Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Zara: the funhouse mirror of fast fashion, and a 'low rise', 'no fit' jeans saga with legs...

My Zara jeans from 2012
Topic advisory...this post contains absolutely no perfume content. I toyed with the title: 'Kicking up a stink about Zara...', but decided that might be misleading to readers, given that the fashion chain does have its own range of fragrances, a couple of which I have even tried. Nor is this post about travel, one of the other 'legitimate' themes on Bonkers, although the black jeans at its heart are very well travelled as it happens: they were bought in a branch of Zara in Stuttgart almost exactly five years ago, and christened at a gig that night, where I had my first taste of 'bemanning' the merchandise table. I must say I am not sorry to have later handed over this taxing and tenebrous task to a husband and wife team with more genuine enthusiasm for sales, and an armoury of clippy-on lights. The jeans, however, continued to give sterling service, as my go-to going out trousers - or one of two pairs, certainly.

In December of that year, I spent a long weekend in Barcelona, a city awash with cultural attractions, as I mention in my post about the trip:

'These include broad, tree-lined boulevards such as the famous La Rambla, Parc Güell with its "kimono dragon" standing sentry at the entrance, numerous other quirky and satisfyingly wavy structures by Gaudí, a dazzling palm-lined marina, the spiky, brooding squares of the Gothic quarter, not forgetting the curious Christmas log novelties that reminded me compellingly of Thomas the Tank Engine in a Santa hat. If I am totally honest, you could actually spend an entire weekend in Barcelona just browsing in the many branches of Zara, but I valiantly resisted the urge.'

That said, I did end up spending a good hour or more in one branch, and came out with precisely this jumper, which is at least pictured here in a perfume setting:

Which all goes to show that I have historically been quite a fan of Zara, with its edgy high street takes on the latest fashion trends, combining decent quality and affordable prices. As for my jeans, five years on they have started to feel a bit snug. I swear there is no connection with the fact that I have recently had four Lindt bunnies on the go at 550 calories a pop. It is simply the natural wear and tear - as in shrinkage - that comes with frequent washing down the years. Well okay, I might have put on a few pounds, but I am pretty sure I am still the same dress size, or its bottom half equivalent.

So I had a look on the women's section of the Zara website to see if I could identify something approximating to the jeans I wanted to replace, although I was aware that the ranges would be different now, Zara being a brand particularly noted for the frequent updating of its collections. The first pair I bought were wrong on two counts, for which I only have myself to blame - I accidentally bought 'mid-rise' instead of 'low rise' and 'skinny' instead of 'slim fit'. They were size 10, and black, but there the similarity ended. When they came I could just about get them on, but they were uncomfortable, and the skinny style far from flattering.

To their credit, Zara have a 'no quibble' free returns policy, so I sent that pair back and ordered a slim fit, low rise pair in charcoal grey - also Size 10. They turned out to be a much closer match in colour, style and fabric to my old pair, but I could not get them on. Bizarrely, they were even tighter than the skinny pair! I compared the leg measurements of each and calculated that in the calf area, the new Size 10 was about 5" less in circumference than the old one. Now my weight fluctuates within a range of about 4lb, but there is no way my legs have slimmed down that much since I bought the previous pair. I didn't check the waist, but it was clearly narrower too, and yet the measurements listed on their website for Size 10 (Chest 34" / Waist 26" / Hips 37") were the classic ones that I am.

Slim fit all right, but I am in pain!

So I sent those back as well, and decided to write to - and ring - Zara and ask them what was going on with their sizes. Both over the phone and in an email I received the same bland and nonsensical response:

"In answer to your question the relevant department has said that one item is from 2012 and another is from 2017 therefore both of the items are different styles and as such may fit differently.

We hope this information helps with your query."

I know one item is from 2017 and one item from 2012 - it was me that told you when I bought the blinking things! As for the style being different, it depends on how far-reaching your definition of 'style' is. To me, a pocket detail here and a frayed hem there is a matter of style, but the terms 'low rise' and 'slim fit' - and most crucially, 'Size 10' - should be constants, like the terms 'hatchback' and 'estate' in the case of cars, say. I was incensed that they could pass off the loss of five inches in the calf - and a general contraction of measurements everywhere - as a mere style issue. Oh, and the old ones are not flares or even boot cut - but rather straight leg - though the latest style pictured has a curved cutaway thing going on, where I unfortunately still have leg to accommodate...

Zara Size 14 on top of my old Size 10

So I bit the bullet and ordered the largest size they do - a 14. I think it poor that Zara stop at 14, given that that is the UK average dress size. Though, not, as it turns out, in 'Zara World', where it is the absolute outer limits of acceptability. I could get the size 14 on, but the calves were still tight and uncomfortable and the waistband a little slack. I sent them back.

Coincidentally, somewhere between Pair 1 and 2, I had been cruising 'pre-owned' trousers on eBay, where I spied a pair of black Zara jeans in size 10 that were of an unknown vintage, but looked a decent size in the pictures - and won them for the princely starting price of £1.50 plus postage! And lo and behold, they fitted like a dream...So I am now quids in, and have totally given up on Zara.

Size 10 from eBay - comfort AND fit at last!

Taking a step back from this sorry saga, I don't know what Zara are trying to achieve with their illogical goalpost moving. For one thing, it is going to cost them a fortune in free postage, as disappointed customers return the garments that are nothing like the sizes they purport to be. One possible reason is to ensure that in future, their clothes are only worn by the very slim, so that effectively their entire customer base will be 'catwalk models abroad', albeit of various heights. This in turn would mean that Zara can show off its garments in public to what the brand considers their best advantage.

