The youngest of four children, Amancio Ortega Gaona was born in Busdongo de Arbás, León, Spain, to Antonio Ortega Rodríguez and Josefa Gaona Hernández from the province of Valladolid, and spent his childhood in León.
Born in the north of Spain in the throes of the country’s 1930s civil war, Ortega came from nothing. His biography describes Ortega’s family getting suspicious looks at the checkout counter from grocers, an experience Ortega said both shamed and fueled him.
He left school and moved to A Coruña at the age of 14, due to the job of his father, a railway worker. The paltry income that came from Ortega’s father’s job as a railway worker and his mother’s work as a housemaid sometimes left them unable to afford even the most basic of items. Shortly after, he found a job as a shop hand for a local shirtmaker called Gala, which still sits on the same corner in downtown A Coruña, and learned to make clothes by hand.
In 1972, he founded Confecciones Goa (his initials in reverse), selling quilted bathrobes which Ortega produced in his early twenties with his siblings and his partner Rosalia Mera, whom he would later marry; using thousands of local women organised into sewing cooperatives.
Eventually Ortega decided he’d gained enough experience to start his own fabric mill, alongside family members and his future wife, Rosalia Mera, an unsung hero of the Zara-Ortega story.
In 1975, Ortega opened his first store with wife Rosalía Mera which they named Zara, so called because his preferred name Zorba was already taken- but Ortega was no overnight success. It took 12 years between the founding of the textile outlet, in 1963, and the first Zara storefront in 1975.
What set Zara apart, according to the BBC, was its ability to bring the latest high-fashion trends to the average person more quickly than other, bigger and more established stores were doing. As the company said in its mission statement: “Zara’s aim was to democratize fashion. In contrast to the idea of fashion as a privilege, we offer accessible fashion that reaches the high street, inspired by the taste, desires, and lifestyle of modern men and women.”
In 1985, Ortega formed Inditex as the holding company for his Zara locations, as well as other interests he’d invested in. Inditex finally went public in 2001, and has climbed many multiples since. Ortega typically earns more than $400 million in dividends a year. He has invested in an ever-expanding real estate portfolio, which includes buildings in Madrid, Barcelona, London, Chicago, Miami and New York.
Today, Zara, as part of the Inditex group (Industrias de Diseño Textil Sociedad Anónima), of which Ortega owns 59.29%, owns over 6,000 stores in over 88 countries with more than 92,000 employees along with it’s other brands, Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Zara Home, Kiddy’s Class, Tempe, Stradivarius, Bershka and Pull and Bear.
Zara stores change their stock twice a week and orders arrive within 48 hours. What goes in and what gets binned is down to the store managers, who are trained to monitor carefully what’s selling, but also what customers are looking for or even wearing.
Thanks to a super-slick logistics operation, more than half its clothes are being made in Europe, new ideas can go from design to shopfloor in just three weeks, less than half the average time it takes most big retail chains. Zara launches about 12,000 designs every year!
Today, the model is known as fast fashion (…So called for the amazing speed with which such retailers jump on the latest high-end fashion trends and gets cheaper knock-off versions onto their sales floors—giving them an edge over traditional operations that take months to imitate styles consumers are seeing on the runways. With an ever-changing roster of products, buyers are lured back into these stores again and again to see what’s new; meanwhile, low prices decrease the perceived risk of a given item soon going out of style), and is copied and studied around the world by other fashion retailers like Primark, Forever 21, H&M etc. Exclusive, quality of materials and a combination of textures and styles are the foundations of the world created by it’s stores like Massimo Dutti in all of its collections.
Ortega keeps a very low profile and is known for his preference for a simple lifestyle.His public appearance in 2000, as part of the warm-up prior to his company’s initial public offering on the stock market in 2001, made headlines in the Spanish financial press. Until 1999, no photograph of Ortega had ever been published. He refuses to wear a tie and typically wears a simple uniform of a blue blazer, white shirt, and gray trousers, none of which are Zara products.
According to Forbes, Ortega has crowded the world’s richest person three other times — but has always surrendered the No. 1 position within a day.
Despite Ortega’s enormous net worth, many people have never heard of him. He is an incredibly private man, is rarely seen in public, and has given just a handful of interviews throughout his incredibly successful career. In 2012, Bloomberg noted that he had only granted interviews to three journalists. He goes to the same coffee shop every day and eats lunch with his employees in the company cafeteria and instead of disappearing into an office, is usually found sharing a table on the factory floor, with some of the designers, fabric experts and buyers. On the weekends, Ortega reportedly raises goats and chickens at his country home in the Spanish province of Galicia.
In August 2013, his ex-wife and Zara cofounder, Rosalia Mera, died at 69. She was Spain’s richest woman. Ortega and Mera married in 1966, and were divorced in 1986. He later married Flora Perez.
In 2011, at the age of 75, Ortega announced his imminent retirement from Inditex, parent company of the Zara chain, stating that he would ask Inditex vice-president and CEO Pablo Isla to take his place at the helm of the textile empire. In 2012 Ortega donated about €20 million to Caritas Internationalis, a Roman Catholic relief organisation. He also bought one of the tallest skyscrapers in Spain, the Torre Picasso in Madrid. The building stands at 515 feet and cost $536 million. He’s also bought the Epic Residences and Hotel in Miami, considered to be one of the best luxury hotels in the US. He also owns The Global Express BD-700, a private jet designed by Bombardier, one of the leading manufacturers of luxury private jets. The plane carries a price tag of $45 million. Ortega drives an Audi A8 luxury sedan as he is said to be more about comfort than luxury.
As at September 2017, Ortega was worth $80 Billion and undoubtedly the richest man in fashion!
Source: wikipedia.com , time.com/money, pulse.ng, forbes.com, thetelegraph.co.uk