Rent The Runway: Love. Wear. Return.

We’ve all been there—getting ready for a major event, trying on dress after dress to no avail, and wishing we had access to an amazing designer closet filled with high-end dresses. Well, now we do! Enter Rent The Runway, launched in November of 2009, with a creative solution to an age-old issue among women—what to wear to that great event. So often we drool over what we see on the runway, but can only dream about ever wearing it; the idea to rent designer dresses to girls and women who can't afford to buy the duds outright is pure genius--and the purpose of Rent The Runway.

 Photo credit: InStyle.com; Karl Prouse/Catwalking/Getty; Courtesy of Rent The Runway;Frazer Harrison/Getty
The Rent The Runway site is by membership request, and already has a large amount of members ready to get their hands on the inventory--obviously!!  The site is easily navigable, and content is written in a  fresh, funny and relatable tone that instantly makes you feel at ease—like you’re borrowing from your best friend’s sizeable closet.  Dresses available for rent include pieces from designers like Proenza Schouler, Matthew Williamson, Herve Leger, Yigal Azrouel, Robert Rodriguez, Lela Rose and Helmut Lang. Rental prices start at a very budget-friendly $50 (depending on the dress) and Rent The Runway will ship your dress to your front door—in 2 sizes, just in case. Return the dress in the shipping envelope provided, and Rent The Runway even takes care of the cleaning for you, using an expert in eco-friendly luxury cleaning.

This cutting edge idea was born when CEO, Jennifer Hyman, watched her very fashionable sister struggle over finding the perfect dress to wear to an event. Together with co-founder, Jennifer Carter Fleiss, she devised the concept. Now, less than four months after the launch, their company is changing the way women shop for important events.  Thanks to a good friend, I recently had the chance to interview Ms. Hyman about this exciting new retail endeavor:

Who do you envision to be the Rent The Runway woman? What is her lifestyle like? Where is she headed in the designer dresses she rents from you?

The Rent the Runway woman is one with many occasions in her life - from big corporate presentations to dinner parties, weddings to black tie benefits - she loves dressing up and uses every occasion to make a statement and try something new. She loves fashion and has always dreamed of having a revolving closet with all the latest trends and hottest designers - but likely is stuck with her go-to LBD.

Your site is membership by request and consumers are initially placed on a waiting list. How long is the wait for acceptance?  Is there a limit to the number of members allowed at any given time?

Our waitlist is dependent on our inventory - the more dresses and (launching April 5th) accessories we buy - the more women we'll admit into our community. We want to make sure everyone has a fabulous experience and is able to find a dress they love. 

What is the size range for the clothing items you offer?


Name some of your favorite designers from whom your customers can rent dresses.

We're up to 50 fabulous dress designers - Proenza Schouler, Matthew Williamson, Herve Leger, Yigal Azrouel, Robert Rodriguez, Lela Rose and Helmut Lang. And for accessories we're launching with an unbelievable assortment - DaniJo, Subversive, Miguel Asis, Citrine by the Stone and more.
Rent The Runway takes responsibility for cleaning of the garments, and you use a service that is an expert in eco-friendly luxury cleaning. How important is it to Rent The Runway to be ‘green’?

It's very important to us to be green. We are in the business of renting experiences and we believe that green cleaning enhances your experience with the dress and ensures that the fabric and exquisite detailing on our dresses is preserved. 

What is the best event story you’ve received from a customer since launching in November 2009?

One of our customers told us (quite humbly!) that she looked better in her Herve Leger rental than the model or the actress on 90210 who sported it!! The best stories are always the ones where women felt more beautiful and more confident in our dresses - it's amazing to be a woman and Rent the Runway is a company that celebrates that! We're so excited to hear that women are getting engaged in our dresses, wearing them as fashionable alternatives to bridesmaid dresses, to red carpet events and on a random Saturday night!

While at Harvard Business School, did you envision that the company you would start would be within the fashion industry?

Not at all - I've always been a bit of a shopaholic but had never worked in the fashion industry. It's definitely true that the fashion industry has the most creative, beautiful people in the world bustling about. The business idea came from being in tune with what women want and what they complain about. And the feeling that you have to reach into the depths of your closet to wear that same old dress over again or that you have to run out after work and waste money on a dress you'll only wear once - is something that can and should change.

There’s such an endearing back story about how your idea for the business was derived from your sister’s dilemma over event garb. Has she rented anything and does she thank you for your business savvy?

Becky is actually launching our accessories business for us and is taking FULL advantage of the Rent the Runway closet. As if she wasn't fashionable enough before, now she's trying new designers and new trends all the time and having an absolute blast (just like the rest of our team!)

For more information or to request membership visit the Rent The Runway website.

