Interview with Louis Lampertsdörfer

Sandra-Mariia RomaniukBy Sandra-Mariia RomaniukNovember 16, 2021

While we speak a lot about shoes, brands, and craftsmanship, the great personalities behind them are often overlooked. That‘s why we started this series of interviews, where we will sit down with shoedogs around the world and tell their stories.  

Our first guest is the Munich-based bespoke shoemaker Louis Lampertsdörfer. Undoubtedly, some of you have already heard of him or his brand Mogada. But I’m sure that most of you are not aware of his inspiring journey and background.

Meeting Louis

SR: What was your first thought this morning?

LL: Actually, I thought about how dark it was outside. I woke up quite early. 

SR: And what did you do after waking up? Do you have a special routine, like for example meditation or yoga?

LL: I wish I had one, to be honest. I wish I had a routine like yoga or meditation because I believe it’s good to have one, but I just don’t know how to make the time. I try to go cycling as much as possible not daily but every other day. So that´s like my routine, I would say. 

SR: So I figured, you are not so much of a morning person?

LL: No, not so much.

SR: Are you a dog or a cat person?

LL: Dog, I grew up with dogs in my family and I’m definitely a dog person.

SR: Do you prefer beer or wine?

LL: Wine, I would say

SR: Red or white?
LL: It depends, white in summer and red in winter. But I´m not such a big drinker, to be honest

SR: And do you have any siblings?
LL: Yes, two. A brother and a sister. 

SR: How old are they?
LL: My sister is 25 and my brother is 13.

SR: How is your relationship with them?
LL: Very good, I grew up with my sister, so we have a really good relationship. And with my brother as well, since we are a bit further apart I was always someone who would take care of him.  

SR: Do you watch tv-shows or movies? Which genre do you prefer?
LL: I don’t really, to be honest. But a show that I really enjoyed watching was “Mad Men”. I love the aesthetics of it. So that’s a show that I really liked. I also love British comedies like “The Office” or “Extras”. Everything with Ricky Gervais in it. So when I watch something, I watch something like that, yeah.

SR: Who is your role model?
LL: Wow, I think that depends. I think there are people that I look up to in terms of work, people whose work I admire, but there are also people who I admire in my personal life. Like my family, so it really dependens. I wouldn’t say that I have someone who is like my role model. I’m quite sure that my parents had a big influence on me growing up. I think I really became a mix of them. But then workwise there are a lot of people whose work I admire. But I wouldn’t say that they are role models. So if I had to pick someone I would say my parents. [laughter] A very creative answer.

SR: That’s kind of cute. If you wrote a book, to whom would you dedicate it?
LL: To my German teacher at school because I really liked German and basically all the language classes, and she was very strict. She would never give you all the points. You could still be very good but you will never get the highest mark from her. I was always annoyed by that but she was a really good teacher and I definitely learned a lot from her in terms of writing and expressing myself so I would dedicate it to her. 

From business school to shoemaking

SR: I can relate to that, German lesson teachers are really cool. Well, let’s move on to the next question. As I know, you studied at the Technical University of Munich. What did you study?
LL: I studied management and technology. That is a mix between business and engineering. In my case, it was finance on the business side and mechanical engineering on the engineering side. A big focus in the course was on entrepreneurship. That’s why I went there.

SR: So starting “Mogada” wasn’t really a spontaneous decision?
LL: Not really, from a quite early age on I liked the idea of having my own company, being my own boss and I always felt drawn towards that. When I thought about which course I´m going to study I chose something that would help me in setting up my own company. 

SR: What did you do after your studies? Did you start a business?
LL: No, I went to the U.K. and worked for the British footwear label  “Gaziano & Girling” which is a really good shoe brand, I learned a lot and really enjoyed my time there. 

SR: How was it, when you realized, that you want to quit the job in the U.K.? What are the differences between working at a company and being independent? 

LL: At some point I thought it was time to go back to Germany and start my own company. There are some advantages and disadvantages for both. For example, if you work for a company it’s nice because you work there until it’s five and then you go home and have your spare time. When you have your own company you basically work 24/7 even if you´re not actually working. Your mind is always thinking about work. Or at least it’s like that for me. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to have a break if you´re self-employed. On the other hand, you gain a lot of freedom which is nice. What’s definitely a plus for working somewhere like “Gaziano & Girling” was that I had a really great time working with my colleagues there and I really enjoyed having them around. Now, when you start something you are mostly on your own and working by yourself. You definitely have to make up for that because otherwise you are just always on your own in a way. Until you have your first employees.

