Spain: There are no celebrities in the studios of Spanish fashion chain Zara, just hundreds of twenty-something designers copying catwalk lines faster than their labels can sell them.
While shoppers storm the stores of rival H&M for clothes designed by Madonna and Kylie Minogue, Zara has hitherto shunned the global craze for celebrity-designed, celebrity look-alike fashion.
As Britain’s Top Shop buys wall-to-wall publicity for its popular Kate Moss collection, Zara sees no need for high-profile advertising.
Even its executives shun publicity, agreeing to be interviewed on a recent visit on condition they are not named.
“It’s all about speed,” says one, looking out from a boardroom at a distribution centre the size of an airport terminal at their headquarters in Arteixo, northwestern Spain. “Celebrities may work for other brands, not for us.”
Some analysts applaud the formula: Luca Solca of the Bernstein consultancy says stars are a substitute for design, speed and quality. He compares firms that use them to athletes forced to take steroids to compete.
Trendspotter Marian Salzman of the JWT advertising agency in New York agrees: “Zara is right to stay away from celebrities. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to be that way,” she said.
Indeed, analysts say, it was Zara’s fast-to-market model and H&M’s hip, cheap lines that obliterated the European middle-market and forced competitors to sign up celebrities to compete.
But retail professor Andrew Newman says Zara could begin to slow as it tries to sell the same fashions across 64 countries and still make the majority of clothes in Europe.
In just over a decade, Zara’s parent company Inditex has become the world’s second-biggest selling fashion retailer after Gap Inc. Zara drives two-thirds of sales.
With eight brands, ranging from higher-end Massimo Dutti to Bershka teenwear, Inditex is opening more than a store a day as it targets fashion-hungry Europeans and China’s middle class.
Industry watchers are not too sure if Zara’s tried and tested marketing strategy will hold ground in today’s times where packaging is sacrosanct. “A classic problem with firms that have been successful is arrogance. It’s possible that could happen to Zara,” said Newman of Manchester Business School, England.