10 Crazy Things You Didn’t Know About Zara

Despite the fact that many of us spend the majority of our paychecks at Zara (guilty!), much of how the notoriously press-shy retailer actually runs has been kept under wraps. Until now.
This fall, Zara: The Story of the World's Richest Man, a documentary produced by Prime Entertainment Group, will give an exclusive undercover look at the inner workings of the fast-fashion giant. In it, you'll find footage captured using a hidden camera, interviews with "insiders," and a glimpse into the life and career of founder Amancio Ortega (also known as the richest man in the world). And believe us when we say it's fascinating.
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Since the film won't air for a few months (and, at the moment, it will only be available in Germany and German-speaking parts of Europe), we got a sneak peek at the footage and pulled out the juiciest bits (of which there are many). Here are 10 of the most interesting, little-known facts about one of the world's most valuable brands.
Photo: Cristina Arias/Cover/Getty Images.
1. Zara Was Founded On Creating Knockoffs
After quitting school to earn a living to feed his family, Ortega first took a job as “handy boy in a shirt store” (called Gala Fabrica de Camisas); he later left it for La Maja, a chic shop where he learned the art of tailoring. There he realized that, instead of using the business model where fashion dictates what the customer wants, he could take what the consumer wants and make it in “fairly reasonable quality” and at an affordable price point. Sound familiar?
2. Ortega Started His Business By Making Bathrobes
Ortega launched his career by creating a cheaper version of a quilted bathrobe that La Maja sold in its window with one of the store’s saleswomen, Rosalia Mera (who would become his wife), and his stepsister. The three worked at the boutique during the day; at night, they'd make the pieces in Ortega’s brother’s dining room. Because there wasn’t heating in houses at this time, women would go shopping in their robes — so it made sense to have one that was stylish. Ortega made just that, and sold them door-to-door.
3. The Bank Loaned Him Just 30 Euros To Launch His Company
Before he even had the chance to sell his dressing gowns, he had to borrow money from the bank. He asked for a loan of 2000 pesetas, or about 30 euros. The robe, which fulfilled the customer’s needs at a cheaper price point, became the foundation of his business.
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4. One Man Gave Ortega A Major Business Key
José María Castellano worked at IBM and joined Ortega’s business as an outside counsel who convinced him to computerize everything — twenty years before most of their competitors — and to move beyond sleepwear to produce all sorts of clothing.
5. The Brand Has Romantic Beginnings
Ortega opened his first boutique in 1975 in A Coruña, Galicia, Spain and named it Zara after Zadar, the Croatian harbor where he honeymooned with his then-wife, Rosalia Mera.
6. Zara Invented Fast-Fashion
Zara manages to spot trends and create products based off of them in less than 15 days. In most of the fashion industry, it takes 40 weeks to get something on the market; Zara can get items out within two to four weeks.
7. There's A Reason Everything Is Always Out Of Stock
The retailer actually likes when its pieces go out of stock, because it draws customers back and creates a need. That desire (and sometimes, frustration) leads people back to the store, since it generates the idea that the item will eventually appear.
8. It Takes 38 Minutes To Sew One Women’s Shirt
One Zara factory in Tunisia, North Africa produces 1,200 pieces per day, 150 pieces per hour. Each worker is timed (there is a woman with a stopwatch to make sure things are running smoothly), and it’s called "working to the minute," which means it should take 38 minutes to finish one shirt; if it takes longer than that, the plant begins to lose money. The shirt will be sold for 29 euros, three times the manufacturing cost. Employees who perform well will earn a 45 euro bonus at the end of the year.
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9. Inditex Is Literally Full Of Clothing
Zara’s parent company, Inditex, is headquartered in Arteixo, Galicia, Spain and produces one billion pieces of clothes annually. Around five million items are sent to Zara stores worldwide every week.
10. Zara Finds Inspiration Everywhere
The company’s goal is to always be faster, so designers travel with a camera, pen, and paper to watch (and record) how people dress. Basically, everything is fair game.
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