Melania Trump's jacket stunt thrusts Zara into the spotlight

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First Lady Melania Trump at Andrews Air Rorce Base on June 21, 2018.
First Lady Melania Trump at Andrews Air Rorce Base on June 21, 2018. Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Fast-fashion pioneer Zara has been caught up in a sartorial controversy involving first lady Melania Trump -- with a garment last on sale two years ago.

Trump, boarding a plane for a flight to an immigrant detention center in Texas, wore an olive-green jacket with the words "I Really Don't Care, Do U?" on the back.

While Zara's shops are ubiquitous, its Spanish parent company, Inditex SA, typically tries to stay out of the limelight. The company eschews advertising, save for occasional forays like a YouTube campaign for its Massimo Dutti brand. Founder Amancio Ortega first appeared in a public photo when the retailer listed its shares in 2001, almost three decades after he created the company.

Zara has previously drawn controversy for some of its clothing designs -- including a denim miniskirt printed with a cartoon face resembling Pepe the Frog, a symbol adopted by anti-Jewish groups. Four years ago, the chain attracted social media outcry for a striped children's shirt with a star that bore similarity to the shirts worn by prisoners in concentration camps during the Holocaust. At the time, Zara pulled the shirt from its shelves.

In this case it wasn't the clothing itself, but rather the juxtaposition of the wearer and the setting that prompted questions -- with her husband, President Donald Trump, saying the first lady's jacket choice was a dig at the news media, while her own spokeswoman said, "There was no hidden message."

"Melania Trump has a huge reach and that makes it difficult for Inditex or Zara to control the message and respond to this," Jaime Castello, a professor of marketing and sales at Spain's ESADE business school. "Zara and the rest of Inditex brands are very meticulous and careful about who they're associated with. At this point, the safest option would be let this controversy go."

An Inditex spokesman declined to comment.

Given the company's reputation for turning around its collections within weeks, any fashionistas inspired by Trump's wardrobe will struggle to find the garment, given that it was part of a spring/summer 2016 collection.

--Bloomberg News with Ad Age contributions

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