BY LAURA SCHREFFLER
PHOTOGRAPHY NICK GARCIA
GROOMING CESAR FERRETTE
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Nacho Figueras should, at this moment, be sleeping off his jet lag — and it would have been awesome. This isn’t to say the world’s most famous polo player particularly likes being jet-lagged, or flying in general, but it’s what he’s used to. It’s what he does. He’s gallivanted to all corners of the globe for the better part of 20 years: snowy evenings in Aspen; hot, sunny days in Australia; dinners in Dubai; chilly afternoons in England; sensational sunsets in Los Angeles. But the world has changed, and sacrifices have been made by all. Admittedly, his are lesser than most, but he’s still made them. “This moment in time is a little bit crazy, but we are still standing. We should make the best of it, right?” he says.
Indeed. Here, when we spoke to him in November, was at home in General Rodríguez, Argentina, 45 minutes outside Buenos Aires, where he has, for the past two months, fallen into a comfortable daily routine with his wife of 16 years, photographer and former model Delfina Blaquier, and their brood of four: Hilario, 20; Aurora, 16; Artemo, 11; and Alba, 7. “I get to live outside the city in a place where life is not so frustrating. I get to be outside, with my horses. I’m a very lucky guy,” Figueras says.
The 43-year-old BlackWatch team co-owner and captain still plays polo with his kids every day, who then homeschool while he is practicing, playing and working on his plethora of non-polo-related business ventures. The family still takes meals together. But while his day-to-day life is not so very different, his professional one has changed dramatically. Polo, like all sports, has had to pivot as a result of the pandemic.
“That part of my life has changed quite a bit,” he concedes. “Obviously, the tournament side of things has been almost dormant. The Veuve Clicquot events [played in New York and Los Angeles], for example, have all been canceled. And I do miss it. I can’t wait for the whole thing to start all over again.”
Figueras is now getting an adapted version of his wish this month, as he returns to Wellington, Fla., for the Palm Beach polo season. (He spent the better part of 2020 there, too, having purchased a condo in the glamorous new Coach House Wellington development, located next to the Equestrian Preserve.) Yes, he’ll be playing, but the sport is going to look vastly different: World Polo League matches have been closed to the public.
Photo Credit: Nick Garcia
Right now, he is literally getting back on the horse again (he’s booting up as we speak), but figuratively, he never got off. Nacho Figueras is not one to rest on his laurels and wait for life to happen. In fact, he used the whole of this surreal year to reevaluate and reassess his career.
“I’m not the kind of guy who likes to relax too much; I’m used to always running around and doing things,” he explains. “On one hand, I miss [being in cities like] New York, playing in front of 10,000 cheering people. On the other hand, this not traveling, being grounded way of life has given me the opportunity to reinvent myself a little bit. I think this pandemic has given all of us time to rethink and reset. For me it has been refreshing in that it has made me look at things in different ways. A lot of the things I’ve done for the past 20 years are not happening now, so I’ve found myself doing other things, exploring other business alternatives.”
He actually began exploring options outside polo in 2013, when he launched the Figueras Design Group, a global design consultancy firm headquartered in Buenos Aires. Upcoming projects include Guenoc Valley, a 20,000-acre development in Napa Valley with an equestrian club, polo fields, a polo club, clubhouse, pony camp, golf course and winery (FDG will be largely in charge of designing the equestrian leg of the project, as well as the homes and clubhouse), and AMAALA, an ultra-luxury destination on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Coast, of which Figueras was named an ambassador and advisory board member last January.
Additionally, his focuses include Cris Yatay, his spectacular 30-acre Argentinian breeding ranch; wellness brand Flow Water, in which he is an investor and member of the board of advisers; Veuve Clicquot and NetJets, for which he is a global ambassador; and FuboTV, a streaming service with live sports and entertainment-focused content; he joined its board of directors in August. He is also working on creating his own bitter, currently slated for a spring release, as well as a collaboration with renowned Argentinian winery Catena Zapata.
But first and foremost, he is preparing for the global expansion of his unisex fragrance line, the Ignacio Figueras Collection. After nearly two decades as a spokesperson for Ralph Lauren Black Label and Ralph Lauren Fragrances, Figueras was ready to branch out on his own. He enlisted Moroccan master perfumer Carlos Benaim, who has worked with brands such as Frederic Malle, Prada and Calvin Klein, to create six signature scents, which officially launched at Bergdorf Goodman and Harrods in December 2019.
Photo Credit: Nick Garcia
It’s a passion project, which is why every single thing about the scents, from their horseshoe-shaped packaging to their names — Buenos Aires, Aspen, Palm Beach, Jaipur, Dubai and Windsor — was crafted to tell his personal story. “I had three pillars for what I wanted this [collection] to be about,” Figueras explains. “One was my family and how we travel around the world playing polo, which is what I love. The second was the places where we spend time as a family, which inspired the names of the fragrances. The third is philanthropy: proceeds from [all sales] go to Sentebale, Prince Harry’s charity, to help children in Africa.”
