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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.

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business data e-commerce product Retail technology

Rent the Runway launches data-driven clothing line

Luxury clothing rental platform Rent the Runway is leveraging years worth of consumer feedback to launch a range of new clothing lines driven by data.

The “Designer Collective” lines will feature 10-15 items of clothing and be developed alongside prominent US-based designers, such as Jason Wu, Derek Lam and Prabal Gurung, with prices averaging on $350.

Rent the Runway’s business model allows customers to rent expensive designer pieces for a fraction of the retail value. Once clothing is returned, customers are asked to fill out surveys about their fit and style preferences.

“We have millions of data points that our customers provide about wear rate, where they’re wearing the clothes, fit by style and sizes, demand by hem line, sleeve length, demand by geo region etc, and all the feedback is funnelled to our designers,” a spokesperson for the company told FashionUnited.

For designers, this means access to an entirely new audience. “A reality of our business is that we sit at a luxury price point, which isn’t accessible for everyone. Partnering with RTR allows us to connect with a younger customer,” designer Prabal Gurung told BoF. “We’re able to start a relationship with this client … and when she does rent the piece that really resonates with her, that she can’t bring herself to return, we’ve seen it convert, and that’s a beautiful success.”

While some designs will be developed from scratch, others will simply feature adjustments exclusive to the platform’s customers. For example, Gurung’s first line will be entirely based on his main collection, but in colors and prints that respond to RTR’s customer feedback.

Speaking at NRF’s Big Show earlier this month, Jennifer Hyman, Rent the Runway’s co-founder and CEO, said: “Data is such a fundamental piece of what we do. We’re exchanging a massive amount of it [with designers] on how their products are being worn, what events they’re being worn to, and how their products or dresses last over time,” she says, adding that this helps brands iterate their designs to better suit customer wants and needs. “The data we have in renting clothing over time is so important to the manufacturing of clothes.”

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so.TheCurrent 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. 

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business e-commerce product Retail sustainability Uncategorized

Vince launches retail subscription service, Unfold

Vince AW18 Campaign
Vince Fall 18 Campaign

Vince is launching a clothing subscription service, titled “Unfold”, which will include priority delivery, returns, laundry costs and insurance for a flat monthly fee of $160. In doing so, the US-based brand will be the first contemporary fashion label to offer this type of subscription service.

“Vince Unfold is an innovative new subscription service that will tap our existing product assortment to drive incremental revenue while further advancing awareness of the Vince brand,” Brendan Hoffman, CEO of Vince, tells WWD. “We believe that subscription services will play a much greater role in consumer shopping patterns in the future.”

Every month, customers will be able to rent up to four pieces from the retailer. If the customer wishes to keep the piece they rent, they can purchase it at a discount of 20-60%, depending on the seasonality of the merchandise.

According to Hoffman, rental platforms are becoming increasingly relevant in the fashion industry. For example Rent the Runway, which pioneered the subscription model in fashion when it launched in 2009, has just announced its expansion into 15 WeWork office buildings across the US, where customers can drop off return items for the retailer. In another example of retailers embracing the sharing economy, earlier this year London-based department store Browns teamed up with luxury rental service Armarium to offer its customers high-end fashion for rental for two weeks in the summer.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Retail

Ba&sh’s new NY store offers free clothing rentals

Ba&sh in New York City

French label Ba&sh’s new store in New York allows shoppers to borrow the brand’s clothes at no cost, as long as they are returned after the weekend.

The 1,700-square-foot space, located in Soho, aims to act as a “dream closet” and position the brand as a friend the customer can borrow clothes from whenever they have a special event. Customers borrowing clothes can only do so every Friday between 5-7pm, and they must be returned by Monday at 7pm.

The opening is part of a bigger expansion strategy from the company in the North American market, as well as a customer engagement push that includes a series of permanent in-store activities.

“It’s an experiential store, the first one designed to thoughtfully elevate the existing experience to a new level. The store was a natural evolution. Our brand has always been rooted in special relationships,” said global CEO, Pierre-Arnaud Grenade, to WWD.

The brand, which currently operates 200 stores globally but only five in the US, hopes the new space also works for customer awareness and acquisition – by making clothes available to rent free of charge, it allows customers to discover the brand more easily. For this launch, a pop-up area will promote other French brands who have no US presence, such as jewelry label Atelier Paulin and luxury candlemaker Baobab.

The space will also offer a series of events that encourage customers to bring a friend, such as monthly supper clubs, weekly French lessons (of which 75% of the cost is subsidized by the brand), weekly complimentary French breakfast and a children’s play area so customers can shop in peace.

