I once lived with a flatmate whose mantra was “I am a creature unlike any other”. She would intone it every time she was dumped, tipsy or just in need of some positive affirmation. It’s a good mantra, to be sure, and one to which we should probably all subscribe. Unless, that is, we shop in Zara.
If you shop in Zara, you are probably not a creature unlike any other. This is because, on any given day, 230518 other women are guaranteed to be wearing the same item of clothing as you are. No matter that your soul is a delicately wrought cat’s cradle of unique thoughts, singular feelings and unicorn tears: your body has been Zarified, all your wonderful idiosyncrasies hidden under the carapace of whichever £49.99 dress is this season’s high street hit.
Where to begin in cataloguing the litany of hits that spawned a nation of Zaraclones? With the chambray Bardot dress that dominated the summer? With the olive green jacket with fake black leather arms that dominated the autumn? Or maybe with the navy coat – you know the one. Arms speckled in tiny silver studs? Impossible to go to work without seeing three others within the space of ten minutes? Yes. That one. You probably own it. I would, too, had two colleagues not beaten me to the prize.
At the start of each season, I play a little game with myself called Zara Snog, Zara Marry, Zara Avoid
When Londoner Alice Frances started an Instagram account, #thatcoat, back in June, documenting her many sightings of a £69.99 blue and white tile-print Zara number, my first reaction was to feel miffed that I hadn’t noticed any myself. Spotting #Zaraclones is my hobby: how had this coat passed me by? At the start of each season, I play a little game with myself called Zara Snog, Zara Marry, Zara Avoid, which basically involves casting a beady eye over the website (not the shop floor – too crowded) and coolly dividing Zara’s inventory into three categories: Short-Lived Crush You’ll Go Off Soon, Actual Item Of Amazingness You Can’t Live Without, and Not To Be Bought At Any Cost Because Everyone Else Will. Over the years, I’ve honed the identification of this latter category into a fine art. A few examples I promptly Zara Avoided this season include: the loose, drop-waisted black dress embroidered with flowers (£49.99), the mid-wash rose-embroidered jeans (£39.99) and the three-quarter length navy peasant dress with embroidered sleeves and contrast red stitching (£59.99). And thank god, because all three are bloody everywhere.
You may think it’s lame to Zara Avoid buying things you actually like simply due to their likely ubiquity. You have a point. If I really, really loved something, the knowledge that six of my acquaintances already had it probably wouldn’t deter me. But the problem with Zara’s most popular items is that they’re instantly recognisable. The catwalk-inspired trends they feature – embroidery, rivets, contrast sleeves, ruffles – are precisely what makes it so embarrassing when you bang into your twin. Or (in the case of a certain candy-stripe shirt I recently bought) your quad. Hiyaaaaaa!
The high street is a hugely fertile ground for catwalk copies, but Zara remains in a league of its own. That Amancio Ortega, the Spanish owner of Zara and its parent company, Inditex, has managed to dress the world without even taking out so much as a single page advertisement in a magazine, is truly staggering. It’s also a wake-up call to those clothing retailers who have forgotten that good product should be at the heart of every business – not just Cara / Kendall / Gigi throwing shapes. Earlier this month, Forbes claimed that Ortega had toppled Bill Gates to become the richest man in the world. I reckon I’ve contributed quite sizeably to his $79.5 billion fortune. What about you? Hmm. I reckon he owes most of us a drink.