Francesca Stenschke is Lead Textile Buyer for Zalando women private label and plays a key role in creating many of the items customers see on the platform today. She has seen sustainability become increasingly important in her activities over the past year, and has worked on making ZIGN Zalando’s flagship sustainability label.
“Sustainability has become such a huge part of everything we do,” she says. “I work with multiple stakeholders across the business, each of whom brings some element to the table — from sourcing of raw materials, to design, and production.”
Within ZIGN and other private labels, one of Francesca’s most important areas of focus has been Zalando’s move from Better Cotton to organic cotton for some women’s collections.
“Last year we decided to go entirely to organic cotton for our jersey collections, and it will be used for our Spring and Summer 2021 jersey collections,” she says. “In addition, in our ZIGN range, we have strict requirements on recycled polyester and knitted fibers, and are increasing our use of natural dyes.”
Zalando has clear requirements for what it considers more sustainable — essential to be included in the ZIGN range. These for example, relate to the minimum content for more sustainable fibers in a product, and the ethical standards at the factories producing the products.
Francesca works closely with Zalando’s suppliers to negotiate everything from prices, to lead times and fabrics, always striving to facilitate transparent and balanced channels of communication. Zalando suppliers, mainly based in Bangladesh and China, are required to enroll in the Higg Facility Environmental Module and share their assessments with the company, if they produce more sustainable products.
Francesca’s aim is to not only to meet the company’s targets but to exceed them. “My personal challenge is always to be one step ahead,” she says. “It’s good to stretch yourself a bit to get to the next level, and I have the opportunity in our private label business to make decisions that will have a real impact.” In the coming year, Francesca and the many teams in private labels plan to continue scaling up the volume of organic cotton and other more sustainable fibers. She also wants to ensure Zalando’s internal processes are as efficient as possible, so that there is minimum wastage. “I try to work out how we can organize processes and be more innovative, taking on board the views of my colleagues and other stakeholders.”
Zalando Private Labels last year collaborated with Fashion for Good and circular.fashion to introduce the “redeZIGN for Circularity” collection. The collection features a QR code to provide customers with additional product transparency, including information on tradein and recycling options. “The women’s team produced three styles and the men’s team two,” Francesca says. “This kind of initiative helps people think about recycling, where we are at the start of an exciting journey.”