For more than fifteen years, the granddaughter of the Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, Athena Onassis and the daughter of the man who built Zara’s empire are best friends. The adoration for horse riding, the difficult times with their divorces, the joint outings, the distaste for social media, the joint vacations and appearances at glam gatherings of the international jet set. By the way, see Alvaro’s earnings from the divorce with Athena Onassis.
In one of her sayings, the American writer Ellen Keller wrote that “walking in the dark with a friend is better than walking alone in the light”, words that have perfectly suited two well-known women, our own way Tina Athena Onassis and Marta Ortega, daughter of the man who founded the Zara empire.
Who is the 38-year-old “princess”, sole heir to the kingdom of “fast fashion”?
Marta Ortega wakes up early every morning, almost before she can write, to prepare breakfast for her family—okay, not every one of their breakfasts is taken from a sequence of plant-based milk commercials—to take care of her one-year-old daughter Matilda, to deliver the nine-year-old her son Amanthio at school and to greet her husband Carlos Torreta. But they meet a little later at the Inditex headquarters in Artesio, where the company’s main factory is also located – the one that produces and distributes in 93 markets clothes condemned to be worn a lot and by many, all those who visit a Zara, Pull & Bear store , Massimo Dutti, Stradivarius, Oysho or Berska. Ortega arrives at the office shortly after 8, having first traveled the 15 kilometers that separate the town from her hometown of La Coruña. After meetings with senior executives, where they lay out the company’s usually short-term planning and after taking a look at the algorithm that reveals which pieces are bought and therefore most likely to be liked by the buying public, Ortega begins her contact with each department of her production process.
All of the above would be rather banal if we were talking about any other working woman. But not for Marta Ortega, who was lucky enough to be born the daughter of Amanthio Ortega, the undisputed king of clothing with a fortune of $78.3 billion (according to Bloomberg), or $84.2 billion if you embrace the updated for 2021 “Forbes” data. The 85-year-old Ortega is considered the man who democratized fashion, simplified the clothing production process and is the patriarch of the richest family in Europe and one of the ten richest in the world. And all this with his head down, i.e. in an attitude inversely proportional to his inconsiderable profits and sky-high impact on society. It is characteristic that although he leads a family more affluent than the royal family of England, he has not given a single interview in his life.
Although the youngest of his three children, Marta seems to be the one who inherited from her father the gene of methodicality and moderation. Although newspapers and magazines inside and outside the Spanish territory were flocking to her apron for an interview, she decided just a few days ago to grant her first one to the “Wall Street Journal” insert magazine. It may even be that the flagship of the American financial press presented it as the hidden superweapon of Zara, but it did not give even a hint of self-aggrandizement. Instead, she spent an entire day at the Artesio factory with the reporter talking more about the production process and less about herself.
It sounds, at the very least, an oxymoron for a woman who is Ortega’s daughter to be sought after for covers and interviews, but has no official position in his corporate giant. Yes, Marta Ortega, although she may embody the most influential woman on Earth, since her decisions shape the strategy and image of Inditex, she does not have a tangible job. However, she does not shy away, nor is she complacent. He states that you never know what the future holds in terms of taking over the management of the group, which since 2011 has passed from the hands of founder and main shareholder Ortega (with a percentage of 59%) to the hands of the petite Pablo Isla, while continuing tirelessly her work routine, visiting one of the chain’s more than 7,200 stores at least once a week. After all, she started her career from the bottom as her father’s successor. But we will get there too.
Marta Ortega was born in 1984, the fruit of her father’s illicit love affair with Flora Perez, whom he married in 2001 and they are still together. It was a time of cosmogony for Zara, which had just turned nine years old. Amanthio and his then-wife Rosalia Mera, who with their own resources and personal work opened the first store in La Coruña in 1975 – they had called it “Zorba”, but when they learned that there was a bar with the same name in the area, they threw it into the anagram – they had found the golden recipe. Where a brand or a house needed almost a year to design and release a garment, they through the new production process reduced the wait to a quarter. Today Inditex needs only 15 days from the design of a garment to its availability in its stores. Ortega found her father in a fruitful professional phase, but complicit in his personal life. They finally divorced his first wife in 1986, having previously had two children, Sandra, with whom Marta has only formal relations, and Markos, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
Marta studied Business Administration at the University of La Coruña and after a further training program in London, she entered the workforce. She remembers her first day in a Zara store as chaotic. But, as the wise people say, every beginning is difficult. At that time, of course, she had more on her mind about riding, since she was competing as a professional rider. From that period, her friendships with fellow Filipinas Athena Onassis and Jessica Springsteen (Bruce’s daughter) continue. In the microcosm of riding she also met her first husband Sergio Alvarez Moya with whom they married in 2012 – Athena Onassis was also there – and they divorced five years later and had a son, Amanthio junior, later.
Three years later, and after Ortega had taken it upon herself to build the group’s good reputation on the outside by signing deals with big-name photographers for the campaigns, such as Steve Meisel, who also photographed her for the WSJ cover, she was ready to give a second chance in her personal life. And even with a parasangy wedding ceremony more extroverted than the first. While at her first wedding only 200 guests were invited, at the second their number doubled. The three-day celebrations for Marta’s exchange of vows of eternal fidelity and love with former model agent, current Inditex executive Carlos Torreta marked perhaps the most heartfelt moment for the Ortega clan. Marta, who does not have her own profile on social networks, posed for the Instagram of Valentino, who edited her wedding dress, as well as her wedding looks, while she was also photographed with creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, who traveled to La Coruña for to deliver the wedding dress to her. Yes, if Marta has a gift it is to act as a link between the “fast fashion” produced by the family business and the mainstays of haute couture – her friendship with the late designer Albert Elbaz is proverbial. This is also famously crystallized in her outfit, which she usually composes with Zara pieces, which she embellishes with expensive shoes and accessories from fashion houses – some of which cost as much as an entire Zara wardrobe.
Marta Ortega at a time when everyone is talking and trumpeting their importance remains deafeningly silent. And fixated on the garment. Just as her father’s story taught her. Of a former shirt salesman who achieved a fictional success story, which was even about to be transferred to TV by Amazon Prime, but the plans fell apart. After all, the Ortegas never loved the world’s many connections. And let them dress him from head to toe for decades now.