SILVIA SANCHEZ - MENORCA SANDALS

Life Instyle sat down with Silvia - Founder of Menorca Sandals to discuss how her Spanish background inspired the design of each and every sandal.


What do you love about operating a business with your family?

I really love the flexibility of working around the kids’ school and childcare arrangements, working closely with my husband (most days!) and also the passion we all feel for the Menorca Sandals and our PONS brand.

This includes  my little ones who promote the brand any time they can at the playground when other kids and their mums ask them about their beautiful glittery sandals (so funny, I don’t pay them, I promise!)

 

 What made you want to bring menorcan sandals to Australia?

I grew up wearing these sandals, I am Spanish. My kids were born here in Australia, and I really felt there were not too many options in the market where support and comfort were a priority in sandals, but also looked so good the kids wanted to wear them as well.

My kids have always been picky with shoes – if they are too tight, too loose, not soft enough, or not pretty enough! Our Menorca Sandals offered a combo of all important things and we started bringing kids sandals, and soon, their mums got very interested in the grown-up models too.

We, nowadays, sell more grown-up pairs than kids and we are focused on bringing different models, and styles, as well as colours, prints and glitters in both vegan and leather options. It really started as a creative outlet to my day job as a digital transformation consultant, and it’s grown to a great small business in the last 4 years.

 

Tell us about the Spanish influence in the design, inspiration and background of your sandals?

Our sandals are known as ‘avarcas’ or ‘menorquinas’ in Spain - they originated as farmers’ shoes in the island of Menorca, as they are very resilient, comfortable but allow for breathability in warm weather as well. Since toes are covered, they are very safe to wear.

Our manufacturer, Avarca PONS, founded by has been operating since 1945. Today, the brand is run by the third generation of the PONS family, with 13 employees (supporting another 13 families, some of them part of the PONS family themselves!).

There are many brands of avarcas in the market these days, but we advise customers to only purchase from those who have ‘certification guarantee’ as ‘Avarca de Menorca’. Our Menorca Sandals offer this guarantee, which qualifies their quality as exceptional (with appropriate thickness in the leather and rubber soles, so the shoe is resilient and lasts long wear).

 

 

Tell us a bit about the process of designing and making
your sandals?
 

We design our sandals in Melbourne, in our workshop. We research trends and colours, different types of leather, specific resilience of new colours and choose what we feel is best for our customers.


We have come to select a number of leathers that work really well for the Australian market, with vecchio leathers that can be wiped clean, metallic soft and glitter leathers that are very resilient but soft (and the glitter doesn’t peel, everyone asks us about this).


We try to bring something different every spring/summer – for example, two years ago we released the first ‘vegan’ Menorcan sandals in the world. This year, we released a range of braided / weaved leather sandals that have been an absolute top-seller online and for our stockists.


We then pass on those designs to our workshop in Menorca – and we might make small adjustments based on their advice – understanding what sells well in other international regions is important as well.

Why is it important to you to offer vegan avarcas? You were the first brand in the world to do this!

Our world is diverse, and we need to cater for it.

We know and understand that some of our customers might not like the idea of wearing animal-based products so it was important for us to offer plant-based and polymer ‘faux’ leathers that feel and look like real leather.

 

What are your favourite sandals in your collection, and why?

Ah, that’s a tough question.

I have to say the original model (flat with backstrap) is definitely my favourite – it’s the original authentic shape of the Menorcan sandal. In terms of colour, I’ll have to say the glitter navy is incredibly chic and fabulous but still subtle for a night out, and I love the saffron / mustard colour as our brand is all about ‘fresh’ and ‘joy’ so we’ve been selling this colour since the first day and it’s definitely a staple in our range.

I have been wearing the braided tan this spring and getting lots of comments on them anywhere I go, so this definitely has to be the crowd favourite at the moment .

 

Can you share any spoilers about any new products you’ll be showcasing at Life Instyle Sydney?

We will be bringing the new favourites as well as the new releases we are releasing in January.
There is huge variety in prints, colours and glitters  - models including espadrilles, wedges, original flats, ankle straps (and the new model coming out in January!).

 

What are you most looking forward to at Life Instyle Sydney?

I can’t wait to meet some of the other amazing brands, connect with stockists, and spend an amazing long weekend connecting with people with my same dreams. I think the one of the many things that Life InStyle brings together is the passion for our brands, so much love, care and hard work. The quality of the products exhibited is incredible, and it’s all because of the people that have worked hard on those products.


What path led you to Life Instyle and what is it about the show that makes it a great fit for Menorca Sandals?

I visited Life Instyle in Melbourne a couple of years ago, when our brand was fairly new and I was so inspired by the amazing exhibitors, the incredible connections they were making with stockists and the beautiful quality of the products.

I definitely decided I needed to be part of it – and we were due to exhibit in 2020, but due to COVID we didn’t get that experience. Looking forward to all the opportunities in 2021.

 

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a business owner?

It’s probably one of the lessons that anyone in product innovation has heard before, but such a powerful one – focus on customer, innovate, test, learn and iterate. The customer is at the centre of everything: your communications, the product, the quality, the delivery speed – tweak and test, and learn from it and keep improving.I prioritise the evolution of my brand on the product innovation tips I’ve learnt from big digital transformations on my day job, as the recipe for success is the same.

 

Can you share one of your proudest moments in business so far?

There are a few moments: the sellout of a new colour that we launched, the achievement of a brand of Spanish sandals when lots of people told us it was a crazy idea, doubling the sales year-on-year, trips to Menorca to decide on new colours and styles with our kids.

But every little small email that comes in from our customers telling us how impressed they are with the quality of our shoes and our customer service really adds up to it. Those emails and bits of feedback really make it all worth it.

JUST FOR FUN!

Bucket list travel destination?
I’d love to visit Japan soon for a cultural immersion, New Zealand’s south island for the freshest air in the world and the most beautiful landscapes, and Menorca of course for the most amazing beaches in the whole wide world (been there many times, but still in my list).

Your self-care must-have?

Time to disconnect, and to be present to whatever you are doing.
I really focus on this when I need to look after myself – and hopefully I can get a bit of me-time too.

Meet Silvia on stand A19 at Life Instyle Sydney 17-20 April 2021