We went inside one of the sprawling factories where Zara makes its clothes. Here's how the world's biggest fashion retailer gets it done.
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury
- Zara and its parent company, Inditex, have their global headquarters in Arteixo, a small town on the northwest coast of Spain. Inditex is considered the largest fashion retailer on the planet, turning out more than $30 billion in sales in 2017.
- More than 5,000 employees across various departments work here. The site is also home to 10 of Zara's factories and its largest distribution center, which is responsible for shipping the retailer's clothing to 96 different countries around the world.
- Here's what it is like to visit the factories and distribution centers that allow Zara to compete in the fast-fashion race.
- READ MORE: About what it's like in the area of Spain that revolves around Zara.
There are 2,238 Zara stores in 96 different countries around the world, each receiving shipments of new items twice a week. Every single piece of clothing passes through one of Zara's four distribution centers across Spain.
We visited the largest of all, located in Zara's main headquarters in the small town of Arteixo, in the north of Spain.
This area of the country is home to its founder, Amancio Ortega, and the first Zara store. Today, over 5,000 people work at this sprawling headquarters across different realms of the business, from design, photography, and modeling, to its factories and logistics platforms, which manufacture and distribute Zara clothing around the world.
Take a look inside:
The story begins in the heart of Zara's headquarters, where its 300-person design team is leafing through trend-forecasting books and putting together mood boards for the store's next collection.
Once a design is created, it is taken to a team of pattern cutters just meters away, who put together the first prototypes.
Once the prototype has been signed off on, a digitalized pattern is sent to one of its factories.
The factory that we visited solely manufacturers clothing for Zara's womenswear collection. The first step of the process is to set the patterns to the fabric.
The pattern layout is then sent to a machine that prints a life-size copy, using the relevant information about what part of the garment each piece is.
The fabric is laid out under large cutting machines, and the paper is placed on top.
Both materials are held in place with a tight plastic sheet. The machine slices through the material, cutting out the individual pieces of fabric.
On thinner fabrics, 200 layers can be cut at one time.
Once they have been cut, the paper and fabric pieces are boxed up together. The paper has all the details for the factory workers to see where these pieces need to be sent next, and which part of the garment they will make up.
These pieces are sent to external factories to be sewn together, along with a prototype of the item so that the factories can copy the exact design.
Once the item is sewn together, it returns to Zara's headquarters.
Zara's more expensive items and its key products are sent back to the factory for individual quality checks.
Pressing machines are used to flatten out the material.
Sleeves are blasted with hot air to shape the fabric and stretch the stitching.
Each item is individually ironed.
The clothing is then checked piece by piece ...
... to ensure there are no faulty stitches. Items that pass the checks are given a security tag.
If any issues are spotted in this process, the clothing is put to one side ...
... and any small faults are fixed on sewing machines.
Next, we headed to the distribution center. It is the largest of four in Spain and ships products to Zara's 2,238 stores.
Boxes with newly sewn-together clothing are unpacked from trucks and immediately passed through a sensor machine.
The boxes are placed on a conveyor belt and stocked in groups. These can be stored for several days in the distribution center before being shipped out.
Items that are ready for shipment are removed from the boxes and distributed between the specific stores.
The full boxes are then placed on another conveyer belt to be sent out for delivery.
In a separate corner of the distribution center, hanging garments that have passed the separate quality-control process are also waiting to be shipped.
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