Don't shop at Zara until you read this

Founded in 1975, Zara has become a household name over the ensuing decades and continues to grow like wildfire. Originating in Spain and owned and operated by parent company Inditex, Zara utilizes four guiding principles for all its stores: "beauty, clarity, functionality and sustainability." With offices in over 60 cities around the world, Zara truly runs at a global scale. Not only is Zara one of the "biggest international fashion companies," parent company Inditex is also "one of the largest international distribution groups," as noted by Zara's websiteForbes placed Inditex at No. 54 in their round-up of the most innovative companies in the world.

Known for delivering cutting edge clothing at breakneck speed, Zara executives achieve such brevity because they "don't believe in meetings" (via WWD). If you've never delved into all that Zara has to offer or if you are thinking about purchasing some new duds, it's best to know everything about this behemoth brand before dropping your dough on their products.

Where you can nab Zara goods around the world

If Zara suits your fancy, it isn't hard to nab some of their jaw-dropping merchandise across a large percentage of the globe. Whether in-store or online, Zara has plenty of options when it comes to shopping. Zara parent company Inditex states on its website that there are brick-and-mortar stores in 96 markets around the world and that products are available for order online in 202 markets as well.

Though the first Zara store opened in New York in 1989, according to MDS, the brand has been slow and cautious in building a robust presence in the United States. That strategy has paid off. As of the end of 2018, there were 100 stores throughout the U.S. If you are looking for a store near you, there is a handy feature on the brand's site for easy location finding. And though Zara has a massive and popular online presence these days, according to Forbes, the brand was slightly behind many competitors when its online shopping site launched on Sept. 7, 2011.

Zara's easy-to-use return and exchange policy

If you do decide to take the plunge and purchase some trendy clothes or accessories from Zara and they don't quite work out for you, don't sweat. Zara has a pretty easy system in place for returns and exchanges. If your purchase at Zara.com was made in the last 30 days and you would like to return it, you can do so in one of three ways: return the item to a brick-and-mortar Zara location within the country or region you purchased it, return it to Zara.com by using a shipping return label, or return it to a specified drop-off location.

If you like the item but received a size or color that doesn't work for you and you would like to exchange it, Zara has you covered there, too. Once an exchange is initiated, as long as Zara.com receives the item within 14 days, you are good to go and they will ship out the requested item to replace the original purchase. If you want to exchange your item for another item altogether, you will have to return the original piece according to the return directions and then make another purchase. 

Zara's stance on human rights

Since Zara pumps out inventory at break-neck speed, all eyes are on the brand in terms of how they treat employees and how they address their suppliers as well. According to a 2011 BBC report, Inditex uncovered that one of their suppliers in Brazil had employees working in sweatshop conditions. Later in 2017, factory workers in Istanbul placed notes in the pockets of the clothing they made, stating they were not compensated for their work by the factory owner. Inditex responded by creating a hardship fund for those workers who were unpaid.

The brand has worked swiftly to rectify these kinds of horrific situations and to put in place safeguards against the similar things happening again. They do so by conducting audits and upholding internal and external policies and codes of conduct. According to Zara.com, "Inditex's Human Rights strategy relies on three pillars: policy commitment, due diligence and grievance mechanisms." They conduct regular training for employees and those in management positions within the supply chain to maintain high standards in regards to human rights.

Tips for navigating Zara's massively popular sales

Zara is known for its reasonable price points, but there are times when those prices drop even lower throughout the year, and these sales are insanely popular. Because of the popularity, there are plenty of articles offering tips on how to best navigate the sales in person and online from expert former employees and devoted shoppers.

With some sales starting at 70 percent off, these sale events are not to be missed. From pre-checking the availability of items in store online to getting to Zara stores super early, there are ways shoppers can get a leg up on savings. One former Zara employee dished to Refinery29 about tips, reminding shoppers that, due to the massive attendance at the sales, patience may be required. According to Who What Wear, knowing exactly when the sales start is key. When a sale date is announced, it is also helpful to know that "Zara's sales start online at 10 p.m. the day before the in-store sale begins."

Zara invests in communities through volunteering programs

According to Inditex's website, "the Dow Jones Sustainability Index singled [the company] out as the leading retailer in corporate citizenship and philanthropy" four years in a row. In 2018, Zara's parent company worked to develop 620 initiatives that helped 2.4 million people. Under the umbrella of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, the brand focuses on the following areas: "good health and wellbeing," "quality education," "reduced inequalities," "decent work and economic growth," "responsible consumption and production," and "partnerships for the goals."

Inditex also encourages volunteering amongst its employees. According to the company site, one of its top priorities "is to actively participate in the communities where we operate, increasing our social contribution in the countries where we are present." Inditex noted, "That is why all Inditex employees have the opportunity to become a solidarity ambassador for the company." These initiatives include the Salta Project, which provides jobs and opportunities to community members in vulnerable situations. 

Zara's website and brick-and-mortar accessibility policies

Zara is committed to the equitable treatment of those with disabilities. They pledge to provide access to goods and services, open communication and great customer service, and total compliance with AODA guidelines. Zara locations provide elevators, small tables for checkout, and easily maneuvered stores. The brand also has an open door policy for service animals. Additionally, Zara holds training sessions for all employees and contractors regarding accessibility standards and procedures, and all of the brand's policies extend to every person who works for the brand, including website and telephone support staff and volunteers.

As with many companies around the world, Zara is adjusting their website to accommodate all users, including those who are visually impaired. Employing expert consultants and asking for customer feedback, Zara has stated via its website that it "is committed to aligning its website and its operations in substantial conformance with generally-recognized and accepted guidelines and/or standards for website accessibility."

Zara is no stranger to controversy

A brand the size of Zara is not without the occasional snafu. With multiple languages and cultures involved in all aspects of their lightning=fast production, it is understandable that sometimes items make their way onto the shelf that might have been 86ed if properly assessed.

In 2017, Zara released a denim skirt with an emblem resembling the controversial "Pepe the Frog" character to outrage in the Twitter sphere. According to The New York Times, this may have been a case of globalization gone wrong, as the Spanish artist who created the design claims he based it on his own drawings. But since the character has been commandeered by the alt-right in the United States specifically, it may have been taken out of context. Similarly, Zara also launched an offensive children's shirt and a questionable t-shirt. All of these items were removed from Zara's inventory. 

Oh, and who could forget the time Melania Trump wore a Zara jacket that read, "I really don't care, do [you]?" Yikes.

What Zara does for the environment

In a sector that has been scrutinized for lack of care towards the environment, Zara seeks to stand out from the crowd. According to Vogue, since 2001, the brand has prioritized fabrics that are "sustainably produced," eco-efficient production facilities and stores, and greener packaging, as well as recycling programs.

Pledging to build on those foundations, Inditex committed to "Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals," avoiding fibers from endangered areas, and employee training. By 2023, the brand says it intends to cease the utilization of single-use plastics. Further down the line, by 2025, Inditex says it will be producing clothes from 100 percent sustainable or recycled materials, zero out landfill waste from its locations, and move to 80 percent renewable energy in its "HQ, distribution centers, and stores." 

Incorporating #joinlife into the brand's social media also encourages shoppers to remember to bring their clothing for donation and recycling to Zara's in-store containers. Zara's Join Life page states, "As part of our social and environmental commitment we help you to easily extend the lifespan of your clothes."

Zara has the goods to dress the kiddos in your life

Zara isn't just for the grown-up ladies and gents. Celebrities like Victoria Beckham are in the know about Zara's robust offerings for children, with clothing options for boys and girls starting at 3 months through 5 years and then for the older kids from 6 to 14 years old. In the summer of 2019, Beckham posted an Instagram story of daughter Harper donning a darling Zara dress (via Hello!). From swimsuits to schoolwear, to exercise outfits, underwear, and socks, Zara has everything needed to clothe young ones in the latest trends.

If the kids in your life are into street fashion, Zara has them covered there too. Zara's sneaker collection for kids is seriously adorable, and the newborn shoe collection may be the cutest thing on the internet. Zara even offers a super fun travel collection with colorful and see-through luggage for children.

Zara's TRF department is geared towards a younger crowd at a slightly lower price point

Near the back of Zara brick-and-mortar stores, their lauded TRF section holds the newest trends geared towards a slightly younger crowd and boasts prices that are a little lower than the other labels the brand sells. TRF is short for "Trafaluc," a word that the Zara press department told Who What Wear "doesn't actually mean anything."

The clothes in the TRF section are known for being a little bit bolder than those in the other sections of the store like the Zara Basic or Zara Woman sections. With bolder prints and a more fashion-forward sensibility, the collection appeals to those who are a little younger or who are slightly more adventurous. According to Sportswear International, the brand launched a customizable feature to their denim offerings in the TRF section in 2019. Customers can choose a word with up to 11 characters, their favorite font, and thread color, as well as placement, for custom embroidery.

