Zara has become one of the leading fast-fashion global brand in recent years. The brand’s fashion-forward designs, quick turnaround products and affordable prices are changing the fashion industry. On Zara’s official website, indicates that Zara is one of the largest international fashion companies that belongs to Inditex, one of the largest distribution groups. Inditex (Industria de Diseno Textil), a Spanish corporation founded by Amanico Ortega in 1975, owns eight brands which include Zara, Zara Home, Massimo Dutti, Pull&Bear, Bershka, Oysho, Stradivarious and Uterque. Inditex present in 94 markets, 45 of them online, in all five continents with more than 7,000 stores and Zara has the most stores, currently 2,236 worldwide. The founder, Ortega has been on the Forbes list as one of the world’s richest person and resigned as chairman in 2011. Pablo Isla is current CEO of Inditex.
What is fast-fashion? In 1990, Jonathan Van Meter wrote a prescient article for the Vogue, “Fast-Fashion: Americans Want Clothing that is Quick and Easy”. Now fast fashion term evolved to design that reflects fashion runway shows and recent trends in affordable prices. Zara is known to be the pioneer of fast-fashion and has enormous number of stores globally and their merchandise move incredibly quickly, and the turnaround speed is so fast that Zara stores’ entire inventory changes within 11 days. How is this possible? In 2017, Zara manage up to twenty clothing collections and this is ten times more than the traditional biannual cycle of high-end fashion. Now more than half of the high-end companies, such as Prada and Louis Vuitton, are making four to six collections instead of two each year because of Zara.
Trendy fashion products are accessible and affordable by fast fashion brands, there are few other fast fashion brands trending, such as H&M, Topshop and Mango and I argue that Zara dismissed the image of “cheapness” from fast fashion brands. Zara achieved brand recognition through runway-inspired products, upscale stores, and low discounting improved their name value. What type of marketing or branding discourse did Zara provide to present their products affordable and yet fashionable? How did Zara establish brand recognition and name value globally? I reviewed article on “How Zara Grew Into the World’s Largest Fashion Retailer,” The New York Times Magazine, by Suzy Hansen (2012). She notes Inditex imitates the latest fashion and speed their cheaper versions into stores. Zara sells trendy and decently made inexpensive products in beautiful, high-end looking stores. Inditex is ambitious to find valuable real estate for their stores and prefers iconic buildings, in 2011, they paid $324 million to buy a space at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York, a building best known for being the most expensive ever sold in Manhattan.However, Zara cannot avoid the major problems that fashion companies’ encounter, particularly poor or even deadly factory conditions along with factory workers’ low wage. Most recently in 2017, Zara factory workers in Turkey were unpaid for three months. They placed notes inside clothes which customers purchased in Istanbul and the notes indicated that, Bravo Tekstil clothing factory in Istanbul, which is one of Zara’s factory, owed the workers three month pay and severance allowances. The factory closed overnight, and the factory owner and management fled with funds without any further notice. This caused an outrage from the media and in result, Inidex paid the factory workers. Through global sourcing of clothing manufactured in developed countries, the fashion industry has been widely criticized of poor working condition even death among workers.
One of the notorious deadly building collapse recently involved with the fashion industry was in 2009 at the Rana Plaza in Bangladeshi. The building collapsed and at least 142 people died, and more than 1,000 workers were injured. These factories were making clothing for European and American brands, which include Spanish brand Mango and low-cost British brand Primark. The price competition among low-cost suppliers resulted in difficult or dangerous working conditions, commonly known as “sweatshops”. This tragic accident brought international awareness to provide safe environment and healthy working conditions for factory workers. As a designer myself and working in the fashion industry, it is heartbreaking to hear such tragic news and urge the fashion industry to improve labor and factory conditions, which include paying workers properly and consider their well-being as well.
Zara achieved brand recognition and name value through its success and I argue that the brand dismissed the image of “cheapness” of fast-fashion. However, through researching the global fashion brand, I realized that Zara cannot avoid the notorious problems related to fast-fashion brands and urge Zara to become a moral role-model among the fast-fashion retailers.