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Zalando: If the shoe fits: creating an inclusive designer shoe collection with the transgender community

Zalando enjoys a unique and influential position, serving around 50 million customers across 25 countries, and working with some of the most inspiring brands globally. We encourage the brands and partners in our marketplace to offer an assortment that’s inclusive and representative. We want to present products to our customers that are designed by or in collaboration with underrepresented communities. Our explicit commitment is to become the European e-commerce partner of choice for brands and retailers that serve or stem from underrepresented groups by 2025.

Melika Sasani, Senior Consumer PR Manager for the Nordics, tells us about her role in the “Walk a Mile” project, stemming from Zalando’s origins as an online footwear company and making our offering more inclusive.

Hi Melika, what’s your role at Zalando?

I’m working in the communications department at Zalando. We’re in direct contact with external audiences, like the press, to give insights into Zalando’s business strategy, our culture and assortment. As the Senior Consumer PR Manager Nordics, I’m the spokesperson for Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway on fashion topics in particular.

What D&I challenges are you and your team solving at the moment?

In our team we’re committed to ensuring an inclusive approach through the topics we’re engaging on with our audiences. More specifically, this year we’re raising awareness for projects and events that will be focusing on D&I aspects such as Adaptive Fashion but also other kinds of aspects of diversity to share with our customers, peers and partners.

What project have you been working on in 2023?

In 2023, I worked on a size-inclusive designer footwear collection called “Walk a Mile” featuring 14 styles in sizes ranging from 35 to 46. For this project, Zalando supported seven designer brands in a bid to address the industry-wide challenge of accessing larger shoe molds. By providing them with investments to create new molds for fringe sizes, we help the brands continue to create size-inclusive collections independently from Zalando in the future. Hopefully, other brands will become inspired by the capsule collection and feel encouraged to do the same.

How did this project come about?

The project began as a result of our ongoing partnership with Helsinki Pride, which began in 2020. During a meeting with the organization, I held a brainstorming session focusing on how the company could go further in making a positive impact for the community. This conversation led to an insightful observation – that many transgender people have a hard time finding shoes in their sizes.

Being born with feet beyond the sample size shouldn’t restrict anyone from the joy of owning truly beautiful footwear. This problem extends beyond the queer community to cis women with larger feet and cis men with gender fluid style, and was a wake-up call for Zalando as a brand to take action.

We worked with members of the community ensuring hands-on involvement and communication throughout all aspects of the project, as well as ensuring inclusive representation both in front of and behind the lens for the campaign. We were also able to use the launch as an opportunity to amplify voices affected by size-inclusive challenges.

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