SR: Is the theory from the university helpful now?
LL: I personally do not think it is necessary but it is a nice foundation to have. If you want to start your own business, just go for it, I would say. It’s not necessary to study business but it will surely be useful in some way. 

SR: How hard was it for you at the beginning?
LL: When you start your own company you learn as you go along. For example, there are things like doing your taxes or building a website which you don’t necessarily learn at university. Those are the fundamentals today, I think. Apart from having an expertise in the field you start the company in, there are things about financing the company or laws, that you need to know, all those kinds of basics. I did learn some of that at the university which was useful, but most of it I learned just from doing it. 

SR: You are obviously into business, but how did your passion for shoes start? At Gaziano & Girling or earlier?
LL: That started really early, actually. When I was like twelve or thirteen. Back then I was playing a lot of basketball and I was really into sneakers. I did not have the money to afford all the cool sneakers that I wanted to have, so basically I liked the idea of buying a pair of white sneakers and then tried to customize them myself. Later, when I was about sixteen- eighteen I really got into how shoes are actually made. I always was interested in designing shoes, this creative process. But then I wanted to learn how shoes are actually made, what to look out for, what you need to know. So I worked at a shoemaker back then already to learn a bit about how it is done and how to basically make your own shoes. The first shoes that I made for myself were really-really basic and not pretty. But I was super proud of them. During my studies, I always continued to make shoes and visited shoemakers, and asked them a lot. After finishing university I went to England and worked there as a shoemaker and really learned the craft. That was my journey to shoemaking.

SR: How old were you, when you made your first pair of shoes yourself?
LL: I think the first pair that I made completely on my own I made when I was 18-19. Before that, I tried a lot.

SR: Were your friends and family supportive of your decision to start your own company?
LL: Yeah, I would say so. My parents definitely. They both also have their own companies so I grew up with this idea in mind that it’s cool to be your own boss in a way. My friends I would say too. They always liked what I was doing and they wanted to have some shoes.  

SR: So it was really a supportive environment. How is it now?
LL: Yeah, absolutely. Still to this day I always have someone to ask if I have a question. Whether it’s regarding shoemaking or it’s regarding business or setting up a company. I am very lucky to always have someone to ask. I think it’s really important to have an environment that supports you if you want to set up your own company or brand, whatever. If you grow up in an environment that is not really supporting this kind of idea then it is easy to loose faith. There are some moments where it´s so much work and you just feel like you can’t cope with it. It’s good to have some support then, but if you don’t have it, I think it’s really easy to lose motivation at some point.  

SR: How would you describe your own brand “Mogada” in just one sentence?
LL:  “A contemporary footwear and accessory brand based on the integrity of craftsmanship and materials”.

SR: Did you prepare this before? Sounds impressive [laughter].  You are obviously really into style. What is your idea of a perfect outfit?
LL: I really like when you dress in a way that’s a mix between casual and formal but in an interesting way. I think that style really originates somewhere between casual and formality. That’s where people start to express their own taste. If you wear a navy suit for example, it’s obvious that you are well-dressed, given it’s a nice suit. But you don’t really stand out. I mean, that’s the whole point of a suit like that. You want to blend in with the corporate environment. When you start to break the rules of formality you mix it with a pair of worn jeans, accessories or something like that it starts to become interesting because that’s where your personal style and taste start to show. 

SR: If you had to choose an outfit, that is perfect for you. What would it be?
LL: Well, some well-made nice shoes, obviously. That is the foundation of a good outfit in my opinion. Then I think I would actually go for some jeans that are well worn and comfortable. And then a woolen rollneck and a nice jacket. I like Italian tailoring, a nice jacket like that. That kind of mix between formal and casual is my go-to thing. I think the most important thing for me would be to feel comfortable. That’s when you look best. 

SR: And do you wear accessories?
LL: Yeah, I have a pair of sunglasses and a watch that I really like. I like the idea of buying something of good quality and wearing it for a long time. I think if you are into well made things, it is easy to become a collector of for example watches. But since I already have a shoe collection I’m not going to start collecting something else.

