Sad­dle up

Usher in the Year of the Horse with Ar­gen­tinian polo brand La Martina.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By SHARMILA NAIR star2@thes­tar.com.my

IF you are ever in­vited to a polo match in Ar­gentina, don’t bother pack­ing your Sun­day best or spend hours pick­ing a hat that goes well with your de­signer shoes.

Trust us, you are not go­ing to im­press any­one there. Talked about, maybe, but im­press? Most prob­a­bly never. In fact, you would stick out like a sore thumb and for all the wrong rea­sons.

That is be­cause all the way over in the South Amer­i­can coun­try, the sport of the kings trumps fash­ion, hands down, all the time and al­ways will. No ques­tion about it.

“When you go to the (polo) sta­di­ums here, no­body wears jack­ets. The bil­lion­aires wear T-shirts. Who ever comes with a jacket, hat, etc ... is a new­comer, some­one who doesn’t know the dress­code. The peo­ple here come to see the game, not other peo­ple,” claimed Lando Si­mon­etti, the founder of in­ter­na­tional polo brand La Martina.

How­ever, just be­cause Si­mon­etti’s ad­vice is to ditch your fancy clothes at home when head­ing to a polo match, it doesn’t mean that you get to leave style or class be­hind. El­e­gance and pres­tige are two highly-ap­pre­ci­ated el­e­ments at any Ar­gen­tine polo match and in­fus­ing them in a ca­sual look is def­i­nitely some­thing that La Martina has per­fected in its 34 years of en­trepreneur­ship.

Al­though the fam­ily-owned com­pany’s core busi­ness is to pro­duce high-qual­ity polo gear and equip­ment to the polo so­ci­ety around the world, the brand is also syn­ony­mous with the play­ers (and fans’) life­style off the pitch.

Seated in a con­fer­ence room in an up­scale ho­tel in Buenos Aires, Si­mon­etti was more than ea­ger to talk about both, to the in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists who were in­vited to ex­peri- ence the polo life­style at the Ar­gen­tine Polo Open Cham­pi­onship 2013.

“You can­not think of La Martina with­out think­ing about polo. Lots of world brands pay lots of money to be part of the game. We ... are the game,” said the 72-year-old busi­ness

maven. “It was born with pro­fes­sional (polo play­ers) and years ago, it moved to glam­our.”

And Si­mon­etti could not have come up with a bet­ter story, even if he tried, about how the busi­ness, which started by man­u­fac­tur­ing hand­made polo equip­ment such as sad­dles, boots, bri­dles and hel­mets, ven­tured into the tex­tile in­dus­try.

The ef­fort­less move hap­pened over 25 years ago when Si­mon­etti de­cided to have his own (now de­funct) polo team to com­pete pro­fes­sion­ally, and was re­quired to de­sign the polo T-shirts for his play­ers in a tour­na­ment.

“I de­signed an un­be­liev­able shirt – I was in­spired by the For­mula One (with the plac­ing of lo­gos on the body),” said Si­mon­etti of his cre­ation of La Martina’s first polo T-shirt, which had his brand name as well as the spon­sor’s em­bla­zoned across the play­ers’ chests.

He con­tin­ued, “La Martina was also the first brand to put up a (flag­ship) tent at a polo tour­na­ment in Palermo (the city’s polo sta­dium) – be­fore that, there was noth­ing. The play­ers had to sit on the grass to put on their boots. I had di­rec­tors’ chairs for the play­ers with La Martina and the spon­sor’s name on the back,” he re­called. In a clever move, the dec­o­rated T-shirt and the di­rec­tors chairs were not the only ideas he took from For­mula One.

“What else did I take? Well, be­hind the play­ers were beau­ti­ful girls in La Martina shirts serv­ing wa­ter. Ev­ery time the play­ers took a break, the girls came over to them. So, all the pho­tog­ra­phers were in my stand tak­ing pic­tures and it got a lot of pub­lic­ity,” said the shrewd en­tre­pre­neur. Af­ter the tour­na­ment, Si­mon­etti in­creased the pro­duc­tion of the said polo shirt and put them in the dis­play win­dow of his shop. “Peo­ple started to buy the shirt. I re­alised that there was some­thing there and that was the start of our tex­tile busi­ness.”

