ZARA – fashion invader extraordinaire.

Zara is synonymous with exciting, edgy, hi street design, eco fabrics like organic cotton and trends that move so fast they leave consumers reeling (but secretly happy they have that one-off season Zara garment).

This aggressive Spanish retailer has taken over the world of hi street fashion, becoming the rage all over Europe and then the western world, to the point of being petitioned heavily to move into the Australian marketplace, sparking fear and hostility from local retailers.

Described by Louis Vuitton fashion director Daniel Piette as “possibly the most innovative and devastating retailer in the world”, Zara has resisted the industry-wide trend towards transferring fast fashion production to low-cost countries. 50% of the products Zara sells are manufactured in Spain, 26% in the rest of Europe, and 24% in Asian and African countries and the rest of the world.

Zara’s secret? It moves fast. Hamilton and Webber have nothing on Zara. With an in-house design team based in La Coruña, Spain, and a tightly controlled factory and distribution network, the company says it can take a design from drawing board to store shelf in just two weeks. If a design doesn’t sell well within a week, it is withdrawn from shops, further orders are canceled and a new design is pursued. That lets Zara introduce new items every week, which keeps customers coming back again and again to check out the latest styles.

The company produces batches of clothing in such small quantities that even if it brings out a design that no one will buy, it can cut its losses quickly and move on to another trend. This way, Zara reduces its exposure to fashion faux pas and allows it to offer considerably more products than similar companies; producing about 11,000 distinct items annually compared with 2,000 to 4,000 items for its key competitors.

Zara’s fast pace means that some popular items appear and disappear within a week, creating an image of scarcity that many shoppers find irresistible An average high-street store in Spain expects customers to visit three times a year. That goes up to 17 times for Zara.

“They’ve built up an excitement around snapping up new clothes before they go,” says Kris Miller, a New York-based retail analyst with Bain & Co.

We’re loving their 2010 fall menswear collection and we hope you are too, especially you dudes with easy access to their stores in Europe, etc. Downunder, we’re panting like blue dogs in anticipation at their landing in 2011 … SNAP!  www.ZARA.com.