By Paula Planelles Manzanaro
Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear or Bershka are well-known worldwide. The man behind these shops is Amancio Ortega, a Spanish fashion executive who turned a small shop in a central street in Galicia (Spain) into an enormously popular chain of fashion stores. Ranked by Bloomberg as Spain’s and Europe’s richest man and the fifth richest man in the world, Amancio Ortega prefers keeping his personal life in secret. Now, Covadonga O’Shea, founder of Telva –the most sold fashion magazine in Spain- unveils “the story of the genius behind the Inditex Group”.
The man from Zara, presented at the Spanish Embassy on Thursday 5th of July, unveils some of Amancio Ortega’s secrets, founding chairman of the Spanish clothing merchandiser Inditex. This group, with eight commercial formats -Zara, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho, Zara Home and Uterqüe- counts with 5.618 stores in 84 countries. Its management system, based on innovation and flexibility, and the affordable price of its clothes has contribute to Inditex’s international expansion in the world of high-street fashion.
Covadonga O’Shea, president of the ISEM Fashion Business School and author of The man from Zara told London Glossy how she came up with the idea of showing the world the unknown aspects of Amancio Ortega’s life.
- Your first meeting with Amancio Ortega became an opportunity for you to follow his career. How was your first impression? Why did you decide to visit his store?
When I was already director of Telva everybody talked about Zara and Amancio Ortega. For that reason, in December 1990 I decided to visit the facilities of Inditex in Arteixo, in A Coruña (Spain). I went there and I saw a man between shelves and piles of clothes. I asked him: “Do you know where Amancio Ortega is?” and it turns out that he was Amancio. My first impression was good as he started to talk to me in a friendly way.
- Everybody knows Amancio Ortega as a business man. But how is he as a person? Although he is one of the richest men in the world, he is very familiar and modest. He always thinks of his family and his childhood. Amancio started to work when he was 13 years old in an outfitter’s to help his parents. One day his mum picked him up from school and they went to a grocery. He heard something that he would never forget. “Josefa, -his mother’s name- I cannot borrow you more money”. Since then, he has tried to overcome any obstacle with perseverance and effort to make his family happy. For that reason I wanted to write about his life, because the world had to know that Amancio Ortega is more than a billionaire.
- Amancio Ortega has always kept his private life apart from the media. Taking into account that he is very discreet, how did you convince him of letting you write about his life?
I told Amancio that the world shouldn’t remember him just as a rich man. He reflected on it and realized that I was right. But he didn’t want me to write just about him. He said that Inditex was not just about Amancio Ortega but about every single person who forms part of the staff. “Don’t say that I run this company on my own. Inditex is the fruits of so many people’s effort”, he told me.
- These people’s effort made possible Inditex to become the world’s largest fashion group. How could a small shop become an empire? What are the keys of Amancio Ortega’s success?
He is a genius, a visionary, a business man with a forward-looking approach. He is intelligent and socializes with his staff, which means that he knows how to choose the best team. In addition, he has democratized fashion. Zara and the rest of the shops of Inditex have a perfect value for money. The stock rotation also contributes to it. Inditex launches new items every two weeks in countries near Spain and once per month in distant places. In addition, the production is limited, which makes customers want to buy the products before they sell out. The stores also have different styles and a variety of clothes for all sorts of customers. Women, men, children and youths can buy clothes and accessories at an affordable price.
- Apart from analysis Inditex’s success, what else does this book offer?
The unknown side of Amancio. Not only does the book talk about the story of Inditex and how its success is growing so fast but also it compiles statements of the people who really know him, interviews to his close friends and relatives and the people who work with him, such as Pablo Isla, the current president of the Inditex Group.
- What are the adjectives that they said? How do they describe him?
Exigent, intelligent, modest. As a business man who not only cares about his company but also about his workers.