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