I’ve noticed a lot of buzz about Rent the Runway recently. They are in the midst of a new marketing campaign promoting their new, lower priced subscription, and, as a result, coverage of the service has been myriad, from sites like Fashionista all the way to AdWeek. For $89 a month, you can rent four pieces per monthly cycle. This is in comparison to their unlimited subscription which costs $139 to have any three pieces at once (which can be traded for another item at any time) instead. Rent the Runway is an interesting concept to me, because you are paying either a monthly fee or a single-time fee for the actual item (depending on how often you think you’ll use the service) to essentially borrow clothes and return them. You spend all of this money and don’t actually keep anything at home.
Rent the Runway was founded in 2009 by two Harvard Business School graduates. The initial concept was to provide occasionwear. You could rent a dress for a formal event like prom, a wedding, a gala, anything. The idea was that instead of spending $200 on a dress that you will wear one time and then banish to the back of your closet, you could spend under that dollar amount to rent a dress and return it afterwards (no questions asked, different than what would happen if you tried to do the same thing to a store). You could also rent a designer style which you may not be able to afford in a regular store like Barneys but you could wear one-time for a manageable price-point. Since then, the service has expanded into all categories of clothing and accessories. They want to be the go-to source for a woman’s everyday wardrobe, not just for the once-a-season event that she may have to attend.
In one of the articles linked below, a representative from Rent the Runway mentioned that under the new subscription plan, each item only costs around $20. The point being made with this figure was that the service was intending to compete with fast-fashion stores in capturing the women’s dollars. Instead of buying a cheap shirt from Zara, rent an expensive one from Rent the Runway. You get the quality you can’t normal afford for a price that you can. However, I wonder how many women would be comfortable with not actually owning their clothes. What if someone compliments your cute sweater and then you can never wear it again? That’s what seems weird to me because I can’t imagine having something I love and then not owning it, then not being able to afford it if I actually did want to add it into my closet.
Currently, Rent the Runway operates across the US with physical stores where you can try on the clothes in a select few cities (New York and Los Angeles included). They also ship all across the US. With the new round of marketing campaigns they are targeting the US in its entirety. They’re putting adverts on national tv. Besides the lower cost subscription, a huge thing that the brand is pushing is the sustainability factor. According to representatives from Rent the Runway, the brand is entirely sustainable as it uses reusable garment bags and 100% ‘green’ dry cleaning practices. Furthermore, because the customers aren’t actually purchasing the clothes and are sending them back after use, clothes that are unwanted are going back to Rent the Runway, not ending up in the landfill.
I think that Rent the Runway is a great concept but I’m not sure how I would feel about having my entire closet “in the cloud”, as they put it. I like to own my pieces and wear them again and again and again. I think that is a pretty sustainable option. I would consider Rent the Runway for an occasion if I needed to rent a gown. However, for everyday use I’m not quite there yet.