Rent The Runway expands to new space
Since the web site's inception in November 2009, the company has rented out approximately 18,000 designer gowns. While women love to ogle the fashions of Milan, Paris and New York City, sometimes it's just not worth shelling out a whole pay-check for a couture cocktail dress we'll only wear once. Rent The Runway solves this problem by allowing women to buy designer labels (we're talking Proenza Schouler, Matthew Williamson, Badgley Mischka and Kenneth Jay Lane) for a fraction of the cost, only dropping $50 for an item that retails at $500.
Rent The Runway founders, Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, are celebrating this achievement by moving their start-up from a small office next to a drycleaner, to a new 9,000-square-foot space in New York City's TriBeCa neighborhood. Hyman told WWD that the move is “a dream come true.” Now instead of banging elbows with interns and cleaning equipment, the Harvard grads and their team of 40 employees will enjoy a spacious new headquarters that will not only house their administrative offices, but their distribution facility as well, where they handle storing, packing, and shipping the product.
Initially the company faced doubt by the industry and the media. The New York Times compared the company to Netflix, but said unlike the cheap price of a DVD, it may take a few rentals to make the gowns turn a profit. However, Hyman and Fleiss are proud of their business model. In their first week alone, 20,000 women signed up for the site. That has now become the weekly norm for the site, which boasts a total of over 500,000 members. Some skeptics, like the NY Times, speculate if women are okay with not being able to try on the dress in person. However, the site does send out two sizes for fit and their stylists are always available online and via phone to answer questions. Just mail in your measurements!
Hyman and Fleiss believe they also have a creative edge working for them. Women tend to splurge on staples, such as the little black dress, and veer away from trendier pieces when they know it'll be an investment. That's where Rent The Runway comes in. They focus their buying on dresses that are unique, one-of-a-kind that stand out from the crowd. The kind of dresses a gal always wants to buy, but knows isn't the smartest choice. Fleiss said, “Our buy differs from the department stores because we focus on the more editorial, embellished, fashion-forward, colorful styles.”
The company is quickly expanding, now boasting a former chief technology officer from eBay and the president of analytics from Amazon as additions to their team, and they're talking about adding shoes and maternity-wear in the future. Belts and scarves are already set to hit the site soon.