Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Zara has overtaken Gap


In sales, that is, not style, which happened light years ago. But I have stopped buying Zara, however affectionately I remember its badly made dresses:

Unlike Gap, there isn't a definitive Zara look - it is so dedicated to following the twists and turns of fashion that its very lack of definition is key to its philosophy. It is as hard to pin down and as fast-moving as mercury. But it does do directional, it does great winter coats, (one of my most memorable buys was a bright yellow swing coat which reminded me of Courrèges in the Sixties) smart trenches and brilliant tuxedo evening trouser suits. It is capricious and fun. I don't always find something there, but I wouldn't dream of going more than a fortnight without a visit.

While Zara innovated, Gap never responded imaginatively to the arrival of the internet and its instant catwalk reports, or to the globalisation of production and demand. (Meanwhile, Zara was zipping from "inspiration" on a catwalk in Milan to a Zara production line in Spain and back to a store on the King's Road.) Or to the fact that we have all started dressing up more; we are all ladies who lunch now and, if necessary, invent events where we can dress up - just like Sex and the City - indeed the queues to get in to that movie were red-carpet gangs of girls wearing you-know-what.

21 comments:

Geraldine said...

Personally I think it's a load of badly made old tat, but then I don't suppose I'm its target market.

lagatta à montréal said...

I remember visiting the Zara outlet here - a bit mournfully, as it had replaced Marks & Spencer after the latter pulled out of the Canadian market - though the local store was always full of customers. My ageing mum always taught me to look at inseams and linings before anything else (Linda, I'm your your mum gave you similar advice). Interesting as some of the clothes were, I was aghast. I find H&M, though just as cheap or even cheaper, seems better made.

In any case what I could wear from Zara is most limited as their range goes up to an XL which is a UK size 14 - Canadian size 12 - and I'm usually a good size larger than that, alas. Think I'm rather older than their target demographic here, at least, though I never liked Gap clothes as they seemed dull in that unisex, fake country-wear way.

At least Emma Soames' daughter is a solicitor, not a barrister, or she would certainly have to invest in better shoes! Dressy shoes that you can actually stand in are an important item in the clothes budgets of all the "avocats plaideurs" I know here...

One personal beef (not just concerning fashion writing) is with journalists who say "we" all do such and such: "we have all started dressing up more; we are all ladies who lunch now ..." No, we are not all ladies who lunch - though I do agree that there has been a return to slightly dressier clothes...

Throwaway clothes really bother me. I do think a lot of people nowadays have become more conscious of the social cost in terms of the envionrment and garment workers' working conditions, and even those of us who don't have a lot of money - including students and young working people - are trying to find more sustainable - and attractive - solutions.

Ingrid said...

There's a style of Zara tops and dresses that I love - clingy jersey with a demure but interesting neckline. It's supremely flattering on my modest chest, and so I have a dress and two tops in the style. The arm hole seam on all of them has come undone after only a little bit of wear. I repair them because I love the style, but it's incredibly annoying!

greying pixie said...

lagatta, I'm with you all the way regarding fashion journalists. What really sticks in me is the way they consider themselves to be such experts. If ever there was a vapid superficial side to fashion it is theirs. And who needs them anyway? If they were wiped off the face of the earth the fashion industry would still continue as is, I'm sure of that.

Regarding Zara, I love their windows more than any other high street store. But the huge, busy interiors have always put me off. The once of twice I've ventured in I've never found what I wanted and found the sales staff a little offish with me. But then I'm a middle aged fussy lady, so really much more suited to the formality of Jaeger and Maxmara.

Apart from children's clothes years ago (which were really hard wearing and worth the money), Gap has never appealed to me or my style, although I have friends who look a million dollars in their jeans and knitwear.

Susan F said...

I find Gap particularly good for trousers. I have never managed to find anything I liked in Zara either - Massimo Dutti is alternative shop for grown ups in the group though I haven't tried that.

Bad workmanship is annoying but it is becoming harder to find clothes I like so, if the price is reasonable, I still buy nowadays and remake as necessary.

Deja Pseu said...

Zara is rather overwhelming for me. Most of my shopping is done on a lunch hour, so I don't have the time it requires to sort through all the crazy stuff on their racks to find treasure.

I shop Gap Kids for my son (mainly because their sizing is consistent and they have adjustable elastic in the waistbands so I don't have to have him try everything on) but I don't think I've found anything wearable at the Gap for me in probably a dozen years. Paper thin t-shirts, pudenda-grazing jeans and trousers...no thanks. They really embraced the urban/hip-hop street style asthetic, to the exclusion of everything else.

Geraldine said...

