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.
Zara's specific styles are constantly changing and evolving to adapt to the latest trends, but there are several staples for women that will always be available. Dresses range from casual to more formal and might feature a range of colors and prints. The brand's tops feature elegant fabrics like silk, and they are best suited for wearing to work or going out on the town. T-shirts and camis are also available, though they feature distinctly European styles that set them apart from the options you might find at any other store. Knitwear ranges from sweaters to cardigans to turtlenecks. The brand also features trendy but functional jackets and outerwear.
Bottoms include capris, trousers, and leggings, in addition to some shorts. You'll also find a variety of skirts, available in different lengths, patterns, and styles. Zara shoes run the gamut from sneakers to heels to boots to ballet flats. The brand also features accessories like scarves and cellphone cases in addition to a broad selection of purses and handbags.
Upon first glance, it seems like the styles offered by Zara simply don't match up with prices, but that dissonance is part of what has made the brand so successful. Clothes look like the spitting image of garments you might find for hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars at a designer store, but the vast majority of apparel here is priced well below $100. Fashionistas love Zara because it gives them affordable access to such stylish designs, but the brand does have some limitations. Since it's based out of Europe and sells its clothes internationally, Zara hasn't made much of an effort to adapt its styles to the American populous. The main issue is size, and the average American is much larger than other cultures around the world. As a result, these clothes are mostly intended for women with more petite figures--a reality that the company has shown no signs of addressing. Still, for its innovative model and broad selection, we give Zara 4.5 stars out of 5.