Rent the Runway is an innovative ecommerce company that allows consumers to rent or buy designer labels and accessories as a one-time deal, or with the ability to subscribe to the services as well. The brainchild of Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, the company was created in 2009. Hyman happened upon the idea because her sister spent a ton of money on a wedding dress, and she wanted to create a model where women could rent designer clothes on-demand, so they would not have to break the bank every time they wanted to dress up.
With over $400 million in venture capital, the company was off to a good start for the first few years in business, but suffered a setback in 2015 when several executives left the company for other ventures. But fortunately, by 2016 they were back on their feet and opening physical retail stores. They also branched out to offering a subscription model for regular clothing in 2016, in addition to the designer labels.
Until August 2020, the company had physical locations in New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles, featuring personal stylists and hands-on help. In August 2020 Rent the Runway changed gears and closed the stores in order to focus more on the digital subscriptions and create more drop box kiosks for its customers. This allows more energy and resources to be allocated to customers who are renting and returning items.
Rent the Runway has received many awards for its creativity and innovation, and one of its claims to fame is its gigantic dry cleaning operation, cleaning over 2,000 pieces per hour, according to the company.
The store itself is an online paradise where you can rent anything that your heart desires, from a little black dress, to vacation clothing. The array of clothing items and accessories is truly astounding.
The business model is quite interesting. With over 700 designers on board and clothes in sizes 00 to 22, customers can get any type of clothing they need, from ballroom to beach house fare. Even if you do not subscribe to the service, a customer can rent a dress for a 4 or 8 day period and customers can even purchase items they desire.
Customers can get a subscription for as little as $69, which opens them to a world of clothing, accessories, coats, and designer items for all occasions. There are different tiers to the memberships as well, if you have the desire to rent more clothes rather than less.
The website is set up beautifully so that everything is very easy to find, with categories such as “Out to Dinner,” “At the Office,” and “New Year’s Eve,” as well as the traditional listings of Tops, Skirts, Activewear, etc.
The company makes it easy to understand the programs offered with How-To Videos and explanations so that you can pick the style of subscription that is right for you. The Find Your Fit program and Members-Only Sales make membership pay off, and with fast turn-around times and free returns on items, you can have glamour items at your fingertips in no time. The other great feature is that you can keep your rental items as long as you need them. The parameters of the programs are very easy to work within.
The owners of Rent the Runway want women to look and feel their best everyday. In their own words, “We’re not just a closet; we’re a community — one that swaps everything from clothes, to inspiration and ideas. When we’re able to wear what makes us feel our best, we can be our best selves.” This company has opened up the “closet in the cloud” so that women have an endless array of style choices from which to choose, so that they can look and feel their best.