This week Family Business Office, for its seventh edition of Focus On ‘World Business Leaders’ brings you Amancio Ortega, founding chairman of the Spanish clothing merchandiser Inditex, mainly responsible for the very popular brand ‘Zara’. Unlike our previous editions, this is the first feature from the Family Business Office on a first-generation business.
Amancio Ortega Gaona, was born on March 28, 1936, in Busdongo de Arbas, Spain. He is known as one of the wealthiest clothing retailers in the world. Ortega typically earns more than $400 million in dividends a year. A pioneer in fast fashion, he cofounded Inditex, known for its Zara fashion chain, with his ex-wife Rosalia Mera in 1975.
He owns about 60% of Madrid-listed Inditex, which has 8 brands and 7,500 stores around the world.
As a youth in A Coruña, in northwestern Spain, Ortega gained an entry into the garment business by working as a delivery boy for a men’s shirt store and as an assistant in a tailor’s shop—jobs that exposed him to the costs of manufacturing and delivering clothing directly to customers. He later managed a clothing store that, like the men’s shirt store, catered to a wealthy clientele. Ortega saw an opportunity to expand his client base by using less-expensive materials and more-efficient manufacturing systems and by competitively pricing garments. He first applied the approach to a bathrobe business, Confecciones Goa, which he founded in 1963.
Ortega founded the first Zara ready-to-wear clothing store in A Coruña in 1975, and it became not only an internationally famous chain but also the flagship of holding company Inditex, which he founded 10 years later. He remained the majority owner of the holding company, which in 2008 included the brands Stradivarius, Pull and Bear, Uterqüe, Massimo Dutti, and Oysho, in addition to Zara. The operations of all Inditex businesses were based on the so-called fast-fashion concept: at fashion shows trend spotters picked up design ideas, in-house designers copied the best concepts, and Inditex’s highly efficient manufacturing operations, most of which were based in Spain, produced and delivered new fashions to stores just a few weeks after they had been spotted on fashion runways. In an era in which most clothing manufacturers outsourced production to China and other low-cost locations, Inditex produced two-thirds of its garments in Spain and surrounding countries.
(Reference material on this publication was obtained from a combination of Forbes and Britannica biographies).
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