Image: Todd Heisler/The New York Times
Renting clothing is by no means a new phenomenon. But add two attractive Harvard Business school graduates, Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Carter Fleiss, behind a for-web customer based clothing renting business, and news breaks.
Rent the Runway, the brain child of Hyman and Fleiss, offers $1000 dresses for a fraction of the price – affordable for an average, non-celebrity, woman’s salary.
While people are fighting tooth and nail to pay off mortgages and credit cards during this (improving) recession, enter Rent the Runway to capitalize with a business model succeeding off of convenience and affordability. “Rent the Runway is a recession-era twist on the Internet rent-by-mail model, which has been used for things like textbooks and video games in addition to movies. Unlike those utilitarian items, however, the dresses offer a touch of Cinderella — on a budget,” the New York Times writes.
As opposed to $2000 Rodarte or $400 Diane von Furstenberg pieces, you can borrow the clothes for four days at a fraction of the retail price – $200 or $50 respectively – provided that you’re comfortable that a dress from its previous handler likely went commando.
Like Netflix, the concept is simple. Rental online, pick up the package from the mailbox, wear, drop the worn dress into a prepaid envelope and mail.
The start-up has its inherent risks. Fashion changes every six months and it’s impossible to determine when the style will be recycled. But by then, as a vintage item, the worth will equate its rental costs. Then these Harvard grads are at the consumer’s whim to pay off the initial cost of the dress, shipping, and fixed costs.
And thus continues the affordability of luxury goods, thought to be reserved for the wealthy. I thought wrong.