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Discount Diva: So, I checked out Zara at the Walden Galleria

Zara opened at Walden Galleria last week in a huge, double-level space near Dick’s Sporting Goods.

When the news was first announced that the Spanish fast-fashion retailer was coming, people lost their dang minds. The store is known for its constantly changing inventory of cutting-edge clothing and accessories for men, women, kids and babies at affordable prices.

While most retailers stock a line of clothing that stays the same for months and only changes its inventory with the turn of the season, Zara ships new clothing twice a week. Twice a week! That means shoppers can keep going back for more (and more, and more). And they do.

The company is famous for its uber-responsive supply chain, which enables it to pump out trends almost the minute they pop up on Instagram.

I took Zara for a spin Friday. Here’s what I found:

• The size on the tag is a lie. I tried on an extra-large button-down and couldn’t get it past my shoulders. On the bright side, I tried on a T-shirt and it was the first time in four years that I’ve fit into a large.

• Prices are on the higher side of affordable. Yes, you can get T-shirts for less than $10 but, aside from the ones I saw for kids (which were actually pretty freaking rad), I wouldn’t spend $10 on any of them. A ladies’ tee bearing a cast photo from “Dynasty” runs $25.90, a men’s tee with flippy sequins that change from an eagle to a skull runs $35.90, and a girls’ T-shirt that has a picture of a girl with a hula hoop and inexplicably says “Girls Football League” runs $14.90.

• Though the prices can be higher than the quality might merit, the trade-off is the style. A lot of people don’t mind paying more for something really gorgeous, even if they’re probably only going to wear it once.

• While some of the materials are quite nice (buttery leather) and the construction can be a step up from other fast fashion (a dress coat with actual lining), the higher prices don’t always match the quality, such as a certain pair of men's shoes I saw. I feel like you could do a lot better for your $99 somewhere else. Especially on sale.

• With Zara’s quick turnaround, the company can afford to take risks. Those risks sometimes result in really cool stuff.

• There is a huge variety of styles (preppy, boho, urban) and occasions (weekend, office, casual) and a whole lot of all of it.

• There are security tags on everything. Even the $8.90 T-shirt that looks like it should cost 90 cents. I can’t figure out how this use of labor pays off. It took two different cashiers a total of 23 tries (I swear to you, I counted) to get the tag off the shirt I bought for my daughter.

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• Dressing rooms are unremarkable, but there are more than 20 of them. The attendant was fast and friendly.

• I did not see a single plus size. Some of the clothing in the women’s section had XXL and larger options on their tags, but I didn’t see any of them in stock.

• Zara is a fast-fashion retailer, and fast fashion has some serious problems.

It tends to encourage sweatshop labor.

The fashion cycle is so short that the clothes are basically disposable, meaning the manufacturing process consumes a lot of resources and creates a lot of pollution and waste.

Though the clothing can be more accessibly priced, consumers often get less value for their dollar because items are either poorly made or aren’t worn as much since they go out of style so quickly.

• The store is basically H& M with higher prices, a more European feel and, sometimes, better construction and fabrics.

There, I said it. Fight me.


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