I don't like Gap either. I read an article about how Gap has got it so right this season, bla-bla-bla. So I trot along there all hopeful and I can never see anything. It all seems so neutral, somehow, apart from the odd scarf or pair of socks. I don't think I've ever bought anything there for me though I do get stuff for my boys as they are tall and broad and Zara men is for tiny Spaniards.

knitwit said...

I find Gap surprisingly well-made for the price point. In summer I rely on them for trousers; they have always fit me far better than those at Gap-owned Banana Republic. (Go figure.) Plain skirts and trousers are a perfect foil for more interesting tops and accessories and they get that right; anything else I've bought from there seems to end up being a disappointment in one way or another.

Athena said...

I concur with knitwit that Gap sometimes has pretty decent stuff for the price point, but I probably have not bought anything there in lightyears. I go in about once a season to see if they have become less mundane, but alas, not yet. Their trousers are not too bad, but the overall styles coming out of the place are drab.

As for Zara, I do not have one near me, but when I went to a couple years ago, I liked what I saw though the quality seemed to vary between items.

Anonymous said...

I think Gap do some excellent knitwear and trousers, and I got a lovely Thirties-ish drapey cream top there this spring. OK, the colours are often over-neutral, and you can't buy your whole wardrobe there - but it's much more reliable than M&S for basics, and I find the quality excllent.

@Ingrid - I've had that issue with Zara armhole seams too, and never with any other clothes! They must be uniquely badly made or oddly cut.

Cathy

Linda Grant said...

I think the Gap quality is far superior to Zara, but I never see anything I want to buy. If you want style and quality you'll have to be in Northern Europe, for COS.

materfamilias said...

I've stopped going into Zara at all, altho' their windows are always full of temptation -- there have just been too many visits when I lined up (!) to try on an armload of garments and was disappointed in fit or drape or whatever -- and I'm generally quite easy to fit off the rack, altho' I like some coverage and some ease around the middle.
Gap, though, I've been quite happy with lately -- I love their new wide-leg trouser pants, especially the linen blend, and I'm very pleased with a navy swing thigh-length coat/jacket in heavy cotton.

Mary said...

I'm sure you're right, Linda, re COS. But, sadly for the majority of us, there's only one store in Britain. Looks from their website as though they plan to open a second - again in London. Do wish they would consider another city - or do sales online ....
Ah well. Have to make the effort, I suppose. Trouble is - my last few visits to London have been far too busy with other things and no time to check out shops at all. But that's my problem!

Linda Grant said...

Indeed, they're as rare as hens' teeth, which is an advantage for those of us who have access to them

Mary said...

Yes, I nearly said something about keeping their exclusivity - then wondered if that just sounded too catty/jealous - which I am of course!
Maybe keeping things small helps with other things too - like quality control etc. Perfectly understood.
However, looking at the locations of their other stores in northern Europe, only Berlin has 2 - with others in Germany etc. However, maybe I ought to exercise myself by writing to them - I'll let you know if I get a reply.
Maybe I'm just feeling this way after reports of the Conservative Policy Exchange being nasty about northern cities - shades of Thatcher, I fear.

Anastasia said...

Strangely enough, my mother loves shopping at Zara. Me, not so much. Because things that look good on the hanger always look awful on me, probably because I'm the 18th person trying the dress/skirt/shirt on. The stuff is usually not well made and after some "real steal" mum usually complains her feet are bleeding in the pretty new shoes.
I wish I was kidding.

Rosaria said...

I bought Gap jeans for my daughters on 5th Ave when I was NYC (just thought I'd throw that in...), and guessed their sizes. Perfect fit, perfect length. Gap has become their brand of choice for denim.

Duchesse said...

Zara leather bags can be a great value. I have a parrot-green leather travel bag- am always asked who made it. It was $225.

rb said...

I had all but sworn off buying disposable clothing (and so have never ventured into Zara since its grand opening is San Francisco) but then I was in Target and there were these sleeveless cotton blouses for $14.99, in two colors, so beautiful under a long cardigan.... and they have french seams! I don't know how they do it. (Child labor?)

I can stay out of Zara, but who can stay away from Target when there is toothpaste to buy? It's evil.

anne said...

Hm, I just love Zara and never had quality problems. I bought a trenchcoat in 2002 and am wearing it every spring and autumn. It's still great and I love it!

jackie said...

I actually bought a dress (long, very fitting) and a short jacket (very simple) in Zara in 1995! I think the quality back then was much better than now (I rarely buy from them now but if I do, it only lasts about 1 year or 2) I still wear that jacket from time to time and get compliments about it! The dress and the jacket are still in perfect condition although I just wash them with the rest of my clothes in the washing machine!