IT IS a short walk from a tiny shop with peeling yellow paint in downtown La Coruña, in northern Spain, to a dazzling five-storey store, opened in September by Zara, by far the world’s most successful purveyor of “fast fashion”. In this stroll across three city blocks, the career of Amancio Ortega unfolds: from teenaged apprentice in the corner shop, Gala, a men’s clothing business, to Europe’s richest entrepreneur, the majority owner of one of its best-performing firms.

According to one employee of Zara who works with him, “the true story of Amancio Ortega has not been told.” Mr Ortega, the son of an itinerant railway worker, who started at the corner shop aged 13, had a basic upbringing: an ex-colleague says he talks of meals of “only potatoes”. He has lived mainly in Galicia, a relatively poor region with no history in textiles. Yet there, in 1975, he founded Zara—a manufacturer-cum-retailer that, along with its sister brands, has over 7,000 shops globally.  

Mr Ortega (pictured) is now 80 but he remains energetic and involved in the business (if uninterested in wearing trendy clothes). He owns nearly 60% of…Continue reading