Argentina remains world leader in demand for its polo equipment

Faglianobootmakers

Buying a pair of handcrafted Fagliano polo boots, made by Argentina’s most prestigious family-owned atelier, is a great way to add style to your sporting kit but is also a great investment.

The Fagliano family, who have been bookmakers to players, patrons and princes around the world for 121 years, believe in keeping their prices stables, which is no mean feat in Argentina’s currency economic situation of inflation and tight currency controls. 

“We try to maintain the price come what may,” says Eduardo Fagliano, great-grandson of the Italian who founded the atelier back in 1892 just a stone’s throw from the famous Hurlingham polo ground in Buenos Aires (the location where polo was in fact first played in Argentina). “If you come here in 10 years, maybe they’ll be the same news.” Which is of course great news for polo enthusiasts.

US and European patrons are the biggest clients. “They give their boots to their professional players, ” says Eduardo Fagliano. “And the cheapest thing polo has is its boots.” 

Little has changed at the traditional workshop from when it first opened. The traditional techniques that Mr Fagliano learnt from his grandparents are still used in the manufacture of their famous polo boots and are the reason why polo’s elites professionals and illustrious amateurs, including UK’s Prince Harry, travel there specifically to purchase their polo boots.

Adolfo Cambiaso, world number one, has been a Fagliano client since the age of 16 when his father bought him some boots saying he would be a star.

Each pair of boots takes some 45 hours to handcraft and stitch and the Fagliano atelier produces around 70 pairs of boots per year. A pair of Fagliano boots can cost up to $2,400, but they can last for many years with the proper care. “We don’t want to be rich. We want to produce quality that lasts. We want people not to look at the price but to like it and buy it because of the ratio of quality to price,” he says. 

However, Argentina’s current foreign exchange policy is squeezing the ateliers. Many Argentine industries such as the tanneries price their products in dollars. But more than 18 months of increasing foreign exchange restrictions have made it nearly impossible to buy dollars legally in Argentina.

There is now a large gap between the overvalued official Argentine peso rate that producers export at – now about 5.3 pesos per dollar – and the black market rate at which the raw materials are priced at. The black market rate went past 10 pesos in early May, although this is now thought to have reduced to around 8.6 pesos per dollar.

Adrian Simonetti, Head of the much-loved saddlery La Martina, a leading supplier to polo professionals and one of the best-known kit brands, said: “We’re losing competitiveness … we can’t transfer all of these prices to our products.” 

Mr Simonetti has however seen demand bounce back from the lows seen in the financial crisis of 2008-2009, which saw polo patrons preferring to adopt a lower profile because of the climate of economic austerity. He says that the company is experiencing strong demand, especially in Asia.

Smaller producers have been hit hardest. La Fusta, a family-run saddlery, which has been catering to polo and other equestrian sports for four generations, said they have seen a fall in sales of around 30% since the start of 2013.

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