Rosalia Mera, a seamstress who co-founded a clothing store in north-western Spain that grew into one of the world’s largest retail chains, has died at the age of 69.
She was Spain’s richest woman and a major shareholder in Inditex, the owner of the Zara chain that expanded rapidly across the globe over the past few decades.
Inditex issued a statement confirming her death but did not provide more details and declined to comment further.
Spanish media widely reported that Mera suffered a stroke while on holiday on the Mediterranean island of Menorca and died on Thursday night at a hospital in La Coruna, the city where she was born in Spain’s Galicia region.
Mera founded the first Zara store in 1975 in La Coruna with her then-husband, Armancio Ortega. He is listed by Forbes as the world’s third-richest person. They were originally going to call the store Zorba after the film Zorba the Greek, but there was a bar with that name a few streets away from the site, so the letters on the Zorba sign were modified to spell out Zara.
The store specialised in low-priced versions of more-expensive popular clothes and the formula turned into a success for store openings across Spain and then internationally.
Mera held 5.1 per cent of Inditex and her fortune was estimated by Forbes at $6.1 billion (£3.9bn). The magazine says she was the world’s 195th richest person but was in the number one spot on its list for “wealthiest self-made woman”.
Besides the Zara chain, Inditex also owns retailers Bershka, Masssimo Dutti, Oysho, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius, Uterque and Zara Home. There are 1,763 Zara stores globally and Inditex has a total of 6,058 stores and 120,000 employees.