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Barbara Santamaria
Jan 31, 2020
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Zalando on the path to sustainability

Translated by
Barbara Santamaria
Jan 31, 2020

This season, Zalando made its debut as a partner to Neonyt. FashionNetwork.com met Zalando’s director of engineering Stacia Carr and Kate Heiny, director of corporate responsibility and sustainability, at the fashion fair to talk about the company’s plan to become more sustainable.


“It was important for us to support Neonyt, as this is one of the largest sustainable fashion events. The fact that it takes place in Berlin is a big plus, and it allows us to communicate our sustainability efforts whilst also connecting with great brands,” said Kate Heiny, in an interview with FashionNetwork.com.

Growing demand

According to research, searches for sustainable products increased by 66% last year. So, in order to meet this growing interest, Zalando wants to give its range of sustainable items more prominence on its site. Currently, eco-friendly styles are marked with a special sustainability symbol.

“There is no gold standard when it comes to communicating sustainability, but we are working with our partners and competitors on how this can look in the future. We still have a lot of work to do, but we know that we can’t solve everything on our own," Heiny continued.

Kate Heiny, Director Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability at Zalando - Zalando

The platform’s sustainable collection currently includes more than 24,000 items. Styles are listed with their eco-credentials, links to companies’ websites, and an explanation of what makes them more sustainable than other alternatives.

As a European platform with operations in 17 markets, Zalando has shunned Germany’s ‘Green Button’, a state-approved label for environmentally certified textiles, in favour of a more global approach. In fact, the e-tailer is working with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to develop a global tool to measure and communicate sustainability more effectively. 

That is why the company has become a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and partner of the Global Fashion Agenda.

Managing returns

A key part of Zalando’s sustainability plan is to reduce return rates. About 30% of returns occur due to sizing issues and Zalando’s vast inventory of over 2,000 brands makes things slightly more difficult as sizes can vary greatly across brands. Stacia Carr, director of engineering, is working with her team on new technologies that will simplify online shopping. 

“I have a vision of a world in which customers don't have to think about sizes. When they shop with Zalando, they know that Zalando will only send them clothing that fits,” Stacia Carr said.

Stacia Carr, Director of Engineering at Zalando - Zalando

To improve its fit analytics, Zalando scrutinises the reasons provided by customers when items are returned. In addition to ‘fit models’, this is an opportunity for the company to collect data points on how its clothing fits.

Zalando is also developing various tools that will show customers how garments sit on various body types. This will help shoppers see more clearly whether a style is right for them before making a purchase.

One of such innovations is being trialled by Zalon, Zalando’s personal styling app. Users are encouraged to upload a selfie, which is used by the company to generate accurate body measurements. If the tool meets customers’ expectations, a wider roll-out across the group could be on the cards, Carr said.

Consumers are ready for it

Zalando is also experimenting with cutting-edge technology to develop 3-D avatars of models of various body shapes and sizes. In the future, customers will be able to get accurate results by choosing the avatar that best represents them.

The first phase involves testing on jeans and dresses, but developers think there is scope for more innovation in the menswear segment, with fit being a particularly important element for men’s suits, said Carr.

“I think consumers today are ready for more than we thought. Part of fashion is about advertising, about finding inspiration. But people also want visual information to help them find the right fit and see what a garment would look like on them,” she concluded.

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