On March 9, Arte TV has broadcasted the documentary “Fast Fashion: The real Price of low-cost fashion” which is based on our investigation of Zara’s business model published in 2020.

Our joint research with Public Eye and “Collectif Ethique sur l’Etiquette” on Zara, the flagship brand of Inditex, reveals the hidden side of this leader of Fast Fashion.

The key to Zara’s commercial success lies in a model that enables the company to respond in real time to consumer demand, by offering them a very large number of low-cost products directly inspired by “haute couture” collections, just a few weeks after their official launch at fashion shows.

Each year, Zara  creates more than 65,000 new products (compared to an average of 3,000 to 4,000 for traditional competitors in the sector), and 75% of items sold in its stores are changed every month.

This frenetic renewal of products is addictive for customers who come back on average 17 times a year in Zara’s stores (compared to 3 to 4 times for traditional competitors), for fear of missing out on their latest innovations. It also enables Zara to limit its stocks to a minimum, as well as the quantities sold on sale/discount, and the level of discount rates applied (2 times lower at Zara compared to competitors). This success has been possible without resorting to advertisement, since Zara’s spending on advertising represents less than 0.3% of its annual turnover.

What is the impact of this business model on the workers involved in the brand’s supply chains?

To answer this question, we have investigated the detailed breakdown of the price of a typical hoody featuring the word “RESPECT” sold at Zara stores during the summer 2019.

Our results are as follows: according to our calculations, for each hoody sold at an average price of € 26.70, Inditex generates a net profit of € 4.20 per item, which is more than twice the sum of all the other players involved in the manufacturing of the product (€ 2.08), from cotton farming in India to the spinning in Kayseri and the garment factories in Izmir (both in Turkey).

According to the information gathered in Turkey, workers in this supply chain earn between 2,000 and 2,500 Turkish liras per month (310 to 390 €), about a third of the living wage estimated by the Clean Clothes Campaign (6,130 lira).

However, such low wages are not a fatality: by spending € 3.62 more per item on labour, Zara could guarantee a living wage for all workers in its suply chain. Even if this sum was deducted from Zara’s net margin, the brand would continue to generate greater net profits on each hoodie sold than any of its subcontractors in the chain…


The trailer of the documentary in English can be seen at the following link on the javafilm platform.

To view the full documentary in French (until the end of June 2021), follow this link to the Arte replay platform.

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