As part of the strategy, the brand’s e-commerce team has also relocated to the city. Currently, 20% of the brand’s US sales are completed online, which is higher than the rest of the world.

The moves comes as consumers increasingly look to the notion of the sharing economy – borrowing or renting items rather than having ownership of them. It’s through this that businesses including Rent the Runway have grown in relevancy in today’s market. One  fifth of millennials reportedly now say they would consider renting clothing, according to Hammerson and Verdict.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent 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.

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business data e-commerce Editor's pick

How data sits at the heart of Rent the Runway’s business strategy

Rent the Runway CEO and co-founder Jennifer Hyman
Rent the Runway CEO and co-founder Jennifer Hyman

With any given item stocked by Rent the Runway, the team can tell everything from who has worn it and how often they have worn it, through to whether it has stood the test of time after three dry cleans or 30 dry cleans.

That kind of data about how clothes are actually utilized is like gold dust in an industry that only otherwise has information on their sell-through rates, explained Rent the Runway’s CEO and co-founder Jennifer Hyman at NRF’s Big Show this week.

“Data is such a fundamental piece of what we do. We’re exchanging a massive amount of it [with designers] on how their products are being worn, what events they’re being worn to, and how their products or dresses last over time. The data we have in renting clothing over time is so important to the manufacturing of clothes,” she said.

The company is able to tell a designer why their sell-through rate might be high, but their loyalty is low, for instance, based on insights around quality or particular elements of their garments that should be adjusted at the manufacturing level. “We can identify problems and challenges for brands and fix them through the data that we give them,” Hyman added.

It’s for this reason her business, which sits at the center of the sharing economy, has always insisted that rental is a new business channel rather than one that cannibalizes the existing retail market.

“[In the early days of Rent the Runway], if I said I will rent your clothing at the exact same time as those pieces are on your shop floor, designers thought it would destroy their businesses. We had to overcome that huge hurdle by showing them we were getting a huge new market of customers to think about designer clothes in a new way… A lot of that was about showing them data over time so they could see we were a partner who would help them grow their businesses. They wouldn’t work with us unless we could show we could help them get bigger.”

The other thing the company is doing is starting to use data to allow designers to experiment with things outside their core business. “A designer might do dresses, but want to do sportswear. We can give them data about what their customer wants to show if it has the potential to be successful,” Hyman explained.

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data digital snippets e-commerce social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: L’Oréal’s incubator, Bolt Threads teams with Patagonia, confessions of a social media exec

loreal-digital-600

There are lots of updates this past week on interesting textile developments – from the spider silk of Bolt Threads to Spiber, both of which have announced new deals with Patagonia and The North Face respectively. Also worth a read is the anonymous social media exec spilling secrets to Digiday, not to mention the idea that we will all indeed be buying our designer clothing in the future on Amazon. If that’s not enough, further fashion and tech news from the past fortnight spans Birchbox’s use of Facebook Live to a breakdown of how brands are using Snapchat. Read on for all…


  • L’Oréal invests in Founders Factory digital start-up incubator [BrandChannel]

  • Bolt Threads raises $50 million to brew spider silk, inks deal with Patagonia [TechCrunch]

  • Confessions of a social media exec on influencer marketing: ‘We threw too much money at them’ [Digiday]

  • People will eventually buy their designer clothing on Amazon, because they buy everything there [Quartz]

  • Everlane’s Shoe Park interactive pop-up offers self-guided shopping [Footwear News]

  • How Birchbox uses Facebook Live videos to engage consumers [Retail Dive]

  • How Frank + Oak built a modern loyalty program for men [Glossy]

  • Google DeepMind killed off a little-known fashion website [Business Insider]

  • SpaceX has hired a legendary costume designer to create their own spacesuits [Gizmodo]

  • The North Face to sell parka made out of synthetic spider silk by Japanese start-up Spiber [Bloomberg]

  • Thesis Couture is bringing the engineering savvy of rocket science to the design of the high-heeled shoe [The Atlantic]

  • The rise of robot tailors [Glossy]

  • L’Oréal created this training program to keep its marketers on the cutting edge [AdWeek]

  • How fashion and retail brands are using Snapchat [Fashionista]

  • Will the ‘sharing economy’ work for fashion? [BoF]

  • Bots, Messenger and the future of customer service [TechCrunch]

  • Condé Nast is launching a beauty network [Racked]

  • How a data scientist (who studied astrophysics) ended up in fashion [Fashionista]

  • Infographic: here’s how Gen Z girls prefer to shop and socialise online [AdWeek]

  • What is going on with fashion and zines? [Racked]

  • How online shopping is cannabilising mall stores [Associated Press]

  • REI’s ‘#OptOutside’ Black Friday campaign wins award [AdAge]