However, that market must be very small, so by excluding all women bigger than (actual) Size 8 they are surely shooting themselves in the foot commercially? Or the calf, even. And speaking for myself, I don't personally give a hoot whether I am a  10 or a 14 or a 4, and I promise I have nothing against people who are skinnier than me - it is important to make that clear! However, I do want to know how to compare apples with apples, or pears with pears rather, given that that is my body type. Because it is a complete waste of everyone's time and money otherwise, not to mention deeply frustrating, given how delighted I have been with my jeans from five years ago. And arguably it is even socially irresponsible of Zara, as it could give rise to eating disorders - though not in me.

Here they are - good luck guessing the model's size!

The only consolation is that (as you can see in the top photo) my 50/50 ratio of torso to body means I have an identical physique to Tom Cruise apparently, instead of the perfect female ratio (in favour of legs, surprise surprise!) of something like 40/60. Well, as someone who briefly owned a bag of fudge - which had in turn been briefly owned by Tom Cruise (as Portia of APJ is my witness!) - that seems fitting. One of the few things in this post that is...!


Anonymous said...

I believe that Zara is one of Kate Middleton's favourite shops. Could it be that it now only wishes to cater for those with her body shape?

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Ooh, could be...I love a good conspiracy theory about the royals! On a side note, I thought Princess Charlotte looked very sweet in the official photo for her birthday. :)

Anonymous said...

Yes she did. Can't believe vile trolls have been saying nasty things about the dear little thing ... she is cute and it is rather lovely that her mum takes the photos!

Vanessa said...

I thought just that. She looks just like her brother and her dad. And Princess Margaret too, come to think of it. And nice to see her in age appropriate clothes, hehe. That is not always a given, even in a two year old these days.

Tara said...

I've always heard that Zara was good for "petite" types but didn't know that it was exclusively for them! I found this out myself recently, as you know. I didn't know however, that they only went up to a size 14 which is a disgrace, especially as their size 14 is most stores' size 8 or 10.
What a great result on Ebay though!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Yes, they seem to have cornered the 'petite' market all right. The good thing is that these jeans would have been fine in terms of the leg length because they didn't come down that far on the tall models' calves. That seems to be the new style. If I had been able to get them on comfortably, that is. Yep, I reckon a Size 14 is a Size 8 more or less. Whatever are they playing at?

Tara said...

Yes, both my new pairs are ankle grazers or "seven eighths" as I've seen it termed, so that does seem to be the fashion.

Asali said...

Rule of jeans: if you find a perfect pair, quickly buy a second one! Zara has never fitted me, except perhaps a blouse or two, though that's too long ago, 10 year +, well done on the eBay front 😉

crikey said...

That shrinking of size over the years is completely bizarre, given that almost every retailer has been rampaging in the other direction.

Congratulations, though, on finding a good replacement on ebay. (A pair of jeans that fits well is something to be cherished.)

Vanessa said...

Ah, that's a new one on me. ;) I should point out to readers that you are 'reet petite' yourself.

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

You are so right - hindsight is a wonderful thing. I did once buy a pair of well fitting jeans in grey and blue at the same time - still wearing both of those. From New Look surprisingly - great quality for the money.

I wore my new Zara ones to dinner last night - a six course vegan street food banquet! Small courses, I should add. They were so comfortable and yet close fitting at the same time - the perfect combination.

Vanessa said...

Hi crikey,

That is a good point you make - the trend has been more the other way, that is quite true.

I am cherishing these Zara ones - the fabric is really comfy and stretchy, and a bit dressy too on account of the leatheresque stripe down the leg.

Undina said...

My reaction, after reading the post, was close to Asali's: I wanted to advise you to keep looking on eBay now for additional pairs - because in 5 years you'll definitely have an even harder time finding the replacement :)
I know about the brand but, I think, I've been to their store once. It might be different from what they have in Europe, but their clothes here didn't strike me as something of a good quality- so I never went back.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

That is a good idea - I should do just that!

I have found my Zara jeans to be of pretty good quality, and I have a jacket too, a cardigan that has been a staple, and another pair of chino-type trousers, though they did wear out eventually! I wouldn't pay more than £30 for trousers though, so for that money I think their stuff is okay.

Occasionally I find more expensive jeans (or trousers in general) reduced in T K Maxx, outlet malls or even (once, famously!) a £100 pair of wool trousers new with tags in a charity shop for a fiver, but I have a sort of mental price ceiling otherwise.

Blacknall Allen said...

Pants are the dickens. And I know because I sew. There are so many measurements involved. Zara, because they produce so many small batches, probably don't have anything like a standard sizing. That's a common phenomenon. One of my sisters in law worked for Victoria' Secret and had to go back and forth to Indonesia to get the factories to produce the clothes. "No, larger," was the usual criticism.
"Yes LARGER, these are American and Canadian women not tiny little Asian ladies."
Oh it was a low comedy routine.
But you triumphed on Ebay so I agree when you find it and it fits buy two!

Vanessa said...

Hi Blacknall,

Aha, you sew - like Martha of Chicken Freak's Obsessions, as was.

Very interesting to learn about how the clothes are produced in Indonesia, only I don't quite follow why the size of the batch has a bearing on whether the size of the garment is standard or not. I may be missing something obvious!

And I enjoyed the comedy routine. ;)

Blacknall Allen said...

As I understood it, smaller factories were given job lots of orders to fill, but depending on machinery and expertise, were not always able to produce a uniform product to specifications. Factory A's size 8 in Indonesia was Factory B's size 10 in Hong Kong and so on. Drove my sister in law crazy.

Vanessa said...

That is all really interesting - this post has been most educational on the garment trade front! I can well imagine how frustrating that would be for your SIL.