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Russian model Irina Shayk in a Desigual ensemble


by Rose Maramba


Zara (Inditex, to be more precise) is BIG time. The world’s biggest fashion retailer catapulted co-founder-owner Amancio Ortega  into the ultra-exclusive league of the world’s TOP billionaires – a world that’s so sparsely populated it is  peopled only by the likes of Bill Gates, the world’s richest in 2015, with a net worth of US$ 79.2 Billion, says Forbes; Carlos Slims, Nº  2, $ 77.1 B; Warren Buffet, Nº 3, $72.7 B; Amancio Ortega, Nº 4, $64.5 B;  and Larry Ellison, Nº 5, $54.3 B.

Zara in Tokyo

Actually for four hours in 2015, when Inditex’s stock spiked, Ortega topped the billionaires’ list, edging Bill Gates out of the vaunted rank momentarily.

Zara, pioneer of fast fashion and budget chic, is responsible for showing other Spanish clothiers that the only game in the cutthroat town is facing challenges head-on; there’s simply no room for the inhibited and the fainthearted.

Next to Zara, the biggest Spanish fashion retailer is Mango which was founded in Barcelona. Its annual sales, 2015, were $2.3 B. It was founded by the Andic brothers, Isak and Nahman, of Sephardic origin, who opened their first store in Barcelona 1984.

Mango store in Mannheim, Germany

Mango’s largest shareholder is Isak Andic. Isak and family’s net worth in 2015 was $4.8 B, making them Nº 330 billionaires in the world and Nº 5 in Spain.  (In comparison, H&M’s Stefan Persson was ranked Nº 28 — Nº 1 in Sweden. He is worth $21.2 B as of this writing.)

Mango has adopted the Inditex concept of bringing speed and IT into fashion manufacturing and retail which allows rapid local and international expansion.

Hard on the heels of Mango is Desigual who opened its first store in 1986, in Ibiza. However, Desigual took longer to gain brand recognition and it’s only in recent years that it is palpably impacting young urban women, its target clientele. Founded in 1984 by the Swiss brothers Christian and Thomas Meyer, it is widely believed that Thomas was the brains behind the enterprise. He’s currently the president and, for all intents and purposes, owner of the company. He, like Christian – and Ortega and Andic for that matter – is the proverbial self-made man. He made his fortune not in his native Switzerland but in Spain, and he is now worth $2 B, making him the world’s  Nº 737 billionaire (2015). He lives in Barcelona, Desigual’s home base.

Desigual has taken its garments and accessories beyond casual chic into the realm of what one might call fashion nonconformism, a predictable trajectory considering that Christian Mayer is dubbed the hippy businessman. His earliest creation was actually a jacket patched together from pieces of old denims.

Desigual dress

Bold colors and graffiti art clash unrestrained in Desigual’s asymmetrical creations and have become the company’s hallmark.

Desigual is of course the Spanish word for unequal as well as asymmetrical.

Within 20 years of its founding Desigual’s revenues have hit the billion-dollar mark.

It almost doesn’t seem possible that not so long ago about the only thing that came to people’s mind when thinking of Spanish fashion  — if they ever thought of it at all – was the faralaes , the body-hugging flamenco gown profusely ruffled around the hemline and cuffs. Who would have thought that a country that once got stuck with the flamenco costume (not that there’s something wrong with that costume) could spawn some of the biggest players in the world of chic fast fashion?


Featured image Desigual at Bcn Fashion Week 2014/Enric Fradera, CC BY3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Zara Tokyo/Comunicacioninditex, CC BY-SA4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Mango store/Wegavision, CCO via Wikimedia Commons
Irina Shayk in a Desigual dress at Bcn Fashion Week 2014/Enric Fradera, CC BY3.0 via Wikimedia Commons