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Up Close: In Conversation with Zappos’ Karlyn Mattson

Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Karlyn Mattson, general manager, strategy, new business development and women’s fashion at Zappos, shares how the retailer is reinventing during the pandemic pause and the importance of company culture.

Karlyn Mattson Zappos
Karlyn Mattson, general manager, strategy, new business development and women’s fashion at Zappos Courtesy

Name: Karlyn Mattson

Title: general manager, strategy, new business development and women’s fashion

Company: Zappos

Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel and footwear learn?

I think there have been dramatic advancements in supply chain management in the last five years. While speed is definitely an aspect of this, I think the most important development in supply chain innovation is the level of transparency that both the industry and consumer are able to see.

How would you describe yourself as a consumer?

Because I have been a professional shopper for most of my career, I have a deep appreciation for brands and craftsmanship. When a brand is well-defined—has clearly stated values and works on a model of strong principles of design and value—I am a fan. I am more of a “quality over quantity” person.

As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?

Service, quality, great design and consistency.

What’s your typical uniform?

It’s all athleisure right now, with a few dresses thrown into the mix.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

I am most influenced by the early 2000s, but I do have a tremendous amount of respect for the craftsmanship of the early ‘60s as well.

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Who’s your style icon?

I like to aggregate style inspiration from many places. I think some women like Nicole Kidman just nail their sense of style.

What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?

Last year, we opened a Creative Studio in the heart of L.A., bringing a diverse group of talent into our organization. As a team, they have been a great complement to our Las Vegas family. This year, we have utilized our time in this pandemic to reimagine and reinvent our business model.

How would you describe your corporate culture?

There’s a book about it called “Delivering Happiness.” I highly recommend it. Seriously, I think that Zappos lives and breathes its 10 Core Values that define the corporate culture, and we ensure that an employee aligns with those values before they walk in the door. An organization can’t manufacture culture, and if you attempt to, you will have a less authentic one. I find that desire to pursue growth and learning is exceptionally strong at Zappos.

What can companies learn from COVID-19?

That it is an incredible time to challenge everything, and redefine your business where appropriate.

What should be the apparel and footwear industry’s top priority now?

Representing the diverse customers in this country and serving them—their needs and pain points, as well as understanding their mindset, values and behaviors. It’s integral to doing better by them.

What keeps you up at night?

Relevancy and speed, ensuring that we are appropriately responding to all consumers’ needs and changing lifestyles.

What makes you most optimistic?

Out of adversity always comes great innovation and thinking.

Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction/service:

We are launching several new business models that allow so many more brands to access our platform.