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Zalando Pilots Repair Program, Unveils New Circular Collection

Zalando is trying its hand at repair.

The German e-tailer revealed Tuesday that it will be trialing a care and repair service in Berlin and Dusseldorf as part of a broader campaign to adopt business models that veer away from the linear take-make-dispose trajectory of consumption.

“To reduce its negative impact on people and the planet the fashion industry needs to move towards a circular system,” Laura Coppen, head of circularity at Zalando, said in a statement. “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.”

But while nearly 60 percent of consumers say it’s important their clothes get a “new lease of life” rather than end up in a landfill, according to a recent survey Zalando commissioned, less than half follow through with their intentions. To bridge this “attitude-behavior gap,” the company is partnering with London startup Save Your Wardrobe to allow customers to book appointments with locally vetted providers that offer mending and specialty aftercare services. Both the pickup and return of repaired items will be negotiated through Zalando’s logistics network.

“The incentive for customers to invest in maintenance and repair comes from the feeling that customers are taking back control of their consumption,” said Hasna Kourda, founder of Save Your Wardrobe. “Instead of feeling like buying new is the only option, there is a tool for them that helps them take care of the things they already have.”

The German e-tailer will be trialing a care and repair service as part of a broader campaign to adopt more circular business models.
The German e-tailer will be trialing a care and repair service as part of a broader campaign to adopt more circular business models. Courtesy

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Zalando also announced Tuesday its second “redeZign for circularity” collection from its private label Zign. All 50 pieces are designed for circularity, meaning they comprise recycled or renewable materials and are made to last longer through reuse and recycling. The e-tailer teamed up with New York startup Eon to supply each item with a QR code that takes customers to a website where they can learn more about the provenance of the product, including where it was manufactured and its material composition. This “digital product passport” also unlocks expanded care guidance, along with instructions on how to trade the item back to Zalando’s growing pre-owned platform when it’s no longer wanted.

The lineup of men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and accessories will drop in mid-October and continue into the spring/summer 2022 season. All pieces, Zalando said, align with the circular design principles it has been working to define with the Ellen Macarthur Foundation and Berlin-based startup

“We are excited to see that our customers value additional levels of product transparency and that this can help influence purchasing decisions towards more sustainable products, alongside encouraging a behavior shift toward wearing garments longer,” Coppen said. “With the new collection, we want to offer a wider range of products designed with circularity principles in mind and test an end-to-end solution, from design, use, reuse and eventually recycling.”

Meanwhile, the e-tailer is throwing its support behind textile recycling by grabbing a stake in Finland’s Infinited Fiber Company, which turns cellulose-rich clothing castoffs and other textile waste into “premium-quality superfibers,” reducing the industry’s reliance on virgin materials. It has also linked arms with innovation platform Fashion for Good to scale an open-source system for textile waste management that can better match textile waste from sorters with recyclers. All of this, Coppen said, will bring Zalando closer to its goal of extending the life of at least 50 million fashion items by 2023, which it laid out last year in its do.MORE strategy to provide a net-positive impact to people and the planet.

“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,” she added.