In sense, scale and proportion, the entire episode is an exemplar of a mismatch.
Industria de Diseño Textil, S.A. (Inditex, for short) is a Spanish multinational clothing company headquartered in Galicia, in Spain. Inditex is the biggest fast fashion group in the world, with 6,477 stores in 95 markets worldwide. Its flagship brand is Zara, and it also owns Bershka, Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Pull&Bear, Stradivarius, Uterqüe and Lefties. Inditex’s sales in 2021 were of €27.7 billion. Taylor Wessing LLP, on the other hand, is an international law firm with 28 offices worldwide. It has over 300 partners and more than 1,000 lawyers worldwide.
In contrast, Tara Sartoria does not have a single employee: it started as a one-woman business, and is still one. Nguyen works with a small workshop of artisans in Vietnam—all of them women, and engages with four—at times five—others on a contractor-freelancer basis for her admin, social media and design chores. Nguyen had launched her online store only a year earlier, in November 2020, in the middle of a raging pandemic in the US.
Nguyen works directly with artisans in traditional silk villages in Vietnam, and also Indonesia. The clothing is handcrafted in limited quantities and follows sustainable practices: minimal packaging, handmade production with low impact on the environment, zero waste of fabric, and usage of eco-friendly materials. Tara Sartoria also grants university scholarships and donates 10% of the profits.
In fact, Nguyen was herself the beneficiary of a scholarship once. She went to Australia for a Master’s in Electronic Commerce at Curtin University of Technology in 2000, and then earned a scholarship to do a PhD in Business Information Systems in 2004–08. From 2009 to 2011, Nguyen was based in the UK, having received the prestigious Newton International Postdoctoral Fellowship for a multi-country research project in Brazil, Kenya and Vietnam to evaluate needs of women entrepreneurs and recommend innovative strategies for empowering women to start businesses.
Before Tara Sartoria, she had been around, first in academia as a lecturer at Curtin University, and then as an IT consultant. She also started a couple of businesses and worked as an international development consultant where she provided research and advisory services for international development agencies on women’s entrepreneurship for women empowerment.
"What I feel passionate about is to provide women with opportunities to fulfill their potential, having come from Vietnam and experiencing first hand the hunger for opportunities and the willingness to work hard, as well as the power of education and entrepreneurship in lifting women and communities out of poverty. My work as a consultant in international development as well as my postdoctoral fellowship research, and now Tara Sartoria, were born out of this commitment."
But all that seems in the distant past, now that she gears up for a highly probable courtroom drama.
When she had gone scurrying for counsel shortly after the November missive, the overwhelming response from most was this: just give up and move on. But Nguyen decided to live on and fight.
Nguyen contends: "Tara Sartoria is named after Tara, the Buddhist goddess of compassion and protection. Tara was born from a lotus, the flower depicted in the Tara Sartoria logo. The goddess Tara has been known throughout the world for over 3,500 years. In comparison, Zara has existed for only 47 years. Should a corporate giant be allowed to stop a small enterprise from using a name that is not only substantially different, but has completely distinct origins, and is a deeply significant part of its founder’s personal cultural heritage?"
She attempted a petition and a fund-raiser. But after the initial flutter, some traction waned away, in a milieu where public attention span is as short as the reels they produce on Instagram. The fund-raiser did not get much traction, but the petition did, and continues to. It is now at 14,218 signatures on Organise.network and 5,481 on Change.org.