Pedro Guimarães for The New York Times
Jackets from Zara’s fall 2012 collection await inspection at a factory in Arteixo, Spain.
By SUZY HANSEN
Publishedby New York Times magazine: November 9, 2012
Galicia, on the Atlantic coast of northern Spain, is the homeland of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, but is otherwise famous for being a place people try to leave. For much of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of gallegos, as they are called, emigrated to countries as far away as Argentina to escape Galicia’s rural poverty. Today, however, even as Spain teeters on the edge of economic catastrophe, the Galician city La Coruña has attracted notice as the hometown of Amancio Ortega Gaona, the world’s third-richest man — he displaced Warren Buffett this year on the Bloomberg billionaire index — and the founder of a wildly successful fashion company, Inditex, more commonly known by its oldest and biggest brand, Zara.
Ortega has never given an interview, according to his communications department, nor does he attend award ceremonies or parties. He rarely allows his picture to be taken. Pablo Isla, who took over the company when the 76-year-old Ortega stepped down as chairman last year, rarely gives interviews or waves to the camera, either. In fact, the public face of Inditex is its soft-spoken communications director, Jesus Echevarría, who, as I discovered during a recent visit to the Inditex complex, is perhaps the only communications director on the planet who all but apologizes whenever he must answer questions about Inditex’s runaway success. Spain’s Inditex Spins Gold
The company’s outward modesty reflects its surroundings. La Coruña is a quiet place, typically European in its humdrum perfection: tidy highways and compact cars, clean taxis, no need to worry about tipping. The week I visited in late July, the conservative national government was threatening to implement a...