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Borrowing Is The New Owning

Rent the Runway, Jennifer Hyman

Since its 2009 launch, Rent the Runway has been loaning out designer dresses to customers at 10% of their retail price. In 2010, the company expanded its offerings to include purses, scarves, and other accessories–a move that has helped orders double over the past year. Now cofounder and CEO Jennifer Hyman is hoping to conquer both the Netflix and Amazon models with a new rental subscription service and a vision to one day offer everything a person could ever need..

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What was the idea behind this past summer’s new service, Rent the Runway Unlimited?

We’ve launched a subscription business for everyday style. It’s a flexible ownership model where you can subscribe and keep products for as long as you want. The second you send something back to us, we’ll send you the next thing in your queue. We have a vision to create your closet on rotation.

How does it build on the idea of changing the way we shop?

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In this crazy culture we live in, there’s a thrill when you receive something new, no matter what your income is. When we started, you could rent a fancy dress for four or eight days and some amazing earrings to pair with it. But I believe almost everything in your home is a rental–you just don’t think about it that way. Your winter coat is a six-month rental, and you stuff it to the back of the closet when the weather gets nicer. Everything is on its own cycle.

So in the future, will we rent everything we own?

Ultimately, we want this company to be the Amazon of rental, where a good amount of our inventory will sit in Rent the Runway warehouses and we will control the full operational process. Over time, we’ll rent anything for almost any duration. In fact, we started in fashion, the hardest category, because a dress can get destroyed–someone might spill a glass of red wine on something. Whereas, if I’m renting expensive golf clubs, that’s going to be an easy, rational thing for me to do. I don’t have to put them through a dry-cleaning process; I don’t have to have someone do a smell test.

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People might be surprised that a company designed to rent dresses would have that type of infrastructure in place.

If we get thousands of units back from customers off a UPS truck at 8 a.m., we can reship those items same-day. We run massive operations for jewelry repair and leather dyeing in the same warehouse, through that same cycle. While the world thought we were renting sparkly dresses for four years, we’ve been building a rental and logistics platform.

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