The key brand owned by the Spanish fashion conglomerate Inditex, Zara brings the latest fashions to mainstream customers using a unique development and distribution model. The first Zara store opened in 1975 in La Coruna, Galicia, Spain. It was owned and operated by Amancio Ortega, who had founded his dressmaking company about a decade earlier. Almost immediately, Zara set itself apart from other ready-to-wear stores. Rather than sending its designs off to Asia, it completed the bulk of manufacturing in Spain, which allowed new merchandise to hit stores much more quickly than similar brands.
Zara bases all of its designs off of expensive fashion houses but offers clothes at much more reasonable prices so that they are affordable to the public. Since the company's process moves so quickly, looks can be replicated and offered in stores while they are still in season. The business model has been a huge success for years, and Ortega--now retired--holds the distinction of being the third-richest man on Earth. Today, Zara operates more than 1,700 stores across the globe. The brand has been cautious in the American market because so many European brands fail stateside, but it has slowly been expanding its domestic presence since 1989.