For a brief time today (Oct. 23), Amancio Ortega jumped ahead of Bill Gates as the richest person in the world. If you can’t quite place his name, you’ve likely heard of Zara, the fast-fashion retail empire he heads.
Forbes reported that Ortega’s net worth reach $80 billion when stock in Industria de Diseño Textil, or Inditex, Zara’s parent company, reached 33.99 euros per share ($37.45). Gates’s worth is just over $79 billion. Ortega held the position only briefly, however, falling back to the number two spot when Inditex shares dipped to 33.80 euros at 10:52 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Ortega and Gates will likely swap the title back and forth as their wealth rises and falls with the market, but it’s nonetheless a remarkable moment for Ortega, whose value has been steadily trending upward. Inditex shares are up more than 50% in the last year, according to Forbes, and in June Ortega overtook Warren Buffett as the second-richest person in the world. At the time, Ortega’s net worth was $71.5 billion. He retains a 59% stake in Inditex, which went public in 2001.
It’s a testament to Ortega’s business acumen, and also to the astounding success of the fast-fashion business model he pioneered with Zara. Ortega founded Zara in 1975 with his then-wife, Rosalia, in La Coruña, a small port city in northern Spain. As Zara grew, other retailers were in the process of moving production to China to cut costs. But Zara kept most of its manufacturing close by, letting it react quickly to trends and get products in stores right away. It’s known for knocking off designs from high-fashion runways, earning it the nicknames “Zéline” and “Zalenciaga,” and selling them cheap.
Today, Zara has more than 2,100 stores across the world, and it has eaten into the market share of other retailers, such as the beleaguered American brand, Gap, and its subsidiary labels. Gap is now trying to integrate the fast-fashion business model into its own operations.
Meanwhile, Zara and its fast-fashion kin, notably H&M, continue to grow.