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'Inclusive and inspiring': Zalando’s future womenswear plans


By Weixin Zha

27 Feb 2019

Zalando, one of Europe’s biggest online fashion retailers, wants to offer more inspiration and become more inclusive to women, Sara Diez, who heads the womenswear segment at the Berlin-based company, told FashionUnited in her first interview since she joined Zalando in September. The head of the womenswear segment spoke about the future strategy for womenswear, upcoming trends for the autumn/winter 2019 season, and the bad weather.

After a career at Inditex and Nike, why did you choose to become Vice President Category Women at Zalando?

I started my career at Inditex, working for the main brand Zara. At that time we also started Zara.com, that was like the starting moment for what digital could mean for the retail business. Then, I moved to Amsterdam to work for Nike. The commonality was the digital business. At Nike, I also had the chance to lead the Nike.com business and the store. It was at the time of thinking digital first. So, naturally, Zalando felt like the right place for me to progress my career. It was super attractive for me to come to a pure online player and learn from it. Something interesting to me was also the decision-making that is much more data-driven.

What plans do you have as the new head for womenswear at Zalando?

We’re investing in areas in order to become really inclusive. We’re serving fashion to everybody and that, of course, includes extended sizes. We’re exploring sizes for every single body type and shape, from petite to tall. Plus sizes are the biggest part of this business - we’re growing with 60 percent in this area. Another area of the business that we’re definitely focusing on is our premium area. We see that there is a lot of inspiration that comes from those brands and we’re able to bring some of them exclusively to Europe.”

How will Zalando offer more inspiration?

We’re making an effort to become the platform for smaller, highly inspirational brands that will make us highly relevant in our local markets. Right now, we’re exploring ways to incorporate Korean brands that are relevant and we want to be the one that brings them to Europe. We also have some brands exclusively from Los Angeles for European consumers.

The head of a German competitor likes to call Zalando and Amazon “searchable online warehouses”. Besides of adding more premium brands, what else could Zalando do to cast off this nickname?

When it comes to a data-driven approach, the main game changer is going to be personalisation. Zalando has heavily invested in this with a team of 600 people purely focusing on this topic. More and more content has been created, but not everyone is seeing the same content. We’re tailoring assortment based on your preferences and your history. That will be the best way to have such a big assortment of 300,000 products - to make it truly curated towards different consumers and not becoming an overwhelming experience.

The weather impacted the earnings of many fashion companies in 2018, Zalando. What could you do as a buyer in the future to deal with erratic conditions?

We’re facing massive changes related to the weather. What happened in the third quarter was completely unprecedented. To a certain extent we have been able to navigate around this but we’re also still applying what we’ve learnt. We’re looking at the collections differently. When we’re expecting a cold January and February, we probably need to carry on more of the winter stuff. This approach differs from how fashion was planned in the past, where you could find spring products already in January. We always need to be ready and that is why the transitional collections can help.

Sustainability is fashion’s ubiquitous buzzword at the moment. What is Zalando doing here?

We already have more than 11,000 items flagged with “sustainability” but we’re only just getting started. We’re partnering with key brands and we have more to add to our portfolio. We at Zalando would like to be in there now, rather than later, because we know how important this is and we also feel that we have a responsibility towards people and our planet. We have made a lot of steps with our private labels already. By 2020, 50 percent of the cotton for our private labels will be sourced as Better Cotton. [Note: The production of ‘Better Cotton’ follows more sustainable methods.]

Which trends do you see for the coming autumn/winter 2019 season?

Animal prints will come in different styles, even neon colours, purple, red or black. They may also be paired with the new trend for cowboy boots. For a feminine touch, cowboy boots can be combined with soft floral prints and long dresses for a total look - for a boho style. We also see trends from the seventies like midi dresses and skirts, and pants in many different shapes and forms. There is also continuity with streetwear, with these chunky sneakers. It started with Balenciaga and now the generic consumer is truly buying into it. We’re also expecting to still see logos for the next season.

Pictures: Zalando / Svenja Krüger