Are American waistlines too big for Zara How retail giant's slim cuts and European sizing is failing to find a market in the U.S.
20:04 GMT, 15 August 2012
Zara, which is allegedly struggling in the U.S., has been blamed for selling sizes too small for its American customers.
While the brand’s signature slim-fit, fashionable cuts have had huge success in Europe and now Asia, it seems to be having a hard time finding a profitable audience outside major American cities like New York, according to a recent Economist profile.
The article has caused Zara's customers to weigh in on the company's 'tiny' sizes, which have been labelled as too small for America's 'growing waistlines'.
Too slim While Zara's signature slim-fit cuts have had huge success in Europe and now Asia, it appears to be struggling to find a profitable U.S. audience outside major the American cities, like New York
The Economist explained the company's slow growth outside Europe, writing: 'Zara has struggled in America, for instance. It sells trendy cuts
and slim fits. Outside the biggest cities, Americans have long preferred
classic, roomier clothes.'
Sizing is a constant contention in fashion; whether it is with mass market lines, or designers who refuse to expand their sizing above an American 14.
Zara's problem doesn't appear to be a perceived lacking in its actual garment
size range, but rather its exceedingly on-trend cuts, skinny-fit jeans or
For example, the brand's largest size, an 18, is just two inches shy of the
suggested marker of central obesity for females, according to the National Cholesterol Education Program Panel.
And regardless of sizing, Zara’s model
of supply and demand in fast fashion – calculating the amount of
re-production of certain styles after the company looks at what their
consumers are actually buying, and then producing more, has proved
But many brands, other than Zara, have been offering 'vanity sizing' for years, which sees customers fit into a size eight when in reality they are a ten or twelve.
Model Crystal Renn brought this to an otherwise unaware public's' attention when she recently said: 'I've been all the way up to a
size 16 and everything in between. Now I'm a six, eight, sometimes a
ten, depending on what designer I'm wearing.'
And so Elle.com posed the question: 'For Zara to do well here, perhaps they’ll need to adopt the flattering – yet unrealistic system as well'
Zara's sizing guide: The brand's problem appears to be with the slim-fit cuts rather than its sizing range. Zara's largest size, an 18, is less than two inches shy of the suggested marker of central obesity for females
With rivals like H&M and Topshop hot on Zara's heels, the company may have to adapt its usual cut and fit model for America – a country that, on a broad scale, probably doesn't have similar tastes to that of its European and Asian peers.
'Chinese office ladies like Zara's slim
fits more [than Americans]', the Economist writes. 'Iria Campos, a Zara
designer, says Chinese women choose pastels to flatter their pale skin
rather than the stronger colours Europeans prefer; but otherwise they
have surprisingly similar tastes.'
While easy, classic pieces which aren’t purely aimed at a small group of fashion-focused customers usually do better with a mainstream audience, Elle.com commenters, and Zara's main consumers, want the current slim-fit styles, and sizing, to stay.
One wrote: 'I was a 4 to a 6 in H&M and its fairly similar in Zara. In many stores, I am the smallest size they carry and I am not even a rail thin girl. Just because America has a growing obesity epidemic does not mean that stores should “sympathy size” their collections.'
While another wrote: 'I'm a smaller-framed woman who likes European sizing because of its slimmer fit. If Zara altered its sizing in North America, I would not be able to wear anything (or they'd have to add an XXS to accommodate people like me)'.