Mad for Steve Madden

I have a new shoe friend--please meet the Steve Madden Salza in black. I acquired this little love muffin on happenstance during a random bout with boredom on my lunch hour last week. I decided to make a quick run into DSW to see if there were any flat black boots on sale to combat all this gruesome snow. I didn't find boots, but I did find the Salza, on 50% clearance--three words: meant to be.
Admittedly, I fell in love with this shoe a few months ago when I first found it in DSW in brown. I purchased it then for a few dollars more than I recently paid for the black.
What I love about this shoe is that it's a standout. The wild, flower print  just screams "I'm fabulous! Look at me!" It also makes me extremely happy that the approx. 3 1/2" heel feels much higher thanks to the platform sole. The heel and the platform, like the flower accent on the toe of the shoe, are in suede, giving this masterpiece a multi-layered quality in addition to the bold blending of the colors.

I've worn the brown a couple of times, with both a skirt and a dress. I have a red, A-line skirt, to which I added a white button down shirt, a brown western belt with traces of red in it, and a tan cardigan; similar to this look:

For the black, I'm envisioning a look with skinny jeans, as well as a cute black sweater dress look with my uber fun dark pink DKNY tights. I'm excited to play around with them and see what I can come up with!

Covetable: Choo 24:7 = Heaven

The new Choo 24:7 Collection for spring 2010 is available for pre-order at Nordstrom now. It is comprised of several shoes, designed to cater to the working woman's busy schedule--from a ballet flat, to pumps for the office for day, to glitter pumps for an evening out. Out of the collection, I am salivating over two shoes in particular: The buttery nude 'Private' Platform Sandal (which for me call to mind those little individually wrapped caramel candies) and the 'Lace' Mary Jane Pump in champagne glitter. Looking at them literally gives me butterflies, so I had to share. Please do enjoy!

Photo Credit: Nordstrom.com

Fashionable Adventures in NYC

I recently took a trip to NY for some good old-fashioned girl time. And what is a more girly pasttime than shopping?--especially in the fashion mecca that is NYC. Even before spending a dime in the city my senses were on fashion overload as I took in the style of the women we passed in the street or who dined near us, or that we watched going about their days from the comfort of the front table at brunch. Huge fabulous bags in great colors and textures; adorable coats of varying lengths and fits with cute tailoring, details or accents; and the boots...oh my the boots-low heels, high heels, wedges, OTK, mid-calf--the boots were to die for, and such a smorgasbord for my eyes that by the end of the morning, I knew that I couldn't leave the city without purchasing some of my own.

My fav street style was that of the Asian women we encountered. They traveled in groups where each individual seemed to have her own unique style, yet they blended as a group. They had the distinct look of being on-trend but influenced by sources outside the US, and they were ALL fab. Yes, every. Single. One of them. In close second was a woman we passed on the upper west side: big curly dirty blonde hair, wearing a brown, beige and white waist-length fur, dark wash skinny jeans, Tory Burch flats and shouldering a black quilted bag with chain strap (Chanel?). She totally channeled Carrie Bradshaw for me.

So, off we went to Soho for the amazing street vendors, cool boutiques and some high-end window shopping past the displays of Louis Vuitton, La Perla, and Anna Sui. From one of the street vendors I nabbed a couple of super soft cashmere pashminas for $5 each-one in a heather grey and another in a lemony yellow to help brighten up these sad winter days.

We browsed a ton of adorable jewelry--glass rings, wooden bangles, leather bracelets and huge earrings. Our first retail stop was at Uniqlo which my girlfriend describes as a "japanese version of Gap". I would agree, but add that its a little edgier than the Gap aestetic and they have some pretty cool technology in winter layering gear like heat tech tights and long sleeved shirts. Think Under Armour but for totally girly non-athletes. I found the beloved argyle tights that I've been searching for in just the right thickness and opaqueness, as well as some cute undergarments. Next we stopped in H&M where I saw the party dress I was gushing over at holiday time, on sale for $15! I wanted to buy it but I didn't feel like peeling off my layers to try it on, and after courting it around the store, I decided to leave it. But I still think it's a beautiful dress. My first in-person visit to Mango was a success. They were having the most awesome sale, but I restrained myself and left only with a long burgundy sweater that will be great for layering over leggings and a black sweater dress, with little flecks of glitter and a cinched waist. I was pleasantly surprised that their sizes run larger so I could fit a smaller size. What girl doesn't love that!? My final purchases were steals: the most adorable black leather bag with a huge flower on the front. I love it and have gotten so many compliments on it;

and a pair of cool distressed brown flat boots w/gold zippers. They're total cheapies, but so cool (and not cheap) looking. Since buying them though, the zipper on my right boot has broken, so I'll need to take them to the shoe repair shop. They were so inexpensive though that I'm not surprised and don't mind the couple of extra dollars.

I have been enjoying my spoils. There's no shopping on the east coast like in NYC. Can't wait for my next trip in April!