Big fashion, big money: who controls the global clothing industry?

Who controls the global clothing industry? The Arcadia Group dominates much of the space on High Streets nationwide
Photo by CC user Finlay McWalter on Wikimedia Commons

The clothing that we wear every day is something that almost all of us take for granted. However, when you think about it, everybody needs clothes to cover their bodies, but while we are at it, we also want to look smashing as well.

Because of this, the fashion industry is one of the most profitable sectors in the global economy. Given clothing’s dual identity as a commodity and a status symbol, it is no surprise that the biggest companies in the fashion world are making money hand over fist.

So, who controls the global fashion industry? As in many sectors, a few players control the majority of the market. Below, we’ll introduce you to the top players in the game.


According to a recent study conducted by My Voucher Codes, H&M is currently the world’s most successful fashion-focused corporation.

Started in 1947 after founder Erling Persson came away from a trip to America impressed with the efficiency of their department stores, this company quickly became one of Europe’s most iconic fashion brands.

Expanding worldwide has helped H&M grow its business to new heights. They reported a net income of £1.7 billion in the previous financial year, with strong sales via its flagship brand and satellite stores such as COS, Cheap Monday, and Weekday being responsible for this impressive result.

This business juggernaut has remained a family business despite its stratospheric growth, with the Persson family presently owning 33% of the company while retaining 69% of the votes on the board.


Inditex is number two on our list. After working in the clothing industry for almost 15 years, Amancio Ortega and his wife Rosalia Mera decided to roll all of their knowledge and life savings into opening a store of their own.

With a lot of hard work and a bit of luck, Zara soon became one of Europe’s most popular fashion brands.

Instead of resting on their laurels after this initial success though, they reinvested their profits into expanding their company worldwide, while acquiring smaller brands like Stradivarius in the process.

As a result of their ambition, Inditex posted a net income of £903 million last year. This has helped Amanico Ortega become the richest person in Europe and the second richest in the world, with his fortune ballooning to over £50 billion.


Founded by Donald and Doris Fisher in 1969 after not being able to find jeans that would fit them properly, GAP has since grown to become one of the world’s most recognizable clothing brands.

Although its flagship brand still sells their fair share of trendy fashions, acquisitions made over the years have allowed the company to stick their fingers in many pies.

For example, Banana Republic is focused on more sophisticated consumers, while Old Navy markets its clothing to teenagers and young adults.

This strategy of diversification has worked, as GAP realized a net income of £648 million in the most recent fiscal year despite stagnating sales that have plagued their original brand.

The Arcadia Group

Operating over 2,500 stores in the United Kingdom under brands such as Dorothy Perkins, Topman, Burton, and House of Fraser, the Arcadia Group is one of Britain’s most prominent purveyors of high street fashion.

Launched more than a century ago by Lithuanian immigrant Montague Burton, this company offered men a chance to purchase formal clothing at reasonable prices.

As the 20th century progressed, the company began to diversify into more casual lines by opening stores such as Topshop and Topman, which offered young women and men trendy fashions in 1964 and 1970 respectively.

Over a century of satisfying the fashion needs of ordinary Britons have ensured a steady net income for investors, with an income of over £205 million being reported just last year.