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OM in the News: Zara’s Fast Fashion

December 14, 2016
Zara's identifies trends and quickly moves garments from sketch pads to stores

Zara’s identifies trends and quickly moves garments from sketch pads to stores

A black, high-collar women’s wrap coat, fastened with a metal ring, was just hung out for sale at Zara’s flagship store in NYC. “Customers asked for hardware this season,” the manager said. That kind of feedback can inspire a new style that reaches a Zara store within weeks. This coat took 25 days. The garment’s journey from design workshop in Spain to retail display rack in Manhattan offers an inside look at the fast-fashion model that has made Zara’s parent company the world’s biggest fashion retailer, writes The Wall Street Journal (Dec.7, 2016). 

A designer and pattern maker at the Spanish company’s HQ took 5 days to fashion a prototype of the coat, based on discussions with Zara store managers of what women were seeking. Cutters and seamstresses then worked 13 days to produce 8,000 of the coats. Over the next 6 days they were ironed, labeled, tagged, checked for quality, then trucked to Barcelona’s airport. The next day coats were on a truck to the Fifth Avenue store, to sell for $189.

The company’s ability to respond quickly to customer taste has long been the subject of industry study. One way that Zara’s speeds production is by making most of its garments in Spain. Every creative decision about all Zara garments flows quickly from impromptu discussions at HQ, in a huge open workspace. Designers and commercial staff sit side by side, in contact with Zara store managers around the world. Often, managers fly in, view a mock-up, and help shape product design.

As a result of Zara’s speedy conception and nearby production, it can get new clothes to stores in as fast as 2 weeks, while competitors take several months. “Since the beginning, the idea has been to understand what the customer wants first and then have an integrated manufacturing and logistics system to be able to deliver it to them quickly,” says the CEO.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. What are Zara’s core competencies?
  2. Why do other firms take longer to go from design to delivery?
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