Rent The Runway – Futuristic Clothing Consumption

Subscription Retail Report

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Subscription Case #3

By Niels Vestergaard

In this edition of Subscription Case I’ve found something really special. Perhaps one of the bravest, most unique, and visionary subscription offers you can find in the world today. We’re gonna talk about a service that doesn’t just grant you access to otherwise unobtainable products, a service that has the potential to shape the way we consume clothing in the future.

The story of Jennifer Fless, Jennifer Hyman, and Rent The Runway is extremely fascinating, especially because the entrepreneurs met much of the same resistance that a certain Reed Hastings did as he launched a company called Netflix – ‘That will never work’. Today, Rent The Runway is worth around $2 million dollars and this is despite the fact that world-renowned designer Diane Von Fürstenberg would have nothing to do with it when Jennifer Fleiss met with her to ask for an initial investment.

The concept is simple: With a membership, you are able to rent 4, 8, or 16 pieces of clothing, including dresses, shirts, pants, handbags, and sunglasses from top brands like Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Gucci, Helmut Lang, and many others. Once you’re done using the clothes, you sent them back, and Rent The Runway takes care of the freight and cleaning of the clothes.

Usership is the future – especially for luxury goods

The idea of a shared closet isn’t new, but with RTR you don’t subscribe to have access to a lot of clothes. You subscribe to have access to products that you otherwise couldn’t afford. Many of the products that the service offers normally cost around 500 dollars, but with a membership, you can style yourself with a $2340 Marni dress, by paying a monthly fee of $99 bucks.

This leads me to my first point. ‘From ownership to usership’ is a present trend in all industries. However, it’s especially present in industries with very expensive products, allowing the subscriber to gain access to products that otherwise would be unobtainable. We are seeing movements like this among opticians, car dealers, and even in appliances.

The movement is giving regular people access to expensive products that they are passionate about or are necessary for their everyday life. And the clothing from RTR is being used way more than it would, sitting inside a closet.

This is a huge win-win, not just for the consumer, but for the company as well, utilizing the full use potential of the product and thereby helping the environment, since we need fewer products when we share them. This is what we at Subscrybe call #peopleplanetprofit!

How to turn a pain into a gain

However, ordering clothing online presents some challenges in regards to size and how pieces fit your specific body type. And here, Rent The Runway offers an ingenious solution – and a pretty cool one at that. With the feature “Find Your Fit” the platform uses artificial intelligence to categorize body types and sizes. In addition, Rent The Runway’s unique community helps you by offering their personal experience with the product. This means that you can get tailored recommendations for women with the same body type as yourself. Neat, isn’t it?

The platform did not just solve your problem with finding the right fit, but it turned your issue into an experience with recommendations from others in the community. It all works in the app and the experience is a natural part of the selection process. All recommendations are rated depending on how useful they are, so you’re always sure that you get the best recommendation from another user.

A community around consumption

In my opinion, the community is one of the keys to the huge success of RTR. You only have an RTR subscription if you’re passionate about designer clothing. And (lucky for the company) a lot of people are. This means that with RTR you don’t just subscribe to designer clothing, you subscribe to a community around the consumption of the clothing. This makes sense in an industry that is heavily reliant on opinions, style choices, recommendations, and trends. Consumers feel a need to be guided, inspired, and informed, so they can continue to stay up-to-date with all of the latest trends.

Consumers act on sustainability and convenience

The website offers more reasons to subscribe than most of us have socks and the more you dive into the concept, the more it starts to make sense. A range of women explain their reasons for subscribing to RTR and here, two significant subscription metrics stand out:

“We all need to be making more responsible choices when it comes to protecting our environment. I’m proud to say I haven’t bought a single fast fashion item in 2 years thanks to my membership.” – Alle

“No more scrolling through online sites and wasting precious time doing loads of laundry over the weekend. I pick out my outfits from RTR in 2 minutes and don’t have to worry about cleaning it after!” – Page

Effectively, this concept is not just a solution to your bad climate conscience, it is actually easier than owning your own clothes – you don’t have to deal with washing, storage, and stain removals. Just think, in this case, you can help the environment AND get a more convenient everyday life – in many cases, being sustainable doesn’t really make your life more convenient.

We will have to wait patiently

The bad news is that Rent The Runway is only operating in the US. Granted, it’s understandable with the amount of infrastructure necessary for running a concept like this. But still, it’s a shame, because such a fashion-focused concept would have enormous potential in Europe. And $99 a month is not a cheap subscription, but when you think about it, it’s actually a fair price for 4 pieces of top-shelf clothing. 8 pieces cost $144 and you’ll pay $235 for 16 pieces of clothing, if you’re the type that has a couple of gallery openings and gala parties every month.

Also, the subscription is for women only. And that’s a shame, because I see this working for men as well. Patiently, we wait.

Read more Subscription Case here