By Dorothy Scarborough
Since it shot to the top of the fast-fashion retail chain a couple of years ago, Zara has been unstoppable. It has beat other mega-retailers, and it’s easy to see why – the amount of clothing they have is incredible – it’s unbelievable. So how do they do it? Speed, incredible speed, new and unique products are introduced every day, and not just tank tops and leggings, something different, something which very often shares an uncanny resemblance with works of art from top tier fashion houses including Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana and Valentino, along with more affordable brands like Tommy Hilfiger, J. Crew and Brandy Melville.
Zara’s ability to remake cheaper versions of clothing from a diverse array of brands has helped it stay above its competitors. Some say that the speed has projected the brand to outer space, but if it was pure speed, why would Zara beat out generally cheaper brands like forever 21 and H&M? Perhaps, though the speed has aided the Spanish company’s rise to power, it is the array of clothing (obviously aided by the speed of the company) that has really changed the game. Why go to Forever 21, H&M, even Bloomingdales and Adidas, when you can find similar clothing cheaper and all in one place? Zara seems to purposefully create clothing for the more style focused among us, as they tend to be looking for on trend clothing constantly and at a better price than what is promoted in the top fashion magazines. This choice is in contrast to companies like H&M who have a few different expensive articles, which cost a lot more than their main line, which has very cheap pieces. It looks like the quantity (and diversity) of clothing at H&M is what makes it a one-stop shop for everyone inside the store, while the stylish designs are what keep opening and closing the doors.
For example, if you walk inside today you would see thin pompom pumps (à la Aquazurra), cool leather stickers (à la Anya Hindmarch) and floral bombers (à la Gucci), but who knows – tomorrow you might see something akin to Miu Miu’s punk ballet slippers or tiara like headphones strikingly similar to the alarmingly expensive ones from Dolce and Gobanna. While the company does paint smattered poplin button downs reminiscent of J Crew styles and t-shirts with inspirational quotes for fans of Forever 21, the items that really stick out are the ones that will turn the wearer into a super model by draping the wearer in clothing reminiscent of the maisons. That’s not to say H&M doesn’t sell high fashion, but their famous lines with stores like Balmain, Karl Lagerfeld and the late great Sonia Rykiel tend to be cheap clothing with brand names, almost never even coming close to items the designers make for their major lines and always selling out so quickly that few consumers have access, whereas Zara doesn’t believe that the name itself is worth more than the time it requires to manufacture the goods, the smaller inventory and the greater expense for the consumer. It understands that a product bearing a resemblance to a piece of high fashion is worth much more than a piece that only bears the name. $8 for a black Balmain tank top ends up being worth a lot less than $50 for a dress very similar to one on the catwalk. Zara is in business all its own – it’s thriving on the understanding that the consumer is happy to pay $40 for shoes that look like they’re worth $400 vs $15 shoes that look like they’re worth $15, and the belief that looking like a million bucks makes you feel like a million bucks.