The French brand Orban’s is an interesting new actor with a some nice lasts and models and a low price tag of $150 it has made a big impressions since it launched 1,5 years ago. And in my eyes Orban’s is one of the most affordable brands in the market for classic quality shoes today. Why it’s like that I go through in this review.
Model: Oxford Soho
Color: Dark brown
Size: UK10,5 standard width
Sole: Single leather sole
Price: € 150 (the shoes are a review pair from Orban’s)
Behind Orban’s is Marcos Fernandez Cabezas, a well-known name in the industry. He has a background as a designer and in the management of the French classic shoe brands’ Bowen and Emling, and has since started Markowski as well as Septieme Largeur, both now well-established and reputable brands in their respective domain. It’s just Septieme Largeur whose shoes are located in the upper part of the budget segment that he is still working with of the ones above, and last fall he started as a new venture with a brand in the lower budget segment. Main competitors on the domestic market is the giant Bexley, among shoe interested around Europe and the rest of the world it’s probably mostly with Meermin they are being compared. The shoes are manufactured in Spain in the shoe region Almansa, and all shoes are Goodyear welted except a few Blake stitched loafers. They also have a small women’s collection of Goodyear welted models. The fact that an experienced man as Marcos Fernandez is involved in Orban’s makes it likely that it will be a brand to reckon with.
Orban’s is, like Septieme Largeur, only sold directly to customers, through their own store in the eastern part of central Paris and through their online store, available in French and English. The direct to customer approach makes the brand a little less available, particularly in terms of physical stores, but allows them to keep prices down. The selection of models is quite large and consists almost exclusively of the quite classic models, almost all at least in a couple of different leather choices and some are in addition made on two different lasts and with both leather and rubber sole. For shoes there are two main lasts, the classic round 544 and 944 which is elongated with a more pointed toe, for boots the main last is 584 last which is a bit of a mix of the two shoe lasts.
And it’s especially the prices that made many look curiously at the newcomer Orban’s. Low shoes costs € 150, boots € 175, the Blake stitched loafer models is between $90-125. Shipping international costs € 19. The website is functional and contains all the necessary basic information about the products, size guide, etc., but it’s nothing special. Unfortunately the product images are a bit lackluster and doesn’t make the shoes justice. In some cases, however, they have a picture of the shoe in a different environment than the studio and they are often better.
General info about the shoes
Oxford Soho is as the name suggests an oxford with an adelaide pattern, a bit more discreet with just one row of small holes and without a medallion. Six pairs of eyelets. They are made on the 944 last, which has a relatively pointed toe, dark brown in full grain leather. Single leather sole with open channel. They are delivered in a brown shoe box with a polish loth.
Construction and materials
To be shoes for $150 it’s good specifications Orban’s shoes have. The smooth leather used is from the renowned French tanneries Du Puy and Annonay, the suede is from British Charles F. Stead. Of course, relatively much of the hides are used when it comes to shoes in this price range, but my pairs leather absolutely have a good level of quality, in terms of the price range it’s very good. You notice that one thing that they saved on is the finishing part with burnishing, shoe polish, etc., they are not treated much at all, so it’s recommended to polish them with a few coats of cream and perhaps polish when they are new. They are Goodyear welted, with an open channel in the sole and a single leather sole. They are well balanced.
Since I’ve only used the shoes about 10 times this far, and several of them inside during days at the office, it’s difficult to say much about the durability of the sole, but most of the leather soles of shoes for less than €300, sometimes significantly more than that, is not overly tough, and this probably applies also for Orban’s.
Toe and heel stiffeners are as usual on cheaper shoes in celastic (plastic impregnated fabric), the toe cap is a bit shorter than the outer toe box so some creases will end up inside the cap, nothing wrong at all but know some some reason is a little sensitive for this.
The shoes are simply made without significant features, square waist, straight sole edges without fudge wheel, no heel decoration, etc. The sole is totally clean. Things are, however, well made. Sure, you can find some small errors here and there, but nothing major, the shoes are stable and well-made. It’s not a bad approach Orban’s have where they remove all unnecessary extras to reduce production time and thus the cost, using good materials and build a good, really affordable quality shoe.
The 944 last is one of the two main shoe lasts Orban’s use, a reasonably stylish last with an elongated toe. Maybe a bit too long and pointy for some, it’s a matter of taste. The fit is relatively True to Size, maybe slightly on the small side. I have the size UK10,5 here, which is quite similar to the reference last Loake Capital, which is a big last, in size UK10. The instep is normal, arch support okay for RTW, heel fit at least for me just fine and keeps the foot nicely in place.
What is nice is that Orban’s shoes are relatively comfortable right from the start, which is not always the case with cheaper Goodyear welted shoes. The sole is not too hard, and after a few days the uppers softened nicely. To breakt these shoes in went for me actually faster than what most factory-made Goodyear welted shoes do, even though it has celastic heel stiffenerswhich my sensitive heels otherwise quite often have problems with.
Getting Goodyear welted shoes of the caliber that Orban’s, which are manufactured in Europe, for $150 is quite impressive. Thanks to the straight-made shoes with no frills, good cooperation with a large and well-oiled factory, and the direct to the customer business model, Orban’s has succeeded. No one can perform miracles, add two to three times as much, you likely will get better shoes, but this is clearly some of the most bang for the buck you get on the shoe market today.