According to BusinessWeek’s yearly ranking of the world’s biggest brands, the Spanish clothes brand Zara is worth more than Levi’s, Armani and Hermes. For the first time ever Zara is included in the list of 100 best brands, coming in at number 77, and valued at 3,730 million dollars. Levi’s is ranked 96 and Armani 95.

Zara is one of over a hundred subsidiaries owned by holding company Inditex, founded by Amancio Ortega who is possibly Spain’s most successful (but least known) self-made entrepreneurs.

Ortega was born in La Coruña, Galicia, into a humble family and he started working in a shirt-making factory when he was just 14 in 1951. In the 1960s he opened his first textile company, Goa, which made bathrobes, and in 1975 he opened the first Zara store selling clothes for men, women and children. From then on then his business went from strength to strength. Today Zara is one of several trademarks owned by Inditex.

Ortega leads a quiet life. So much so that most Spaniards would not be able to tell you the name of the owner of one of the world’s top fashion brands. He never gives interviews, very rarely appears in public and, when he does, refuses to wear a tie. The first time a photo of him ever appeared in the Spanish press was in 2001 just before Inditex was listed in the Spanish stock market (its shares sold out the day it went public, making it one of the most successful IPOs in Spanish stock market history). Amancio Ortega still lives in his native Galicia, home also to the headquarters of Zara and Inditex.

In 1988 the first Zara store was opened outside Spain (in Portugal). Over the past 6 years Zara has expanded to no less than 54 countries, growing into network of 745 stores always set in the commercial centre of each town.

A standard joke in Spain is that when you travel to a major city abroad don’t bother taking a map. Just look for Zara and then you’ll know exactly where you are – right in the city center!