business data e-commerce Editor's pick Retail

Rent the Runway and West Elm launch data-informed home rental collection

Rent the Runway has launched a partnership with homewares retailer, West Elm, driven by customer demand and informed by data collection.

The rental line will include pillows, blankets and other soft goods. They will be available from this summer.

“We are consistently hearing from our subscribers, and home kept popping up. We saw there was a real demand there,” said Maureen Sullivan, COO of Rent the Runway on stage at SXSW this weekend.

Meanwhile, West Elm’s president, Alex Bellos, said customers are frequently reselling furniture and other goods from the brand. “We are top four on craigslist, so we wanted to act on that.”

The intention of the partnership is to use the rental data to inform a longer-term strategy. “We want to stay ahead of the design curve,” said Bellos. “The consumer savviness around home design is evolving and the level of sophistication is accelerating in an exponential rate.”

He also explained that with the recent decline in home ownership, the partnership also helps the brand meet its customers where they are. “Convenience is becoming more and more of a priority. People are less likely to drive [to a brick-and-mortar store] and this partnership was part of thinking of how we could pop-up in unexpected places.”

The popularity of home tours on social media also played a role in the decision. “We are seeing what people are featuring in their home tours and [they’re] tagging brands,” said Bellos. Sullivan referred to everyone as a merchandiser in their own right today.

The products chosen for the collaboration were informed by Rent The Runway’s data. “90% of our subscribers are working women, so we chose items from the bedroom and living room, because that’s where they spend most of their time [at home],” explained Sullivan. Much like the fashion industry, the goal of the partnership is to constantly update the choice of products, with new bundles launching every season.

The companies say they are intending to learn as they go in terms of the consumer behavior that might follow with homewares – how long people will want to keep items for, how often they will change them and more. The rise of the sharing economy has had huge success in fashion, so it’ll be interesting to see how it will evolve in the home market.

The partnership was celebrated at SXSW with a pop-up in West Elm’s Austin location. Not only could customers rent outfits to wear during the festival, but get the chance to see the new rental West Elm products from the collaboration first-hand.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Editor's pick product sustainability

Ikea unveils new collaborations with adidas, Lego and Sonos

A rug by IKEA x Virgil Abloh

Ikea has unveiled a series of upcoming collaborations that will further cement the Swedish brand in the realm of enabling a design-conscious, and in some instances more sustainable, lifestyle for its customers.

The collaborations, which will launch from now up to 2020, will include pioneering names such as toy giant Lego, sportswear brand Adidas and audio line Sonos, on top of the previously publicized collections with designer Virgil Abloh and fragrance label Byredo.

The announcement was made at this year’s Democratic Design Days, an annual event during which the brand talks through its design and product development goals to a group of 500+ journalists.

At the event, Marcus Engman, Ikea’s head designer, unveiled that the collaborations aim to highlight the company’s forward-thinkingness, saying: “They’re things that are not so familiar at Ikea, and I love that. It’s good to push the boundaries.”

Home and lifestyle

A collaboration with artist Olafur Eliasson and his company Little Sun, which provides solar-powered lights for people with no access to electricity, will develop solar products and also look to develop projects involving solar power and water consumption.

“We’re all sitting here consuming power. What would it feel like if we didn’t have it?” said Eliasson, explaining that the Ikea involvement is a great way to bring that problem to a larger audience. “It’s about getting people to understand these problems and to ask, ‘What can I do to take a more active step?’”

With audio brand Sonos, it is set to create a range of more affordable speakers that merge Sonos’ Wi-Fi-enabled devices with Ikea’s Trådfris range of smart devices, with a focus on bringing a more design-led audio experience to the home, which includes getting rid of unnecessary wires.

Meanwhile, launching summer 2019, Ikea’s party line with Stockholm-based software company Teenage Engineering, will see products ranging from speakers and light devices to glassware.

Following the 2017 Ikea Play Report which revealed 47% of children want more playtime with their parents, and that 90% of parents believe play is essential to wellbeing and happiness, the company is also teaming up with Lego. Although details are not available at this point, the companies highlight there is a strong synergy in their knowledge of the importance of encouraging fun and creativity.