Zara makes clothing, shoes, and accessories for men as well

Zara owner Amancio Ortega is one of the richest men on the planet. His astoundingly successful company started out back in Spain primarily as a women's brand, but times have changed. Now Zara boasts a wealth of men's options from tailored suits to streetwear trends, to classic staples.

Frequently covered by top men's fashion magazines like GQ, the menswear line offers affordable and stylish clothing and accessories at a fraction of the price of high-end retailers. With full suits and tuxedos often in the $200 range, the prices are hard to beat. Known for taking notes from the hippest runways and turning around trendy production at lightning speed, the company used to focus mainly on clothing, but Zara has also added popular footwear to the roster. Leaning on trendsetters like Adidas (specifically Kanye West's Yeezy), Zara produces stylish imitations at rock-bottom prices.

Zara has a full maternity line

If you or someone you know has a bun in the oven, don't fret. Zara has the whole maternity thing covered. Aptly named Mom and nestled in the women's section of the Zara website, the brand helps make being a mom-to-be a stylish occasion. On-brand and trend-forward stretchy workwear makes a growing belly no problem at all. From stylish outerwear to jumpsuits and dresses for every occasion, the brand keeps trendy fashion the priority throughout the collection, which is available exclusively online. 

The line was launched much like other collections that Zara produces... quietly. With little PR fanfare leading in to the drop, savvy shoppers and journalists picked up on the collection on the website and sent the internet atwitter. Refinery29, even waxed poetic about the potential of Meghan Markle donning some of the pregnancy clothes while she was pregnant with ArchieEvening Standard pointed out that Zara was behind on the trend, as other retailers widely offered maternity options first (though the publication mentioned that there was a brief interlude when Zara offered a small selection for moms-to-be in select stores a few years prior).

The 411 on Zara's Cornershops

A brand of few words, Zara employed a vague promotional video on social media to tease a new collection in September 2018. Launched that October, Zara's Cornershops collections have lots of options for shoppers — women, men, and children. The women's Cornershops collections include Dress Time, Timeless, Denim, Mom, Beauty, and Join Life, while the men's section houses the subcategories Street, All Time, and Join Life. For the kiddos, the Cornershops just cover dresses for the time being — but who knows what the future holds!

The women's Cornershops Dress Time collection focused on outfits for special occasions, so, if sporting affordable sequins is your fancy, look no further. The Timeless collection houses basics that don't go out of style like blazers and trousers. Alternatively, Join Life for both men and women focuses on sustainable and/or recycled fabrics, a part of Zara's pledge to be environmentally friendly (via Vogue).

Zara customer service is at the heart of everything the brand does

Zara is at the cutting edge when it comes to the customer service realm. Known for reacting to and including its customers in creating the trendiest clothing as quickly as possible, it makes sense that the brand works hard to ensure they get the feedback they need directly from the mouths of their consumers. The brand offers easy-to-access options for chatting with customer service representatives, like a 24/7 live online chat and a toll-free phone number in addition to customer care specific accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 

Zara parent company, Inditex indicates that its customers are the key component to Zara's success and the ways that the brand is able to connect to them is considerably enhanced by technology. In 2018, the brand had communicated with over 29 million of its customers. Zara also boasts RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Technology) to track the location of goods to aid in accurate and up-to-date inventory so that customers have access to what they want, when they want it.

Zara Home offers a wide array of goods for the house (and very cheap delivery)

Zara is not limited to clothing and accessories for men, women, and children. The behemoth brand also broke into the home goods realm, to much success. Zara Home was originally launched by parent company Inditex as a spinoff of Zara. Each brand maintained separate websites and brick-and-mortar shops, but the two sister brands merged in 2019. As of this writing, Zara carries limited home goods.

With 2017 global sales at 830 million euros, Zara Home is obviously incredibly successful. Launched in 2003, as reported by Retail Gazette, the brand offers options for every room in the house, including bedding, home fragrances, and kitchenware. From furniture like living room seating options to accent pieces, such as planters and mirrors, affordable style abounds. Additionally, Zara Home partners with other brands to provide consumers with a wide array of goods. Also, word to the wise — shipping is free for orders over $49.90, which is a steal when looking at having furniture delivered.