Markowski, a Parisian shoe company run by Marcos Fernandez. Fernandez has an impressive forty years of experience in the shoe business, and helped launch Paraboot and Emling. Today, he runs Markowski and a sub-line with his nephew, Matthew Preiss, called Septième Largeur (Seventh Width). Both seem like labors of love, but the latter even more so. Here, the two men have created a line of shoes in an unfinished, natural color, and they allow the customer to pick any color and patina they want. The result is an artisanal creation invented by both the cordwainer and client.
Both Markowski and Septième Largeur use European calf leathers, and their construction takes the standard respectable forms – Goodyear, Norwegian, and Blake. The linings are all leather, and the soles are either leather or Danite. At least on the Seventh Width line, the leather soled models also seem to feature channeled stitching, fiddleback waists, and hand applied finishes.
The lasts take four main shapes (though they have many more). Forms 191 and 169 are slender and sleek, and feature long, tapering toe boxes. Form 197 is similar to 169, but has a chiseled toe and more pronounced sides. Finally, for something a bit less pointed, they have form 195, which is features a more generous, rounder toe.
Most impressive is the price. The prices on these are unbelievable. Most shoes at the Markowski line are around $200 (once you discount for VAT). They even sometimes have sales where certain models are discounted by 30%, which would bring these to about $140. I had some trouble ordering a pair and having them shipped to the United States, but a quick call to their Parisian shop rectified that. The storekeeper there spoke English well and we had a conversation about sizing. He also said shipping to the US wouldn’t be a problem.
People on American and French menswear forums admit these aren’t John Lobb or even Crockett & Jones handgrade quality. For the price, that shouldn’t be surprising. However, everyone seems to agree that these offered incredible value. $200 for handsomely styled European shoes, made with quality construction, seems like an excellent option for those on a budget.