If you are into fashion at all, there is a good chance that you have heard of the brand Zara SA (more commonly referred to as simply Zara). Zara is one of the top Spanish clothing and accessories (fast fashion) retailers based out of Arteixo, which is located in Galicia. Originally founded back in 1975 by Amancio Ortega and his partner Raslia Mera, it has blossomed into the largest apparel retailer in the entire world. On top of that, they either own or are responsible for the likes of such brands to include:
- Zara Home
- Massimo Dutti
As if that wasn’t enough, Zara also manages upwards of 20 different clothing collections each and every year.
Zara: In the Beginning
Opening the very first Zara store back in 1975, Amancio Ortega would originally name the sore after one of his favorite films, Zorba the Greek. This original name would be Zorba, the same as a bar that was only a couple of blocks away. Once realizing this, he would then go on to reorganize the letters into a different order, eventually settling on the name Zara.
While not quite the megastore at the time, the first Zara sold lookalike clothes of the more high-end, popular variety, but at a much lower price. The store would do so well that he would eventually end up opening several other locations throughout all of Spain. While Ortega did experience much success, he would do something that would end up paying off big time.
During the span of the 1980s, Ortega would decide to chance the manufacturing, design, and even the process of distribution to a much more efficient one that would reduce the lead times and be able to react to the newer fashion trends much quicker, which he would end up dubbing ‘instant fashions’. He was able to do this by utilizing the evolving information technologies, as well as using multiple groups of different designers, as opposed to just individuals. Once Ortega had his new system working smoothly, there was only one thing left to do, expand.
Zara Expansion: The Building of an Empire
Since business was booming in all across Spain, the next logical step in the development of Zara was to start expanding internationally. They would do this by opening their first location outside of Spain in 1988, opening in Porto, Portugal. One year later in 1989, they would open in the United States, immediately followed by France one year later in 1990.
Experiencing even more success in their new countries, this would fail in comparison to the 1990s. Zara would open in Mexico in 1992, followed by Sweden, Belgium, and Greece in 1993. While it would take several years before any more expansion were to occur, in the early 2000s, Zara would see much more expansion in many more countries. First would be Singapore and Japan in 2002; Malaysia and Russia in 2003; Morocco, Hungary, Romania, China, and Estonia in 2004; Costa Rica, Indonesia, and the Philippines in 2005; South Korea in 2008; India in 2010; and eventually both Australia and South Africa in 2011.
Not one to be left behind by the evolving use of the Internet and online shopping, Zara would launch it’s very first online boutique in September of 2010. The website would be limited to only a handful of different countries to start, eventually being available across the globe by 2017.
Now that you know all about how Zara was one of the first to produce high-end style fashion at a much lower price point, they were also one of the first to use technology to make their overall system much more effective. While the old way of doing inventory was to actually have someone count out every piece that was in the store, Zara would revolutionize this.
In 2014, Zara would start to use RFID technology in all of their stores. This means that they would put RFID chips into all of the security tags that would be removed once the item was purchased. Not only were the chips able to be reused on other items, but the chips would also allow for a very quick inventory. Since the RFID tags would release a radio signal, all that was left to be done was to detect that signal. This means that when a security tag was taken off an item, it would immediately notify the stockroom, letting them know that an item had sold and needed to be replaced. On top of that, if someone were to leave a clothing article or accessory someplace that it didn’t belong, the workers would easily be able to find it from the RFID tag.
Now that you know all about the Zara brand, what they sell and how they have essentially revolutionized the way that shopping and doing inventory is done, what does all of this success mean for the founder of Zara?
Amancio Ortega, the Richest Man in the World
In August of 2017, Amancio Ortega, the Spanish fashion tycoon, would pass none other than Bill Gates as the richest man in the world. While it would only last a couple of days and Bill Gates would reclaim the number one spot, that is a pretty impressive feat. Ortega and his $85 billion fortune would help him get to the number one richest person in the world spot a total of four different times. While each trip to the number one spot would only last a short while, to be consistently reaching it is simply incredible.
While he may be a little less popular by name than Bill Gates or some of the other billionaires on the list of richest people in the world, here are some of the things that you should know this elusive billionaire.
- He is very publicly shy and dislikes interviews
Ortega is very shy when it comes to publicity and doing interviews. In fact, even though he is 81 years old, there are so few photos of him that he was at one point in time being confused with some of the other staff workers.
- He’s extremely frugal
While one may think that if they had $85 billion parked under their mattress, they may go out to some lavish restaurants and buy some really expensive stuff, but not Ortega. In fact, it has been reported that he only goes to the same coffee shop every single day, as well as eats his lunch inside the company cafeteria.
- He comes from humble beginnings
Being born in Leon, Spain, Ortega really did not have much growing up. In fact, he was actually a high school dropout who would work for a tailor, eventually going out on his own during his 20s. He and his late first wife of the time, Rosalia Mera, would actually get their start by selling lingerie and bathrobes to people.
- He was always one to innovate
Opening their first store together in 1975, Ortega and Mera would have their very first computer tracking sales system up and running by 1976. This was actually one of the integral parts of their very quick turnaround business system, which Ortega was smart enough to institute from the very beginning of their first store. During the early part of the system, Ortega made sure that it would be nimble enough to handle the high demands that he would put on it. These demands included being able to restock any one of his multiple stores within just 48 hours, as well as be able to turn any of the new designs coming out into actual clothing in no longer than 10 days.
- He is a true titan of the industry
Going public in 2001, Inditex is the parent company to Zara and was created in order to house other brands under the same company name. Inditex, which is evaluated at a $103 billion (which Ortega owns roughly 60% of), includes some of the most popular brands worldwide, the likes that include: Massimo Dutti, Stradivarius, Bershka, and Pull&Bear.
- He is simply tireless
It has been reported that Ortega had gone 25 straight years without taking a single vacation at one point in time. Even after he had stepped down as the chairman of the Inditex company in 2011, he would still show up to the office every single day in order to sit and discuss with the young buyers and designers. Talk about a man who was dedicated and loved his job.
While you may not have necessarily heard about the Zara brand of clothes, there are hundreds of thousands of people who have. However, if it weren’t for Ortega’s ability to design and innovative tendencies, there is a good chance that Zara would have never have grown into what it is today.
Luckily for Ortega, all of his hard work and dedication to his brand has paid off, and big. Worth an estimated $85 billion dollars, only time will tell how many more trips to the top of the world’s richest people he will come to enjoy.