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Unpicking Zara’s Cult Appeal

Zara © Zara

That denim dress, the blue and white coat, those buckled ankle boots. Whatever the season, there’s always a standout sellout Zara piece to go with it. This summer, one of the hottest on record in the UK, it’s Zara’s white linen dress that reigns supreme. Barely a day goes by that you don’t see someone on the tube in said dress. You might think that the popularity of such items would damage Zara’s popularity, but it seems the opposite is the case. In fact, I bought the linen dress 2.0 (the belted version), just last week. You see, it isn’t by chance that we keep finding ourselves in Zara making yet another purchase, but a savvy business model unlike any other on our high street.

Founded by husband and wife team Amancio Ortega and Rosalía Mera in 1975 in A Coruna, a small town on Spain’s Northwest coast, Zara is now part of Inditex, the biggest fashion group in the world and owners of Bershka, Massimo Dutti, and Uterqüe.

The brand’s USP? High end design at high street prices. Unlike many fast fashion brands that have moved production to Asia, the majority of Zara’s pieces are made closer to where they’re sold so new styles can be turned around in rapid time. Not only can Zara interpret catwalk trends in a matter of weeks, they can just as quickly make product based on social media trends, customer demand, and even the weather patterns. Case in point: this summer’s ever growing array of linen pieces.

While traditional fashion brands create collections on a seasonal basis, say four a year, Zara’s adaptable approach means they drop new product on a weekly basis. These smaller but more frequent runs creates a sense of urgency, and therefore increased covetablitly. Products sell out quick and they create that classic feeling of wanting something you can’t have amongst shoppers.

Their marketing strategy is pretty unique too. While they may count a whole host of celebrities - from Kate Middleton to Alexa Chung - as fans, they don’t work with A-list models or focus on catwalk collaborations like their competitors H&M and Topshop. Instead they’re all about creating a superior shopping experience which prioritises prime location and a glossy aesthetic in store, and a sleek experience via their e-commerce site.

This doesn’t mean they don’t rely on social media coverage. Zara’s fast fashion model is perfectly suited to the Instagram age where hauls and new #ootd pics are prioritised over investment pieces and rewearing items. It seems, despite the sea change around sustainability and a burgeoning ‘slow fashion’ movement, Zara’s cult appeal is yet to fade.

And you only need to look at the numbers to see this in black and white. Zara now have 2,200 stores in 96 countries, and according to Forbes the brand is ranked the 45th most valuable in the world and worth a whopping $13 billion. If it continues to keep rolling out ‘it’ pieces, we can’t imagine this will be slowing down anytime soon.

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