Many fashion brands have become an integral part of our life, forming a part of our hopes and aspirations as well as our disappointments. But few of us know the inner stories of how these brands became cultural powerhouses.
In a two-part series, VIDM will explore the story of how some of the world’s most famous brands reached the pinnacle of success.
Guccio Gucci was an immigrant in Paris and then moved to London. He used to work in big hotels and was struck by the high profile guests used to carry that used to patronize these places.
The lavish lifestyle and premium goods left a deep impression on Guccio, and led him to demand the highest quality in his craftsmanship. He began working with the Tuscan artisans who helped him to sell leather bags to the horsemen. Soon, the leather bags began luxury bags.
The success of this endeavor led Gucci and his two sons to start a company. They opened a store in their native Florence where they sold fine leather accessories, all imprinted with the now iconic Gucci logo of the company, inspired by their clientele of horse-riding people
After the death of Gucci, his sons took over the family business, opening new Gucci stores all around the world taking the business to new heights.Today, it is part of fashion conglomerate Kering, which is controlled by French billionaire Francois Pinault, and Forbes places it on number 42 of the world’s most valuable brands.
Let us begin this story by revealing a hugely surprising fact- Adi Dassler, the founder of Adidas, is the younger brother of Rudolph Dassler, the founder of Puma! Talk about a family making a dent in the fashionverse.
Trained as a cobbler, Adi Dassler began making shoes in his mother’s factory, with an eye on helping athletes preform better. He was supported in this by his father Christoph, who worked in a shoe factory, and the Zehlein brothers, the makers of the handmade spikes for track shoes in their blacksmith‘s shop.
In 1924, he was joined by his brother Rudolph and together they registered Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik, or the Dassler Brothers Shoe Company.
The company began supplying shoes to athletes, and when two of their patrons (including the legendary Jesse Owens) won gold medals in athletics in the 1928 and 1936 Olympics respectively, the world began to take notice.
This is where the story gets a little hazy, with rumors of Nazism and all sorts of stories elaborating the break down between the two brothers. In 1949, Rudolph left to found Puma, while Adi created a new company with the famous logo of three stripes. The rest, as they say, is history.
The story of Zara, and it’s parent company Inditex is full of contradictions and surprises, and they begin with it’s mysterious founder Amancio Ortega Gaona. Hailing from a small Spanish town, the man who recently displaced Warren Buffet as the world’s third richest man has never given an interview or attended any ceremonies or parties. In fact, he rarely allows his picture to be taken.
Inditex originated in 1963 when Ortega, the son of a railway worker, started a copany that made housecoats and robes in his home-town La Coruña. Twelve years later, he opened his own store in town called Zorba, after the 1964 film “Zorba the Greek.”
However, because of the existence of a bar of the same name, they decided to change the name. They had already made the molds for the letters in the sign, so they just rearranged them instead of going through the process again. That’s how the name Zara came into being.” Ortega wanted to maintain his own manufacturing business in La Coruña, so from the beginning his business model differed from the norm. Zara, of course, if famous for the Just-In-Time model, a business model characterized by short production cycles, less volume for each design and quick turnover of designs.
Zara slowly expanded from La Coruña to the rest of Spain and then later to Portugal. The holding company Inditex was conceived in 1985. By the 1990’s, the expansion had reached the United States and most of the Europe. Today, Zara has close to 6500 stores across 88 countries around the world.