“Where there is polo, there is La Martina,” says Adrian Simonetti with a smile. The affable 40-year- old president and CEO of the Argentinean fashion brand, who was in town recently for the official opening of Singapore’s first La Martina store at Marina Bay Sands, is hardly exaggerating.
Started by his father in 1985, the label provides equipment for professional players at more than 100 polo events and top polo clubs around the world. This includes the Guards Polo Club, founded by Prince Philip in 1955, as well as university teams such as Eton, Cambridge and Oxford. Aside from top players like Malcolm Borwick and George Sunderland, La Martina also outfits those who simply appreciate the spirit of the equestrian sport, via the brand’s fashion collections. Available this season, for instance, are separates with motifs inspired by military details and the crests of the British royal family. Here, Simonetti tells us more about growing the brand, what it stands for, and bespoke pink suede saddles.
What is your strategy for Singapore?
We want to concentrate on presenting our brand and telling its stories, because we have a lot of them. We don’t want to be conceived as simply a fashion house with beautiful products. We may have a beautiful shirt but we want to explain what it represents, what was the inspiration, why it has a logo of the club, and so on.
When you look for new markets, do you seek out countries with an existing polo scene?
Definitely. We have a sister company by the name of Polo Management Group. The company explores ways in which we can be that international brand in a specific country, and act locally. In Singapore, for instance, we will host events and produce all the shirts for all the teams playing at the Singapore Polo Club. We will also produce our own events, where we will fly in our polo ambassadors.
Growing up in Argentina, what were some of your earliest memories of the sport?
My earlier memories of polo are mostly related to the business. I started working as a shop salesman at 18, and I would be in the store from 9am to 8pm. We started supplying equipment to those playing in the Argentine Open around that time, and I didn’t realise what a big deal it was to meet the people who were at the top of the game.
How do you innovate to keep up with the needs of pros?
We invest heavily in engineering. You see that helmet right there? That’s made out of carbon fibre and Kevlar. It has the same style as a helmet used 200 years ago, but is made of high-tech materials. For our kneepads with protective rubber pads, we use a specific rubber used in ships and it is shaped in a way that mitigates the impact of being hit by a polo ball travelling at 130kmh.
What are some of the extraordinary bespoke gear you’ve made?
We have made a lot for members of royalty, from crocodile boots to saddles held together by gold nails. We’ve also made pink suede saddles for a princess’ 12 horses. We have also had sheikhs in Dubai asking for crazy colours and combinations, and even a tattooed helmet.