Co-founder of Zara and the world's richest self-made woman;
Born: January 28, 1944; Died: August 15, 2013
Rosalia Mera, who has died at the age of 69, was a seamstress who co-founded a clothing store in northwestern Spain that grew into Zara, one of the world's largest retail chains. She was the wealthiest self-made woman in the world with a fortune was estimated by Forbes at £3.8 billion.
She was born and brought up in the district of Monte Alton in the city of La Coruna, the daughter of an electrician. Her mother worked in a butcher's shop.
When she was 11 years old, she left school and worked as a seamstress for a clothes shop in the city.
Later, she met and married a messenger boy called Armancio Ortega and in the early 1960s they set up their own business GOA, which became Zara. They were originally going to call the store Zorba after the Zorba the Greek movie, but there was a bar with that name a few blocks away from the site, so they settled on Zara instead.
Initially they worked from a basement but by the 1970s were confident enough to open their first shop in La Coruna (it still exists today). From the start, their signature was brightly coloured clothes but their secret was using local seamstresses who could turn around ideas much more quickly than their rivals. It meant Zara built a reputation for quick fashion that could get a runway idea into the shops swiftly and relatively cheaply.
Today, Zara has around 1750 shops in 86 countries, including many in the UK. Mera remained on the board of the company until 2004, although she had taken a reduced role after her divorce from Ortega, who is listed by Forbes as the world's third-richest person. Mera was a major shareholder in Inditex, the owner of Zara.
Away from fashion, Ms Mera became known for voicing opposition to the Spanish government's plans to change abortion laws. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is a close ally of the Catholic Church on moral and social issues, and has repeatedly said he will revise Spain's abortion law, though he has not yet tabled any proposals. The previous Socialist government passed a law allowing 16-year-olds to get abortions without parental consent. Mera said that law was just fine and should be left as it is. In addition, she opposed government cutbacks in the name of austerity which have affected Spain's cherished education and national health care programmes.
Ms Mera suffered a stroke while on holiday on the Mediterranean island of Menorca and died at a hospital in La Coruna.
She is survived by her son Marcos and daughter Sandra.
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