Mogada and Louis’ future plans

SR: How did you come up with the name of your company?
LL: I wanted something that worked internationally because I noticed that my last name works in Germany, but people from other countries really struggle pronouncing it and definitely struggle to write it. I did not necessarily want the name and brand to link to me as a person. I  spent a lot of time thinking about it and had a lot of ideas. At some point, “Mogada” just came to me. I like it because it’s quite simple, 3 consonants, 3 vocals and it does not sound like a particular language. I would compare the name with a blank canvas because I didn’t connect it with anything. It was the fresh start I wanted. I wanted something like a blank canvas. There are a lot of shoe brands that go into the more classical direction and try to sound like a very old British heritage company. I thought that doing this wouldn’t really suit me because Mogada is not an old heritage company. Even though the way I work and the shoes I make are based on this way of making shoes I wanted it to be something new and give it a fresh start. 

SR: What is your target audience?
LL: I think my target audience is basically what I described with the perfect outfit. It’s this kind of person. People that want to dress well and that want to wear classic and formal shoes but are willing to not take themselves too seriously. Those who don’t want the shoe because it’s super expensive and formal, but because it has a good quality, cherish the craftsmanship and the look. They want the shoes to become a part of themselves. Something that is like a companion to them. I think my customers are people that have a relationship with their shoes. Many of them work in an environment where they have to dress formally, but they have bespoke shoes made because they want them to be unique like themselves. In terms of style, I think that because I was trained in England, there is a British note in my shoes. I also try to move it in a more contemporary direction. There are a few shoemakers that merge the heritage of the craft with a more contemporary style and I’m inspired by that. I´m trying to leave behind the very traditional way of working and go to what’s more of a contemporary approach, with a big focus on comfort and style but still rooting in the traditional craft.
If you work in the traditional British way, the shoes are very solid, but I do not think that it is what modern men really need and expect. I believe that the way that we wear shoes now, has changed. Today you don’t walk everywhere, you drive or take a train. Your shoes should reflect that and be comfortable and light on your feet. I think today we can look a bit more at comfort and try to make a shoe that still lasts long, is well made, light and comfortable and at the same time look good. Comfort and look often go different directions, so I try to find that sweet spot in between.

SR: How do you produce your shoes? Is it locally or at a factory?
LL: My shoes at the moment are all entirely made bespoke by myself in my workshop.

SR: Sounds impressive. What are your plans for the future of “Mogada” if it’s not a secret?
LL: I´m trying to develop a ready-to-wear line of shoes right now. It’s not entirely planned yet, because I still haven’t found someone who will make the shoes the way I see them. Sustainability will also be a focus of the line. But I define sustainability in a different way here. A well-made product that has a really good quality and great design is sustainable because it’s worn for a long time and never goes out of style. That’s my vision of sustainability.

SR: Speaking of sustainability – where is the leather for your shoes from?
LL: From different places actually, but all from European tanneries (Italy, UK, France & Germany). The soles are from Germany and the UK. 

SR: Is shoe-making more a job or a passion to you?
LL: It’s definitely a passion. It’s true that there are easier ways to make a living. I could´ve just started to work in a corporate job after university. But making shoes is definitely my passion. I´m always trying out new work techniques, new ways of doing my job. To me enjoying the job is more important than the money I make with it. I still have to make a living at the end of the day, but there are more important things than money in this for me.

SR: If you wouldn´t have become a shoemaker what would your other job choice be?
LL: I think tailor, a bespoke tailor would be an option because I’m really into clothes. I think it goes along with being a shoemaker. When I was in the U.K. I found it really interesting how the bespoke tailors work. That was something I see myself doing. Working with wood is really nice too. Making and designing furniture is also something I could see myself doing. Maybe someday I will, who knows.

SR: I hope you´ll succeed in all of your big plans. Thank you so much for your very detailed answers.
LL: I apologize if I got carried away. I could continue talking about shoes for hours. We´ll see each other at the Shoelosophy Livestream, right?

SR: Sure thing, looking forward to it. Have a nice day

LL: Thanks, you too. Goodbye

SR: Goodbye