IKEA x Teenage Engineering

Fashion and design

Beyond the Virgil Abloh collaboration, other fashion and design-focused partnerships include an upcoming Adidas collection that will explore exercising in the home, and how both brands can better support that behaviour; working with Byredo on a line of home fragrances launching in 2020; a partnership with African creative company Design Indaba and 10 African artists on a line of textiles and tabletop goods; and a collection with Saint Heron, a multidisciplinary cultural company founded by singer Solange Knowles, exploring art and design objects with multifunctional use.

Sustainability goals

The event also emphasised Ikea’s pledge to further push its sustainability goals by 2030, as previously hinted by Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainable and healthy living at Ikea on a recent episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

This means all Ikea products will be designed with new circular principals, with the goal to use only renewable and recycled materials, as well as from a retail perspective, offering services that make it easier for customers to take care of and pass on Ikea products.

Videos on each specific collaboration announcement can be found on IKEA’s YouTube channel here.

product technology

Experiencing the smart home: John Lewis’ new try-before-you-buy tech space

John Lewis Smart Home-8

Unless you work in tech, or have an early adopter obsession with tech, the likelihood that you’ve seen a smart home in action is pretty slim. In fact, even then, your experience may still have been limited to a trade show floor or the odd piece of kit you’ve bought for your own place.

There’s no denying, however, there’s growing interest in this concept, and at the heart of that, a desire to know more about it.

British department store John Lewis has seen 18 times the number of shoppers searching for smart home-related products on its website compared to a year ago (December 2014 – December 2015) for instance. It’s for that reason it has set up a new experiential space dedicated to smart home technology and an Internet of Things (IoT) future, in its flagship Oxford Street store in London.

Designed to feel like a real-life setting with different rooms complete with home furnishings, the 1,000 sq ft area enables shoppers to see products that would otherwise just be boxed on shelves, in action in a contextual sense. The theory is that there’s a need with such new technology to really touch and experience it first-hand – and to have expert help available to assist with it too.

Head over to Forbes to read the full story, including detail of the product on show as well as John Lewis’ storytelling aims.

Editor's pick Startups technology

Welcome to the future: Robotics market to soar


The robots are coming… no don’t panic (not yet anyway). But a new report does show consumer robotics growing from 33 million shipments and $3.5bn today (who knew?) to 165 million shipments and $17bn in revenue in 10 years’ time.

Tech market intelligence specialist ABI Research said that at the moment, it’s all about robotic toys, which made up more than half of this year’s total shipments. But consumer unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are going to be the fastest growing segment over the next decade.

Research director Phil Solis said: “We anticipate consumer UAVs, including toy UAVs, to surpass robotic toys in terms of shipment share in a few years and then to account for more than half of consumer robotics product shipments by 2021.”

Additionally, data findings suggest that, over the 10 years, the homecare segment will be where the big revenue is generated so I assume they’re expecting us all to buy more robotic vacuum cleaners. I wonder if Dyson is working on one yet?

So with homecare at the top and UAVs second within 10 years, what will be third? This is the one we’ve been waiting for with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. By 2025, personal robots are expected to surpass robotic toys to take third place in revenue generation among the segments.

“Right now, the personal robots coming to market are stationary, embodied products that can successfully interface with users and leverage information and services in the cloud,” said Solis. “As these products advance in their technological capabilities and grow from stationary to mobile and add manipulation, average product prices will rise at times.

“So, though unit volumes will be relatively small in comparison to other market segments, the personal robotics segment will generate a generous amount of revenue and increase its revenue share.”

And with personal robots being at the luxury end of the market, it makes me wonder when Bernard Arnault, Karl Lagerfeld, Rebecca Minkoff and other forward-looking execs and creatives in the luxury sphere will start getting in on the act. It’s really not so far-fetch.

For now though, what surprises me is just how many companies there are already involved in robotics and how varied they are from iRobot, to Samsung, LG, Hasbro, WowWee, Parrot, DJI, 3D Robotics, Jibo, Blue Frog, and hundreds of others.

We’e not quite in Futurama world just yet (HT to the image above), but it looks like there’s an awful lot of money being invested by corporations and start-ups to help us get there…

This post first appeared on, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday