Sunday, August 19The Voice of London

Amancio Ortega: How He Became One Of The Richest Men In The World

The 79-year-old owner of retail chain Zara has recently been declared by Forbes as one of the richest men on the planet. Find out how Ortega made it; from leaving school at age 13 to over-taking software giant Bill Gates, when it comes to fortune.

Words: Aktolkyn Auyen, Subeditor: Christie Bannon

secondpic Jb Sanieda

What would you do if you worked for one of the world’s largest fashion retailers and the owner came and sat down next to you while you were sipping your decaf latte, checking Twitter? That’s what staff working at Inditex, the company behind fashion giant Zara can expect when they stop for lunch. We wanted to find out a bit more about Amancio Ortega: and discover more about the billionaire who would rather sit with his employees than in his office.

He might look like one of your favourite uncles, but Amancio Ortega was not always one of the world’s richest men. In fact, unconventional, humble, and modest are words I would use to describe Ortega. He was born in 1936, in the small village of Busdongo de Arbas in Northern Spain. His father was a railway worker and his mother worked as a housemaid. He left school when he was 13 to work in a clothing shop.

Source: Tam Dong

His fellow billionaires include the founder of Microsoft Bill Gates, the telecom magnate Carlos Slim Helú, and smart investor “Wizard of Omaha” Warren Buffet. In June 2015, Amancio Ortega overtook Warren Buffet and Carlos Slim Helú to become the second richest man in the world.

Amancio Ortega is worth (£46.9 billion). Let’s hope he buys lunch for the staff he sits next to at Inditex’s cafeteria.

Zara was cofounded in 1975 by Amancio Ortega and his former wife Rosalia Mera. Amancio Ortega and Rosalia Mera started making lingerie and bathrobes from their living room. By the mid-1980s, Zara’s clothing stores had spread across the whole of Spain.

Amancio Ortega and Rosalia Mera originally wanted to name their clothing shop after their favourite film Zorba the Greek. Unfortunately, the name was already taken by a bar in the same street – Zorba became Zara, and the rest is history.

Source: Steve Snodgrass

In spite of being one of the richest men in the world, every day Amancio Ortega visits the same coffee shop in La Coruna where he has lived for most of his life.

Why is Zara one of the most successful retail brands in the world? The key is ‘fast fashion’: giving customers new stock as quickly as possible. Zara’s store managers decide what clothing is stocked in-store and what gets replaced, and they keep a close eye on the latest fashion trends by looking at what Zara’s customers are currently wearing. So remember to keep a look out for the store manager, and get ready to tell them what you would like buy from Zara. You never know, the next time you visit the store your favourite LBD might be there.

The stock in Zara stores is changed twice a week. New products are designed at Zara’s H.Q. in Arteixo, and reach the stores three weeks later…which is FAST!

Source: William Cho

This is what Daniel Piette, Louis Vuitton’s director of fashion said about Inditex’s way of doing business: “possibly the most innovative and devastating retailer in the world.

Source: N. Corah & Sons, circa 1939
Source: N. Corah & Sons, circa 1939

Between 51% and 55% of the clothing sold in Zara stores is manufactured in Spain, Portugal, Turkey, and Morocco.

Coming soon to Zara store near you. Digital mirrors where you can ‘try on clothes’ without taking them off the shelf – no embarrassing underwear moments now! Not only that but self-service checkout where you can remove the tags and pay for items without a shopping assistant.

Source: TShops

And finally, we might all love Zara’s clothing range, but Amancio Ortega doesn’t seem to be that interested – he is frequently seen wearing a blue blazer, white shirt, and grey trousers – sorry, they all unavailable from Zara!