At an Italian restaurant in Manhattan’s Flatiron district, Danielle DiFerdinando, the young designer behind the Danielle Nicole handbag collection, was spotted in a chic bohemian-style Zara blazer with three-quarter-length sleeves [Isabel Marant-inspired] smartly outfitted with J Brand jeans, Prada pumps and a James Pierce T-shirt.

“I like to invest in pieces that will never go out of style like a great pair of jeans or a little black dress — classic pieces — and I always invest in good designer shoes,” DiFerdinando said.

“For more of the trendier pieces, I go to Zara. Zara has great pieces based off the season’s trends.”

Women, regardless of their income brackets or whether they’re in the fashion business, have been having a love affair with Zara, for being fast at showcasing designer looks at a fraction of the price and offering reasonable quality. It’s an experience both in-store and online that is capturing customers prone to shop both higher-end stores or department stores.

Zara is part of Inditex, based in Spain, considered the world’s largest fashion retailer. Unlike most fashion retailers around the world, Inditex and Zara are performing well this year and continuing to expand. In the first quarter, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were up 17 percent and net sales rose 12.5 percent. “The most relevant thing, without any doubt, is the collections, the product, the ability to react during the season, the flexibility of our business model,” said Pablo Isla, chairman of Inditex.

Retailers acknowledge their designer customers have also been shopping Zara, that Zara does best at larger urban stores rather than in the malls, and that the brand’s popularity is even more evident in Europe than in the U.S. because there’s less competition abroad.

Jennifer Hyman, cofounder and chief executive officer of Rent the Runway, recently told WWD that Zara, among other fast-fashion retailers, is a real threat and that Rent the Runway’s new same-day delivery is a way to compete against fast fashion. “Zara has many stores convenient to where young women work. The clothes look good and trendy,” Hyman said.

“The big trends are off-the-shoulder, ruching of the sleeves, maxidresses, denim jackets, black heeled boots and bejeweled sneakers — and Zara nails it,” said Sarah Sulzberger Perpich, of the firm Stylish Sarah. She’s a personal stylist and fashion consultant.

 

An off-the-shoulder look and pants from Zara. 

With Perpich, WWD takes a deep dive into Zara at 503 Broadway between Broome and Spring Streets. The 47,300-square-foot flagship opened more than a year ago with great fanfare, with Isla heralding the size of the store, its cast-iron facade and historic architecture and eco-friendliness. He called it “a global landmark” for Zara, and DiFerdinando and Perpich consider it Zara’s best store in town.

It’s busy at noon on a late July weekday, with women of all ages, and it’s expansive, with three airy floors covering the categories in men’s, women’s and kids. The more fashionable, trendier items are on the main floor up front. Upstairs, there’s a spread of basics at very low prices, many priced at less than $10, including basic white sweaters for $9.99 and $7.99 T-shirts, as well as knit skirts for $15.99 and bright colored summer dresses priced at $22.99.

According to stylist Perpich, “The fabrics at Zara hold up. They have real women sizes, not just for 14-year-olds,” Perpich said. She’s partial to the Zara Basic Collection. “It has staples, like a great white shirt or a black blazer or a great bootie.” And it fits into her philosophy on wardrobing. “I’m focusing on seasonless staples, versatility, everything you buy you can wear three different ways.”

To the trained eye, the designer inspiration is unmistakable and everywhere.

She spots a cap-sleeved blouse with ruching on sides, $129 — Helmut Lang-inspired, she said. A black ruched minidress, priced $79.90, reflects Mugler.

There are also lots of polka-dot black-and-white tops, seemingly inspired by Moschino.

Then there’s a Tibi-inspired tiered ruffle-sleeved day dress, priced $49.90. “Spring 2015 is when Tibi started with the off-the-shoulder. Now it’s everywhere,” Perpich said assuredly. Then she selects a $49.90 off-the-shoulder dress. “This is Tibi again.”

From the current collection at Zara. 

In footwear, Perpich highlights what she considers Prada-inspired silver metallic Oxford platform loafers, priced at $49.90, and some soft bootings, priced at $69.90, seen as Vetements-inspired. “The strappy cork-sole wedges — they’re inspired by Stella McCartney,” Perpich said.

Zara gets on-trend with soft bootings and satin slip-ons. 

 

There’s a $99.90 black handbag she believes has a shape reminiscent of a classic 2.55 Chanel, with hardware echoing what Stella McCartney has shown. She liked it, and noted it’s among the more expensive items she’s noticed in the store, though she does come across an Elizabeth and James-inspired $129 black blouse with ruched sleeves.

Moving deeper into the store, she tugs at a sheer lace-up top, priced at $69.90. “This is very Maria Cornejo-inspired, boho-chic. It covers the boobs. The rest is sheer.”

Next, Perpich holds up a floral-embroidered skinny blue jean, priced at $49.90. “These are adorable. You can’t get more Gucci-inspired.”

A torn and embroidered jean from Zara. 

 

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