That even­tu­ally led Si­mon­etti to cre­ate La Martina col­lec­tions for men, women and chil­dren, which in­clude, be­sides de­signer polo shirts, a vari­a­tion of de­signer polo ac­ces­sories in­clud­ing jack­ets, zip­pers, hats, pants, bags, hel­mets and even per­fume.

De­spite branch­ing out to non-polo play­ers, the brand has never lost sight of its core value – that is to up­hold and main­tain the ex­clu­sive polo life­style and cul­ture. Like a good brand am­bas­sador, each La Martina prod­uct comes with an im­pres­sive his­tory that con­nects it to Ar­gentina’s beloved sport.

“Our ori­gin is pro­duc­ing polo, so our core busi­ness is talk­ing to the polo com­mu­nity world­wide. That’s why our brand­ing aims to­wards polo play­ers. How­ever, for our life­style ca­sual wear, we sell to 95% non-polo play­ers – which are the spec­ta­tor and peo­ple as­pirir­ing to get into the sport,” said La Martina Polo pres­i­dent – and Si­mon­etti’s son – Adrian. He also added that the brand is con­stantly on the look­out for polo com­mu­ni­ties world­wide that could in­stantly con­nect with the brand. “We want to cul­turise peo­ple to polo and get them into the real polo sce­nario.”

Adrian ad­mits that main­tain­ing a stand- ardised cus­tomer ser­vice in La Martina stores around the world is a big chal­lenge. They want their cus­tomers, who walk into any of the 61 ex­clu­sive stores in more than 20 coun­tries – in­clud­ing the United States, Rus­sia, Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia – to not just leave with a pos­i­tive im­pres­sion of the brand but – if they do de­cide to pur­chase an item – its con­nec­tion to the sport it caters.

He said, “There has to be some­one to ex­plain where it is com­ing from. For ex­am­ple, the Guards Polo Club. It has a his­tory of 120 years, who has played there, why we ex­panded a line of mer­chan­dis­ing ex­clu­sive to the club there, why we do club mer­chan­dis­ing and so on. There is a his­tory be­hind it, and sud­denly in­stead of just a nice polo shirt, you’re grab­bing a lit­tle piece of his­tory and the as­pi­ra­tions be­hind that garment.”

La Martina made its de­but in Malaysia in 2012 through a li­cens­ing agree­ment be­tween La Martina and the Vali­ram Group. The flag­ship bou­tiques are lo­cated in Pavil­ion Kuala Lumpur and Gur­ney Paragon Mall, Pe­nang.

Dis­tin­guished name: La Martina founder Lando Si­mon­etti is a fash­ion force to be reck­oned with in the in­ter­na­tional world of polo.

— La Martina pho­tos

Ready, get set, go: el­e­gance and pres­tige are two highly-ap­pre­ci­ated el­e­ments at any ar­gen­tine polo match. In­fus­ing them in a ca­sual look is some­thing that La Martina has per­fected.

ef­fort­less el­e­gance on the field, for men and women, where smart meets ca­sual.

AR­GENTINA

La Martina col­lec­tions for men and women also in­spire to dress polo en­thu­si­asts off the pitch.

each La Martina prod­uct comes

with an im­pres­sive his­tory that con­nects it to

ar­gentina’s beloved sport.

Sneak­ers for men, shot on a sad­dle.

Busi­ness maven: ‘Our ori­gin is pro­duc­ing polo, so our core busi­ness is talk­ing to the polo com­mu­nity world­wide,’ says La Martina founder Lando Si­mon­etti.

La Martina prod­ucts now in­clude ac­ces­sories such as hats, pants, bags, hel­mets and even per­fume.

a women’s bag is clev­erly matched with polo sticks.

a heel that ex­udes sen­sual so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

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