The Ignacio Figueras Collection was his clear and dedicated focus prior to the spring 2020 quarantines, but alas, the lockdowns also deaccelerated sales. “Obviously, Covid has complicated things. Traffic has been slow, though the fragrances themselves have gotten a lot of traction and good reviews. But I don’t mind slow; I think slow gave us a new way to really think about things. [As a result], we’re now working on a new e-commerce, direct-to-consumer strategy.”
One thing he has never needed to think about was the direction he wanted to take his brand — the fragrances, but his overall personal brand, too. The most telling part is that the fragrances are being sold using his given name, not his nickname. In his eyes, there is a marked distinction.
“I believe [using Ignacio] was kind of like [segueing into the] next stage of my life. Ignacio is the name my parents gave me. I think it looks a little more elegant and separates my new line from my previous 20 years with Ralph Lauren Fragrances. That was an honor and an incredible journey, but we wanted to tell our own story.”
For the record, his story will always include polo: contrary to previous statements that he’d likely retire at the age of 45, he’s arrived at 43, and Figueras, who has been playing since he was 9 and turned pro at 17, is not ready to put down his mallet. “I still feel good and young,” he declares. “Forty-five is around the corner, but I think I have a few more years in me. I still have a lot to give.”
Photo Credit: Nick Garcia
FIGUERAS IS OFTEN REFERRED TO AS THE “DAVID BECKHAM OF POLO.”
We totally get the comparison. Both men are world-famous athletes, strategic businessmen and fathers of four. Neither is particularly hard on the eyes, either. (Just saying.)
Of his similarities to the international soccer star, Figueras says, “To me, the comparison is a compliment, because I see [Beckham] as a very successful, down-to-earth family man. I wouldn’t refer to myself that way, but I do see where it comes from, and it’s an honor. I’ve met him a few times, and he’s a great guy, an accomplished sportsman, and in the next stage of his life, a very successful businessman. Of course, I don’t consider myself to be anywhere near as successful as he is, but he’s a good person to aspire to.”
We respectfully disagree: Not only is Figueras successful, but he’s also an easygoing, down-to-earth person, and just plain good. It’s rare to meet a star so truly humble. When we express this very sentiment, he says pragmatically, “I mean, I don’t know any other way to go about life. I don’t believe I’ve done anything that allows me to be any different. I don’t think I have the right to not be down-to-earth.”
This is certainly what drew him to close friend Prince Harry, who is also spectacularly unaffected. That, and polo, of course.
The two were meant to play in a Covid-canceled charity tournament in the States last summer for Sentebale, the nonprofit Harry founded with Prince Seeiso, Principal Chief of Matsieng of the Basotho Royal Family, in 2006; it offers support to children with HIV and AIDS in Lesotho and Botswana. Figueras, who is an ambassador for the organization, says they are currently preparing to do live charity events as soon as the world is safe enough.
“We’ve been communicating mostly by phone and video conference. I have not seen him [because of the pandemic], but we speak a lot. He’s in America, and he’s very happy,” says Figueras, who was supportive of the prince’s decision to move his family — wife Meghan Markle and son Archie — to the U.S. “My situation is very different to his, but of course I would do anything in my power to protect my family and my children. If I had to protect them with my life, I would. I think that’s what he’s doing. He’s putting his wife and his child first, and he believes that what he’s doing should be done. I respect that very much.”
Photo Credit: Nick Garcia
Figueras gets it, because his own kids are everything and seemingly always have been, given that he was a young dad. His firstborn, Hilario, arrived when Figueras was just 22. “I’ve been a father for 20 years now, and I could not think of my life in any other way. When you have children, something happens inside you, where you are not the most important thing anymore; you come second. It’s been like that for me for a very long time, and I love it.”
And obviously, his kids love him. More tellingly, they actually like him (though how could you not, really?). In particular, any parent of a teenage girl knows this is no mean feat.
He says of his relationship with his 16-year-old daughter, “Aurora and I have bonded a lot lately because she is very hands-on with most of the projects I’m working on.”
Not only does she know about breeding, but she also helped (as did his wife, Delfina) in the development of his fragrance line. It was a big responsibility, but one that he was always confident she could handle. It’s no wonder he proudly vows that all his future business ventures will bear his last name. Together, they are stronger than they are apart.
The Figueras family is also supremely fortunate. He knows this and does not take it for granted; nor will his kids. “I try to teach them that saying please and thank you are the most important things in life, to say them every day, as I do. I teach them to be grateful, to be kind, to work hard.
There’s a great phrase from Cinderella, which is, ‘Have courage and be kind,’” he says. “I truly believe that.”
They’re words to live by, and ones the world at large needs to hear. So he’ll give us a few more, the gist of which is this: there is always, always, always a silver lining — even when it’s impossible to see. Though 2020 was traumatic, there is an end in sight; through darkness comes light. “I can’t wait for the world to go back to as normal as possible, but I’m grateful to have been given the chance to reconnect with family and friends, [because] spending time with my family is the biggest luxury,” he says. “And I think that when we look back at this time a few years from now, we’ll be able to see the positive. Yes, things have been tough, but life is beautiful…and we all deserve to live an amazing life.”
Photo Credit: Nick Garcia