Online fashion retailer Zalando wants to expand its premium assortment with luxury fashion. The latest additions include brands such as Alberta Ferretti, Moschino Couture, and Proenza Schouler White Label. Lena-Sophie Roeper, buying director premium and luxury at Zalando, explains the new luxury strategy and talks about bestsellers and trends for AW20.
The online retailer, which has so far catered mostly to mainstream fashion customers, announced last year that it wanted to become the 'starting point for fashion'. As this strategy takes shape, Zalando is expanding the offering in its online shop to include more luxury fashion and, for the first time, second-hand clothes as of autumn. The overall assortment comprises more than 2,500 brands, of which 240 are premium brands, such as Michael Kors and Lacoste, and around 20 luxury brands, such as Alberta Ferretti.
With 30,000 items, the premium category is still small compared to the total of 500,000 products in the online shop, but this area at Zalando is growing the fastest. Driven by Millennials and Gen Z, purchases of luxury items online are expected to grow faster than the overall clothing market in the coming years. Zalando is already feeling the demand today. In 2019, customers looked more than 20 million times for luxury brands which they couldn't find in the online shop. Zalando hopes to close this gap by expanding its offering. By 2023, the company plans to double its gross merchandise volume in the premium category - this figure includes items sold by brand partners in the webshop and products that Zalando stocks itself.
Last week, Zalando announced the expansion of the luxury segment and mentioned new additions. How many more labels will be added?
Lena-Sophie Roeper: We are in specific talks with about 30 brands. We cannot yet disclose the names of the brands before we have final decisions.
And how many new brands will be added to the premium and luxury segment this year?
We plan to add 30 new brands by 2020. About half of them will be luxury brands. Some of them have already been confirmed. For example, we have Missoni and Marni with parts of their offering, but not yet with the entire collection. But we have already started the relationship. Brands such as Alberta Ferretti, Moschino Couture and Proenza Schouler White Label will also be added soon. Phillip Lim and Mulberry are also new.
Luxury brands are often selective in their distribution strategy, and some companies have recently started to focus more on direct sales. As a mainstream fashion retailer, how do you convince brands like Hermès or Prada?
We are very open with them, we present our business model, we explain the brands a bit more about Zalando, our plans - particularly in the premium and luxury segment. We also have a unique selling proposition: we have by far the largest customer base, especially in the young segment - that is everything under 35. Here we are the market leader when it comes to the number of customers. If you consider that customers in the luxury segment will become increasingly younger in the coming years, we are actually the perfect answer to this.
And younger customers are shopping for luxury fashion differently than before?
Customer behavior in the luxury segment is changing; you can see this in all the collaborations between luxury and lifestyle brands. You can see the shift to 'mixing and matching', that it no longer has to be pure luxury, but that the reality of what customers wear on the street is very diverse. Vintage pieces are part of it and price points don't really play a big role anymore, individual style is much more important.
Zalando plans to revamp the appearance of the premium area within the online shop and improve packaging. What else have you planned as part of the luxury strategy?
We are planning various events in 2020 to communicate our premium and luxury segment. These include a major event during Paris Fashion Week, where we will present exclusive items from new brands in our advanced contemporary and luxury segment.
How many capsules of premium and luxury brands does Zalando actually launch per year?
It's hard to give numbers here, but we have plans for a larger, sustainable capsule towards the end of the year. There are usually two of the smaller exclusive capsules in the premium and luxury segment per season with several designers.
What role does sustainability play in your premium offering?
Compared to the overall sustainable assortment at Zalando, the green range in the premium and luxury segment is still rather small, but we are working on solutions with existing partners. We are planning to triple our offering here by autumn/winter 2020 alone and this is just the beginning.
Could you also give us an insight into the current bestsellers in the ladies' range?
Oversized coats are very, very big; combat boots, square-toe boots and sandals are huge. We sell designer coats, leather jackets and trousers incredibly well. Chunky-chain jewelry is huge. Then there are power suits for ladies, but also really colourful suits, blazers. A lot of feminine silhouettes, lace and frills are back again. Apart from that a lot of soft leather as far as accessories are concerned - much inspired by Bottega Veneta.
Which trends do you notice are slowly fading?
The biggest trend in 2019 was by far the Chunky or Dad Sneaker. You can definitely still see that there's a rebound. Not just chunky, but also fitted with stones and even bigger logos. But on the other hand, we also see a bigger trend back to tennis court sneakers, truly clean, minimalist silhouettes.
Lastly, a look ahead: Which trends will shape 2020?
Leather is very much on the rise. Faux leather or sustainably processed regular leather. In the most diverse forms - be it shirts, dresses, trousers, jackets or suits. You can also see this on all the runways for autumn-winter 2020, and it will continue throughout the year. Skirts, suits, suits with skirts, and eighties influences can also be seen, with slouchy boots and big shoulders. As far as materials are concerned, we see faux teddy and high-quality shearling a lot. Plus, a lot of chunky and eclectic jewelry.