Amancio Ortega opened the first Zara store in 1975 in downtown A Coruña, Galicia, Spain. Ortega initially named the storeZorba after the classic film Zorba the Greek, but after learning there was a bar with the same name two blocks away, they rearranged the letters molded for the sign to ‘Zara.’ It is believed the extra ‘a’ came from an additional set of letters that had been made for the company
In 2011, Greenpeace started a dialog with Zara to ban harmful toxins from the clothing production. Greenpeace published its “Toxic threads: the big fashion stitch-up” report in November 2012 as part of its Detox Campaign identifying companies that use harmful toxins in their manufacturing processes. Nine days after the report was published, Zara committed to eradicating all releases of hazardous chemicals throughout its entire supply chain and products by 2020Zara became the biggest retailer in the world to raise awareness for the Detox Campaign and switched to a fully toxic-free production.
In August 2014, Zara received criticism for selling a toddler T-shirt for closely resembling uniforms worn by Jewish concentration camp inmates. The T-shirt was striped and featured a yellow star similar to the Star of David. Zara said that the design of the shirt was inspired by “the sheriff’s stars from the classic western films.” After being on sale for a few short hours, Zara immediately removed the shirt and apologized.Zara received heavy criticism for selling the T-shirt in Israel because Israel does not have sheriffs. Additionally, the word “Sheriff” is outlined in transparent letters on the bright yellow star. The Anti-Defamation League responded to the shirt saying it was offensive but welcomed Zara’s recognition of the potential imagery and removing the shirt from sale.
In July 2016, complaints were made against Zara that they had been stealing designs from multiple independent designers for their products. One of the designers, Tuesday Bassen, who previously worked with brands like Urban Outfitters and Nike, got in touch with Zara, and received a response from Zara that claimed that Bassen’s designs were not distinctive enough, and that they received only a handful of complaints given the large volume of traffic they receive on their site. When the news was eventually picked up by media outlets, and Inditex, Zara’s owning company, was asked to comment on the issue, Inditex replied that the items in question have been suspended from sale, and that they are in contact with Bassen’s lawyer to clarify and address the issue.