Zalando invests in new business models and innovations to accelerate circularity in the fashion industry

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Zalando, Europe’s leading online platform for fashion and lifestyle, introduces new business models and practices for circularity along the full product life cycle. The effort supports the goal to apply the principles of circularity and extend the life of at least 50 million fashion items by 2023 as outlined in Zalando’s sustainability strategy, do.MORE. The fashion industry operates in a linear succession: take – make – use – throw away. With its new initiatives, Zalando aims to make a transition towards a circular system, redesigning each step of the product life cycle holistically: design & manufacture – use – reuse – close the loop. From designing for circularity via the “redeZIGN for circularity” collection, to piloting repairs, to constantly scaling its Pre-owned offering, to developing an open-source platform for textile waste management as part of the Sorting For Circularity Project with Fashion for Good: Zalando’s strategy aims to find answers to the whole spectrum of the industry challenges involving customers, brands and partners.

“To reduce its negative impact on people and the planet the fashion industry needs to move towards a circular system. At Zalando, we see this shift as a unique opportunity to lead the redesign of the fashion industry, open up new revenue streams and capitalize on seismic shifts in consumer behavior which are already underway”, says Laura Coppen, Head of Circularity at Zalando. “According to our Attitude-Behavior Gap report over 60% of consumers believe it is important that their clothes get a new lease of life rather than heading to landfill. Our aim is to drive behavior change towards circular products and experiences. We don’t have all the answers yet but we are collaborating with key industry changemakers testing and scaling new solutions in order to transition to a fully circular business.”

DESIGN

In the design stage, Zalando is working together with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Berlin-based start-up circular.fashion to define industry-wide circular product criteria and upskill its private label teams on circular design. To enable informed circular choices Zalando scales the “redeZIGN for circularity” capsule collection from its private label ZIGN. All 50 collection items in men’s and women’s textiles, shoes, and accessories include a digital product passport. Via a QR code in the label, customers can go to a product site to learn where the product was produced, how to care for it, repair it and how to trade it into Zalando. 

USE

Starting October 11, Zalando will pilot care and repair services in order to engage with customers post purchase and support extending the life of customers’ products. Partnering with London-based start-up and retail app Save Your Wardrobe Zalando now offers quality care and repair services for garments and shoes through selected local studios and tailors to Berlin-based customers via a digitally enabled platform. Pick up and return of repaired items will be handled by Zalando Premium Logistics. This service will be rolled out to Düsseldorf shortly after and prospectively scaled to more markets.

REUSE

In order to empower customers to reuse and resell their clothes, Zalando is constantly scaling its Pre-owned experience enabling customers to buy or trade in like-new, pre-owned fashion. Since the launch in September 2020 the offer grew tenfold from 20,000 to now over 200,000 articles. Zalando customers in 13 markets appreciate fast delivery, high comfort in payment methods and returns, as well as the continued piloting of plastic-free packaging. 

CLOSE THE LOOP

To grow the current 1% of textiles recycled into new textiles in the industry Zalando is investing in new recycling technologies. Zalando just announced its investment into the textile regeneration technology group Infinited Fiber Company, which is creating a new circular, premium textile fiber from textile waste to reduce the world’s reliance on virgin raw materials. As part of the Sorting For Circularity Project with Fashion for Good Zalando scales an open-source platform for textile waste management. This project will provide a comprehensive textile waste analysis using more accurate, innovative Near Infrared technology, while also mapping textile recyclers’ capabilities. The research will lead to an open digital platform to match textile waste from sorters with recyclers, enabling their alignment and building an infrastructure towards greater circularity in the years to come. Zalando is also part of the European edition of accelerating circularity which convenes brands, retailers, recyclers and sorters from the downstream product lifecycle to enable them to map where products end up and how to divert them from landfill.

All these initiatives will bring Zalando one step closer to its vision of becoming a sustainable fashion platform with a net positive impact for people and the planet.