• Tue, Nov 13 2012

Zara Is Fat-Shaming Middle America, Won’t Let Them Near Their Collections

Zara doesn't love your love handles.

Apparently the lesson that Middle America has taught European retailers — besides the fact that scrunchies are alive and well so anything else is uncivilized — is that it’s the worst possible place for a store that is “fashion forward.” Unless you’re a Wal-Mart or some other commonplace shopping mall retailer, you will fail. Not only is Middle America not interested in whatever fancy attire a European clothing chain may have to offer, but they can’t squeeze into their sizes either. So why would any European retailer want to even bother?

A lot of them don’t.

As places like Benetton and Laura Ashley have learned, the middle of the country just doesn’t seem to have the affinity for super duper fashion the way the east and west coasts do. They especially don’t have the “style” of Europeans. Are you, Middle America, going to argue this? Are you going to dispute facts based on history and the insight of Columbia Business School professor Nelson Fraiman? Not to be an asshole, but he might have a better idea about how things work in the world of economy more than an average consumer, no matter where that consumer might live. As Nelson explains:

“Zara to me is a European store for European style; it’s very fashion forward. And what is the problem in America? They don’t fit in the clothes. So why do it? Having to make larger sizes makes production so much more complex.”

Yes, bigger sizes are more complex because they need more fabric and this, of course, is a foreign (pun!) concept to those skinny-minnies in Europe. If that’s what an American business school professor has to say, then what’s Spanish business school professor José Luis Nueno‘s take on it? Well, “fashionistas live on the East and West coasts. Then everyone else dresses in the Gap and Walmart and T. J. Maxx.” Interesting. Stereotyping is fun!

If a European retailer were to pull it off, successfully making a name for themselves here in the States, they’d have to open up at least 300 stores that would not only cater to the size difference (which we’ve already learned is “complex”), but it would also require excessive energy in marketing the collections to consumers whose needs they probably don’t truly understand. If these retailers firmly believe that Middle America is only hitting up T.J.Maxx and the like every time they go out to buy clothes, there’s no way they can compete — they don’t know how to compete. Jello and crème brûlée can’t compete; they’re just too different.

Instead of even daring to take a chance here in the states, Zara and its parent company, Inditex, will be opening 400 stores in China instead over the next several weeks. Although their clothing can be bought online it’s still, in a round about way, being kept from people who may actually dig their stuff. Should we boycott them? Maybe make a scene with some perfectly decorated protest signs outside their European headquarters? Should we use sparkles? Who needs a vacation?

But I guess it’s no different than that store 5-7-9 which also fat-shames (unless they’re offering sizes larger than 9 these days, then they should probably change their name.) It’s true that America (and other countries aren’t too far behind us), does have an obesity problem, and yes, maybe people in Kansas wouldn’t immediately take to the “fashion forward” styles of a European retailer, but to assume that the majority of one country is a monotony of one replication after another is ignorant. It’s like assuming all New Yorkers are assholes when in actuality, only 75% are – I kid!

Would you be less apt to buy from a store — online — if it felt that your location didn’t live up to their standards of body weight and style? Or do you not care?

 

NY Mag via NYTimes

Photo: Wikipedia/Terence Ong

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  • MKH

    Zara doesn’t have a store where I live, but I order online and visit their stores in other cities when I travel. I don’t take it personally–they open stores where there is the largest chance of return on investment. They don’t have to make larger sizes if they see that as a bad investment or open a store in Kansas if they feel that they won’t make a certain profit margin at that location. It’s just business, and no business has a responsibility to service everyone in any country or size range. I actually think it’s nice (and not fat shaming) that they focus on their core customers and don’t let going after new markets detract from what made them successful in the first place.

    • BuickMacKane

      Exactly.

      Amanda, you don’t have to be offended on behalf of Red States. I am currently in Missouri, and I can guarangoddamntee you no one here gives a shit about fashion.

    • Amanda Chatel

      Do people wear scrunchies there?

    • Buick MacKane

      WITH THEIR FANNY PACKS. Omg, I wish I could send you some local publications regarding fashion. It is intense. ( I just moved back here from LA… whooooo)

    • Amanda Chatel

      NO! Really?!? Not to shit on Missouri, but how the hell did you end up there from LA? It’s just… well, weird!

    • ndonnelly

      Could not have come up with a better response myself. Cheers to you!

    • JennyWren

      Obviously they don’t have any responsibility to cut larger sizes. But it does seem odd that they would deliberately choose not to avail themselves of a broader customer base, whether it be geographical or demographic. When brands do this, it’s usually because they want to portray a certain image of exclusivity. I wouldn’t call it fat-shaming as such, but neither do I think it’s anything to do with a focus on core customers- that’s giving them too much credit in the opposite direction.

  • JennyWren

    Eh. I’ve never been able to fit into Zara’s clothes either and I’m a flippin’ size 4 (U.S.). It’s not their sizing that’s the issue, it’s that their fit is incredibly weird and inconsistent.

    I actually agree about the fashion-forward thing though, even though I live in a very stylish part of Kansas (college town, natch).
    The other thing is that there isn’t such a disposable clothes culture here as there is in the UK (can’t speak for the rest of Europe)-clothes cost more and most people can’t afford to buy a new top every month that they can wear three times and throw away when they spill a martini on it, which seems to be the function of Zara in the UK, much as it would like to portray itself as the equivalent of French Connection or similar.

    • Amanda Chatel

      Honestly, I don’t even like their stuff. It’s pretty blah.

  • Benita

    Surprising because there is at least one Zara in Puerto Rico and we aren’t known the world over for being tiny.

  • gringa_escandalosa

    Oh, yay. More anti-middle-America snobbery. Fine by me–that just means lower rent/property values for the rest of us.

    As for Zara, their clothes are cute, but nothing there ever fit me. I lived in Spain for a year and could never find clothes anywhere, even though I was a US 10 at the time. Nor shoes, though I understood that–Spanish women do not wear a size 10 (41 in Euro sizes) shoe. The End. I won’t give them my business (and that extends to accessories), but that’s as far as my “boycott” goes, if you can even call it that. Interestingly, they might be starting to exclude their own population as well, since waistlines have expanded there in the last ten years or so. Will be curious to see how that plays out.

  • http://twitter.com/Calimie Calimie

    There have been complaints here in Spain about how Inditex and Mango and the like don’t have larger sizes and their inconsistent sizing. So it’s not anti-middle-America snobbery: it’s how the company works. Not everything is about you, you know. Are there no fat people on the American coast, btw?

    • T-Lex

      No, obviously they are all sent to middle america where they must work on corn and potato farms until they are properly sized for the coasts.

  • d;gh;sodgh

    I love Zara (to an extent, some of it is ugly but it can be paired well with things), and you couldn’t pay me to go to the middle of the country. Actually, if you paid me I might, but it depends on how long and where…juuust kidding-ish. In all seriousness though, I don’t really think they’re deciding not to go there out of hate for fat people. I think it’s more the fact that people know how to dress well on both coasts. My ex was from Nebraska, and leeettttt me tell you some of the shit I saw pictures of on his Facebook made me want to cry. Hate on me all you want but I think skinny, well-dressed people flock to either coast because that’s where the fashion and entertainment industries are, as well as many others that sort of require a fast-paced, well-dressed lifestyle. OBVIOUSLY there are thin, gorgeous, well-dressed people all over the country, but I think there’s a higher concentration on the coasts. If I were Zara I wouldn’t want to gamble on going somewhere that’s known for being fashion-backward (generally speaking).

  • Lo

    I spy a missed opportunity for a well-placed Mean Girls quote.

    “You can try Sears…”