The Zara empire: where did it all go right?
Massimo Dutti, Zara’s more conservative and pricier sister, has rented the old HMV building on Grafton Street, and it’s not just the business community that’s fired up
There are two things to be said about Zara. The first was said by its founder, Armancio Ortego, who only called his new shop Zara because the name Zorba was taken. “Selling fashion is like selling fish,” he said. “It’s worth more when it’s fresh.” This has led to Zara having one of the fastest supply systems in the fashion business, feeding its 6,000-plus stores.
The second thing to be said about Zara is that it is redefining the high street. In Dublin it is hoping that that is literally true. When this newspaper reported on Thursday, July 10th, that Zara’s sister brand, Massimo Dutti, had rented the old HMV building at 65-66 Grafton Street, the news was greeted with enthusiasm by Richard Guiney, CEO of Business Improvement District, which represents 2,500 city-centre businesses. “It’s a vote of confidence for the city,” he said. “We’re delighted. It’s a good brand, attracting the right sort of customer to the city centre.”
Grafton Street has had a tough couple of years, with a demoralising number of vacant shop fronts. Massimo Dutti, on the other hand, is part of the phenomenal success story of the Inditex fashion supergroup that also owns Zara and has pretty much conquered the world.The other Massimo Dutti store in the news, when it opens in October, will be on Fifth Avenue in new York.
Massimo Dutti is Zara’s more conservative and expensive sister. At the moment it has only one store in Ireland, at the Dundrum Shopping Centre. “It’s very Ralph Lauren,” says one satisfied male customer. And it is true that Massimo Dutti does a lot of linen, a lot of well-cut blazers and denim-look shirts: exactly the sort of reassuringly classic clothes that sell well during a recession.
Female customers at the Dundrum shop, who I interviewed while wearing my Massimo Dutti skirt, said they shopped there for items such as work trousers and blazers. “They’re great for that,” says Debbie, who is in her 50s and works in sales. Massimo Dutti also has a busy traffic in male customers. “My brother and my boyfriend shop here quite a lot, more than I do,” said Julia, who is in her 30s. Iindeed I met a cousin of mine going in: he likes Massimo Dutti because it’s not covered in badges declaring who made the clothes, he said.
Shopping in the Inditex stores is a global experience. First of all you’ll see other versions of your clothes being worn all over Europe – and Russia and China and Japan. Then there’s the sheer breadth of the group’s appeal, particularly of Zara’s stock. Of the women around the table at The Irish Times editorial meeting last week, several were wearing Zara tops. My mother shops at Zara. My nieces shop at Zara.
“They’re disposable clothes,” says one fashion insider. He is happy to note that Massimo Dutti’s sizes are bigger, although he will still squeeze into Zara clothes because they have more edge. “I got a black velvet jacket there, which was exactly the same as a Dolce and Gabbana jacket in Brown Thomas. It was €800. The Zara jacket was €80. I was beaten into it, but it looked great.”