To: Pablo Isla, CEO — Inditex (Zara)

Dear Pablo,

Working in the consumer products space, I have examined many different companies, but Zara remains one of the most fascinating studies. Your accomplishments—from a supply chain, retail, digital and culture perspective—rival few others because of the quality people you’ve hired and the culture you’ve built.

While I have watched Zara’s rapid ascent, I have also been studying a new generation of shoppers and retailers that started online. One of the internet’s biggest lessons is that change comes faster than anyone expects, and the best time to plan for this change is before it happens. While Zara is succeeding with most of its growth metrics, the industry is changing quickly and companies with a lot to lose need to be proactive.

But where to start? Here’s one idea.

Launch the Timeless Collection.

Zara means speed. You have given shoppers the gift of choice and minimized the need for compromise. This approach has allowed you to create a company that is on the cutting-edge of adaptability, even with billions of dollars of revenue and over a hundred thousand employees.

From a design perspective, you’ve made high-end fashion approachable and affordable. Those that criticize your work as derivative miss the point; fashion and apparel are part of an incredibly circular industry, where most players, both up and down the pecking order, influence each other.

However, working at one extreme creates opportunities at the opposite end. While many of your products won’t be on sale for more than a few weeks, what if you started creating products that would exist—in some form—for the years and decades to come?

The idea is to launch what I call The Timeless Collection, which takes evergreen styles and makes them affordable for the masses. These perennial items would supplement the rapid emergence and evaporation of new designs, a bold but practical admission that some styles don’t change.

This concept has a few benefits:

  1. It encourages your designers to recognize what makes something timeless and desirable as trends evolve. In doing so, it flexes new or underused muscles in your team, building valuable skills that will enhance your company’s endurance.
  2. After years of following where style is going, it allows you to determine where it’s headed. Can you really chase the next thing forever or do you want to help shape it? Most people take influence from the best, which is totally fine, especially when a company is as good at it as you are. But as the next generation of shoppers builds brand affinity, many are looking to support brands that are pushing the world in new directions. You have all of the infrastructure and talent to take a leap forward when it comes to design innovation.
  3. While business is booming, fast fashion faces existential threats because of the objective human and environmental costs. Companies like Zara need to start hedging their efforts in a number of ways. Showing an interest in a more sustainable approach will pay dividends both for your own brand and for other companies that look to you as a forerunner. Zara should utilize its leadership power in new ways. While using more eco-friendly materials is a positive step, taking action to address the speed of the cycle itself would send a strong message that core ideologies need to change with the times.  

While this might seem like a distraction from the strategy that has served Zara so well, industries change quickly—especially with the internet reshaping everyday life—and your company should work to anticipate where these changes are headed. Making a bold statement that on the surface runs counter to everything you currently stand for is one of the boldest ways for a brand to evolve—and attract young shoppers—in the rapidly competitive landscape

Driving change, rather than reacting to it, is just one idea that could sustain Zara at the top of its field.

Richie Siegel
Founder and CEO
Loose Threads