• Zara and its parent company, Inditex, have their global headquarters in Arteixo, a small town on the northwest coast of Spain. Inditex is considered the largest fashion retailer on the planet, turning out more than $30 billion in sales in 2017.
  • More than 5,000 employees across various departments work here. The site is also home to 10 of Zara’s factories and its largest distribution center, which is responsible for shipping the retailer’s clothing to 96 different countries around the world.
  • Here’s what it is like to visit the factories and distribution centers that allow Zara to compete in the fast-fashion race.
  • READ MORE: About what it’s like in the area of Spain that revolves around Zara.

There are 2,238 Zara stores in 96 different countries around the world, each receiving shipments of new items twice a week. Every single piece of clothing passes through one of Zara’s four distribution centers across Spain.

We visited the largest of all, located in Zara’s main headquarters in the small town of Arteixo, in the north of Spain.

This area of the country is home to its founder, Amancio Ortega, and the first Zara store. Today, over 5,000 people work at this sprawling headquarters across different realms of the business, from design, photography, and modeling, to its factories and logistics platforms, which manufacture and distribute Zara clothing around the world.

Take a look inside:

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The story begins in the heart of Zara’s headquarters, where its 300-person design team is leafing through trend-forecasting books and putting together mood boards for the store’s next collection.

The story begins in the heart of Zara's headquarters, where its 300-person design team is leafing through trend-forecasting books and putting together mood boards for the store's next collection. Jesus Sancho/AP Images

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Once a design is created, it is taken to a team of pattern cutters just meters away, who put together the first prototypes.

Once a design is created, it is taken to a team of pattern cutters just meters away, who put together the first prototypes. Jesus Sancho/AP Images
The team can turn around a new prototype within a day, if necessary.

Once the prototype has been created, it is tested on models who are also full-time Inditex employees working in other areas of the fashion department.

These are almost 10 models there to test the various collections of men’s and women’s clothing, a spokesperson for Inditex told Business Insider.

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Once the prototype has been signed off on, a digitalized pattern is sent to one of its factories.

Once the prototype has been signed off on, a digitalized pattern is sent to one of its factories. Jesus Sancho/AP Images
Inditex’s headquarters.

Its sprawling, 860,000-square-foot campus is home to 10 different factories, which manufacture Zara’s most fashion-forward items of clothing — basically, the products that need more attention, a spokesperson said. These factories are connected to the distribution center through a network of secret underground tunnels that transport clothing on electric hanging rails.

Other items are sent to external factories around the world.

However, all the manufactured items will return to one of its distribution centers to be sent out to stores.

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The factory that we visited solely manufacturers clothing for Zara’s womenswear collection. The first step of the process is to set the patterns to the fabric.

The factory that we visited solely manufacturers clothing for Zara's womenswear collection. The first step of the process is to set the patterns to the fabric. Inditex
The colors on the screen represent the various pieces that make up an item.

An Inditex spokesperson compared this process to a game of Tetris. The game here is to fit as many pieces as possible into one piece of material, in order to be most economical with the fabric.

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The pattern layout is then sent to a machine that prints a life-size copy, using the relevant information about what part of the garment each piece is.

The pattern layout is then sent to a machine that prints a life-size copy, using the relevant information about what part of the garment each piece is.
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

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The fabric is laid out under large cutting machines, and the paper is placed on top.

The fabric is laid out under large cutting machines, and the paper is placed on top.
Courtesy of Inditex

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Both materials are held in place with a tight plastic sheet. The machine slices through the material, cutting out the individual pieces of fabric.

Both materials are held in place with a tight plastic sheet. The machine slices through the material, cutting out the individual pieces of fabric.
Courtesy of Inditex

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On thinner fabrics, 200 layers can be cut at one time.

On thinner fabrics, 200 layers can be cut at one time.
Business…