Last week at the Next Artists Beauty Suite, we spoke with Jennifer Fleiss, the co-founder of Rent the Runway, a website that rents high-end designer gowns for a fraction of the retail price. When it launched in 2009, the company was nicknamed the "Netflix of fashion" and like Netflix, Rent the Runway has carved out its own new tech niche in an established industry.
Fleiss says that when she and her business partner, Jennifer Hyman, first introduced their startup to fashion's old guard, some designers were worried that being carried on the rental site might negatively impact their brand image.
But that's changed: "Designers have realized that we're really a marketing tool, where customers can try out their brand, take [a dress] out for a test drive one night and then get all these compliments and find out that when they can afford it, they would like to purchase from these brands."
True to its name, Rent the Runway operates by pulling dresses from designer collections; Fleiss and her team attend each season of shows.
"It's wonderful to be able to see how the clothing moves, how the audience is reacting to it," she told us. "It really brings everything to life. It also lets you see the full vision the designer has around their collection."
Fleiss is a new kind of showgoer: unlike a department store buyer, who is likely most preoccupied with pulling staples and on-trend items with hanger appeal, Rent the Runway seeks out unique, special occasion dresses. And because Rent the Runway's stock of dresses aims to cater to all women, the company's stockists are sensitive to whether an item would flatter a myriad of body types.
"When we look at dresses on the runway and we're looking at them on models, we are trying to think about, 'How is this going to work for a real woman?' … When you go to market you can actually look at real women trying on some of these dresses, and even though they're still samples, you get a feel that off a 5'10" model that's incredibly skinny [you can't, as much] — how is this going to look on a woman who's more typical in size?"
Watch the full interview below for more on today's top dress trends and to find out what it's like to have the "ultimate dream closet."
Video by Jennifer Davidson and Nika Mavrody / Post-production by Lindsay C. Harris
Filmed at Dune Studios at New York City / Special thanks to Next Model Management's Artists Division