Z Is for Zara

Get those wallets out—here's another reason to stay home. Zara, the fast-fashion clothing company with Spanish roots and more than 1,000 stores around the world, has finally launched online shopping for the U.S.

Okay, so it doesn't sound that awesome. I know what you're thinking: There are Zara locations everywhere, right? And each one of those locations is jam-packed full of an always-dependable stock of modern footwear, clean blazers, cocktail dresses and classic coats with price points that actually seem reasonable? Not really.

Like other fast-fashion chains—think Forever 21, H&M, Topshop—Zara runs out of inventory quickly. (And all of them feature salespeople who aren't always the most knowledgeable about the giant, giant sales floors.) Not to mention the fast, almost nonexistent shelf life of items. Like that sweater? Can you actually find it in your size? Better get it now—chances are, it'll be long gone this time tomorrow. But Zara.com will (hopefully) take care of that.

In fact, there's a pair of metallic-y, meshy high-heeled sandals that I'm eyeing right now; I couldn't find them at the South Coast Plaza store in a 7. They're in stock online. Plus, there's free standard shipping. And yes: Zara.com also offers its equally reasonably priced menswear and children's clothing. All without having to hear the awful Euro beats (untz untz untz) the store usually subjects shoppers' ears to.

However, also just like the other fast-fashion chains, Zara isn't without its own controversies. All those low price points come with a cost. The labor ministry of Brazil is currently investigating claims that sweatshops in the country are constructing the chain's clothing in horrible conditions: fire risks, poor ventilation, hygiene issues. Inditex, Zara's parent company, states it had no idea of what it's claiming was unsanctioned outsourcing.

Zara.com is just another example of fast-fashion chains moving (or expanding) their presence online. H&M's long-awaited online storefront will be here in spring 2012. Meanwhile, Urban Outfitters, known for its powerful online presence, is pushing click-to-buy features on Facebook soon—social media, web marketing and e-commerce in one!

Zara has always been the more sophisticated older sister of the fast-fashion types, taking after the runways more than the high street. And if the others have taught us anything, continuing down the highway of shitty labor conditions and controversy sadly isn't really going to hurt them much.


This column appeared in print as “Z Is for Zara.”

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