Antonio Sanchez, Mezlan’s owner, designer, and president, grew up in a farming family in Almansa, Spain. Almansa, part of the greater region of Castile-La Mancha, is an arid but fertile environment producing many varieties of red wine grapes, grains, and vegetable crops. And though farming and raising livestock are important economic activities in the region, they are restricted due to the harsh environmental conditions. Antonio tasted this life and knew that there was yet another path for him to take.
Antonio longed to study physics, the science of nature. What could be more fascinating than the study of energy and force, of matter and its motion through time and space? This was one boy’s fanciful ambition but alas, it was not meant to be. At the time, Antonio was needed to help support his family financially, and so, as fate had it, he went to work, as a teenager, in the local Mezlan shoe factory belonging to his relatives. There, Antonio would excel at everything he did. He learned fast, and more thoroughly than most. After nine rigorous years working and absorbing the essence of the business at the Mezlan factory, and studying business and English in his spare time, Antonio went off to follow a new dream, to bring the Mezlan brand and its treasured footwear to the new world — North America!
Once arriving in the U.S. in January 1985, Antonio would adopt a touring schedule that would put him on the road 260 days a year visiting accounts and introducing the Mezlan brand to premier department stores like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom as well as the finest independently-owned men’s clothing and shoe boutiques on the continent. Antonio was, himself, the sole North American sales force in these first years. But along the way Antonio met an American girl named Catherine. The two fell in love and would go on to become partners in life as well as partners in business, melding their creative talents.
Now Antonio had a companion who could accompany him and inspire him on his door-to-door sales trips throughout the U.S., and eventually, the world. They went on to marry, start a family and establish Pacific Shoe Corporation, an organization set up to distribute their own collaborative creative works into the world of men’s fashion.
Several years later, in 1998, Antonio purchased Bacco Bucci, an established Italian footwear brand designed for casual comfort and performance through sport-dress fashion. Antonio transformed the line as only he could, adding precision-fitting systems, high-performance materials and a hip styling interpretation that would take the brand to new heights. With the addition of Bacco Bucci, the perfect casual companion brand and younger brother to his popular and well-respected Mezlan fashion dress line, Antonio had created a balanced family of men’s footwear. Mezlan, deeply rooted and mature in its Spanish heritage and tradition, adopts the younger Bacco Bucci line, with its whimsical flair and flavor of the fabled Le Marche region of Italy, giving rise to a cohesive collection of men’s footwear that fulfills most aspects of a man’s fashion wardrobe.
Traveling back and forth, regularly, between the Mezlan factory in Almansa, Spain which Antonio would come to own, his design studio in Le Marche, Italy, his clients and resources throughout Europe, and his U.S. headquarters in Huntington Beach, California, Antonio would learn to maneuver between continents as though it were one large soccer field. Exchanging ideas, developing new designs, building relationships, and mastering evolving footwear technologies, – all done in perpetual and fluid motion.
Antonio is a refreshingly humble, free-thinking, and talented individual with a sincere desire to find the common good for all. This has translated well into business. Many of his hundreds of loyal friends and clients will remember their first encounters with Antonio in the early years when he was new to America. Shy, attentive, responsive and uber-talented, how could such a man, they would think, know so much about his business and care so much about mine?! Antonio treated every shop owner, every department store buyer, and every shoe salesman on the selling floor as if they were his partner and ally. Their success in business was his heartfelt concern. He would work tirelessly to design and fabricate shoes and belts which would exceed their expectations in quality, innovation, and value, creating products that would make their customers smile.
In 2008, Antonio launched the retail division of Mezlan by opening its first company-owned boutique in Las Vegas, Nevada at The Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian/Palazzo hotels. Mezlan also launched a company website in 2008, www.Mezlan.com.
The Las Vegas store was met with international acclaim. Whilst showcasing spectacular product, the advantages of the store were evident beyond its ambiance and product offerings. Here was a place where customer service could be held to the highest standards in the business. A place where an exceedingly knowledgeable staff could work with a customer, holistically, to address his wardrobe needs and concerns. A place, rare in today’s retail environment, where a customer could be treated to a deeply satisfying experience from start to finish. Employing a staff who can listen and interact effectively, the Mezlan team members work with the customer so as to help educate him intelligently about the product, fit his foot properly, and enhance his in-store experience in every way.
The company would go on to open five more Mezlan boutiques in exclusive shopping centers throughout the U.S. A flagship Mezlan boutique will open at 520 Madison Avenue in New York City in January 2017. Every detail of the Madison Avenue store has been designed by Antonio and hand-built by Zora Mobiliario, S.L. of Valencia in Antonio’s native Spain.
Antonio still, with all of his miles of world travels and continual exposure to the latest international fashion trends and technologies, remains deeply rooted in tradition and respectful of the highest standards of his shoemaking heritage. He values and embraces the time-honored methods of old-world craftsmanship. As the Mezlan factory continues to evolve and expand, so do the levels of hand-crafting skills required in its footwear production. With an uncanny eye cast towards innovation and technological improvement, Antonio maintains the status of master-shoemaker, a great honor. Combining the ingredients of creativity, innovation, honed-skill and passion, he is a master chef in his own kitchen where slow-cooking without shortcuts is all that will be accepted. When he says that no less than 100 pairs of hands touch each pair of Mezlan shoes through its production process, it is often so many more than that. These are the products, each style adorned with its own personality, which Antonio and the Mezlan factory bring to their customers. This is their passion and their legacy.
There is a little bit of Don Quixote in Antonio Sanchez, just one man from La Mancha. There are some striking similarities to that chivalrous hero, valiant knight and hopeless romantic. He may not be fighting windmills, but, both in business and in the creative world of fashion, there is an element of bravery needed in order to move ahead. And in the very realm of life itself, courage, honor and romance have helped Antonio to dream the impossible dream.