I’ve really come to love clothes shopping over the past year or so. For most of my adult life, shopping was a mandatory but embarrassing experience: I was way too large for most retailers, so my shopping was done at two nearby big & tall stores, and that wardrobe was complimented by catalog purchases.

Things started changing when the pounds started coming off. Once I no longer needed to shop at big & tall stores (an epiphany I celebrate in this blog post), the whole mall opened up to me, and now I have fun checking out stores and seeing what fits me and what I like. I’ve learned a lot, and they’re still tons to figure out. I already know that I tend to have good luck at Macy’s (most of the time), and that my favorite type of Levi’s are their 514s (slim straight). I’m still on the hunt for a good basic t-shirt with a flattering cut, a heavier fabric, and a reasonable price tag. I’ve also discovered what doesn’t work for me, and that information is just as valuable: I know some brands and labels that run short or are too narrow for my shoulders. And there are stores I used to frequent, like Gap (which I wore a lot of in high school), that just don’t interest me anymore.

What’s most fun, however, is walking into a store that I know nothing about and checking it out for the first time. I did this last summer in Seattle with a store called AllSaints Spitelfield, and it was a complete bust, but still fun. The other day, I did it again, with a store called Zara.

The first time I heard about Zara was a few weeks ago, when I met up with my friends Paul and Court at the Getty Center (an outing which yielded kickass ‘before’ and ‘current’ pictures that you can check out here). I complimented Paul on his shirt, which came from Zara, which is one of Paul’s go-to stores. Then, about a week ago, I complimented Tavi (ugh, yes, this is yet another blog post that Tavi figures into) on a sweater he was wearing, and that, too, came from Zara. It was time to check out Zara.

Zara is a Spanish retailer that only has about 25 stores in the US (and about a 1/4 of them are in southern California), but they’re all over Europe – actually, they’re in over 70 countries on 6 continents. They’re huge. The other day, Tavi and I went to the one in Pasadena, which is housed in an festively festooned storefront on Colorado Boulevard:

The men’s section is large, clean, and well organized:

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, so I wandered, and ended up pulling two large armloads of clothes to try on: pants, jeans, sweaters, t-shirts (maybe they’ll have the perfect basic T for me!). I picked up things at Tavi’s suggestion that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself. Generally, I liked the aesthetic: a nice mix between clean lines and fun details, with a lot of neutral colors and bold pops of color. I was reminded of the description Paul initially gave me of the store, which turned out to be pretty spot-on: H&M style at a Banana Republic price point. I also noticed, from the get-go, that a lot of their offerings were slouchy and lacking in structure, which is not a flattering look on my body, but I reserved judgment until the dressing room.

The dressing room was illuminating. I learned, really quickly, that Zara is not the store for me. The textiles were a little thin and the European sizing was a little different, resulting in tops that, much to my chagrin, proudly showcased every roll of fat on my body. It was laughable how unflattering these clothes were: they clung like saran wrap, and I felt and looked like a sausage. I fared a little better with the pants – there was a pair of jeans that looked good. They were size 38″ (the largest size Zara makes), although they were the tightest 38″ I’ve ever tried on. They cost $80, and I’m not gonna spent that much on anything that I don’t absolutely love, and these jeans didn’t quite fall into the “love” category.

I was fine with completely striking out at Zara. I was curious about the store, and now I have my answer. I’ve since done a little reading about Zara, and their business model is kinda fascinating. They do no advertising whatsoever, and focus on clothes that are already trendy and popular, as opposed to trying to establish trends of their own. They can design a knock-off and have it in stores in 2 weeks, and if that item doesn’t sell within a week or two, they’ll yank it from the shelves. As a result, they’ll sell 10,000 unique items during a year-long span, compared to 2,000-4,000 items for their competitors. They’ve resisted outsourcing more than other companies, and claim that 75% of their clothes are made in Europe (mostly Spain). I recommend the Zara page on Wikipedia for an interesting primer on fashion retailing.

Zara’s not for me. Big deal. I’m not in the market at the moment for any clothes anyway, except workout pants, which I should be able to find easily at a discount store or on the sale rack at a sporting goods store.

Do you have any ideas for retailers that I can investigate next?

Keep it up, David!


3 Responses to Zara

  1. Vera says:

    We have Zara here in the Philippines, but I don;t know if they carry my size. If their biggest pants size is 38 for men, then I probably won’t be able to shop there. I know that once I lose weight shopping will be an even more fun experience for me. Now, I shop at Marks & Spencers and Forever 21 – two relatively affordable foreign brands, but still more expensive for the average Filipino. The Plus size section in our mall department stores are a good source too, but sometime i feel they’re not too appropriate for my age.

  2. Nurse Karen says:

    I like Lands End XXL “Tall” t-shirts for cotton comfort and durability.

    They don’t shrink the way flimsy Fruit of the Loom does. I prefer sturdy cotton, too. I wait for sales and the prices are good for the quality. Sears used to carry Lands End talls, but around here most of the folks are short, so I order online when the need arises for my 6’5″ tall son. I wear them, too, since I am 5’9″. He’s rather built like you, and with a 34 inseam, they hem for free, usually. That is where I got my work-out 32″inseam leggings for when I used to go to Slimmons. You look marvelous and you do not have rolls of fat at all. I wish you could see yourself as the loving, vibrant, intelligent, courageous man we all see. Trust what I say: you do *not* have rolls of fat! One will have loose skin for a time after losing significant amounts of weight, and this will tighten as you tone over the years. Yes, it may take years–remember, we were overweight for years so the reverse process takes time, too. I still have stretch marks from being pregnant three times–this is part of life, and if someone picks you apart, only focuses on silvery white marks, a scar, or a pinch of an inch on your body, then they do not truly know what is Healthy balance, or Important in this Wonderful Adventure called Life: to Love, and to Be Loved. Be gentle and patient with yourself. Meditate for about 30 minutes daily. If that is too long, break it up into six sessions of 5 minute deep-slow-belly breathing, while being in a quiet space, emptying the mind of stressors. Do you take supplements, and a good multi-vitamin such as Dr. Weil’s multi-vitamin or Centrum? Taking fish oil and Vitamin D3, drinking your pure water as you said you do, using olive oil in cooking, eating more deep-water fish such as cod, herring, sardines, Pacific Northwest Salmon, halibut, eggs–those 3 egg white and one egg omelets you make are great!–and those fresh fruits & veggies {power-packed with nutrients such as Vitamin C,} will nourish your body & help your skin to be radiant, and heal well. I love your posts & photos, they are so very interesting. KEEP IT UP DAVID!

    • David says:

      Thanks, Karen, for the Lands’ End link. The Sears closest to me doesn’t carry mens in their Lands End section, but the Pasadena Sears does, so maybe next time I’m in that neck of the woods, I’ll check them out and try their shirts on. I wanna try one on!

      And thank you for your concern about my general well-being. I really appreciate it. But you know what? I do have rolls of fat. I can hide them very well when I want to, but they’re there. And I’m fine with them. I have no interest in putting them on display, as those articles of clothing did, but my mention of them is merely observational, and NOT a slam on myself or an indication of self-loathing. You wrote: “I wish you could see yourself as the loving, vibrant, intelligent, courageous man we all see.” I know I’m all those things (so are you), and I also know I have more weight to lose. They’re not mutually exclusive. When I stood in front of that mirror wearing unflattering garments, I didn’t beat myself up, I laughed. Because I’m comfortable in my body, and the clothes were completely wrong for me. I think most people want to look their best, no matter their size or shape, and I’m no different. I didn’t look my best at Zara. Maybe I’ll look better in Lands’ End!

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