Zara has been stealthily defining the fast-fashion retail model since the first store opened in A Coruña, Spain in 1975 (even though it doesn't identify as a fast-fashion purveyor; Zara brass much prefers the term "accurate" to "fast," FYI). There may be scads of labels scrambling to keep apace with the retailing empire these days, but its beginnings are humble: Zara was started by a former shirtmaker's errand boy, himself with a working-class background.
Over four decades later, Zara has more than 2,000 outposts globally. Its parent company, Inditex, has a sizeable portfolio of labels, all with offerings that hover around the pricing and style of Zara's affordable, trend-seizing lot. But compared to other brands with similar reach, Zara has been notoriously press-shy. Without blockbuster designer collaborations, A-list celebrity faces, nor splashy launches, product drops, or campaigns, Zara has always been relatively absent from the headlines (even if it's definitely overrepresented in our closets).
Refinery29 got the chance to visit Inditex's massive headquarters on a press trip to Arteixo, Spain (a 20-minute drive from A Coruña) to check out Zara's inner workings, up-close and personal. We wandered through the brand's design studios, poked around the pilot stores that dictate the merchandising plans for every single Zara location internationally, and toured Inditex's first-ever factory (which is still in use today). Here are 15 intriguing takeaways from our intimate encounters with the scary-brilliant retail juggernaut.