By now you’ve probably heard of, or even tried out the wildly popular clothing rental service, Rent the Runway. The genius online site allows customers to rent designer gowns, jewelry and handbags for a fraction of their retail cost—perfect for special occasions and important events. With a carefully curated selection of pieces ranging from brands like Tibi to Calvin Klein Collection, there is something for everyone and every body type. We recently took a trip to Rent the Runway’s New York City headquarters for a behind the scenes look at this successful company and to talk fashion with Rent the Runway’s stylists Justine, Neil and Emily.
Photography: Alexandra Frumberg
Tell us about Rent the Runway.
Neil: Rent The Runway is an e-tailer that allows you to rent the hottest designer clothing and accessories at about 10-15% of the retail price. If you only wear a piece once or twice, this very Cher Horowitz way of dressing allows you to save money (for shoes) and room (for shoes) in your closet. While the low cost per wear is bonkers, I think the most exciting part is the amount of designer options that some of our members wouldn’t normally have access to.
Rent the Runway stylists, Justine, Neil, and Emily, in the showroom.
Rent the Runway has amazing clothing and accessories for affordable rental prices. How do you choose what to feature on the site?
Neil: We have a fabulous fashion team who are integral to the company because if women did not like the dresses we offer, we would not have a business. They attend the shows and select a range of contemporary to high-end designer pieces so that every woman can find something she loves.
Justine: The site revolves around our customer. We feature what’s in high demand—from new designers and styles to curated collections by our style influencers, like this month’s Olivia Palermo.
Emily: We take many of our cues from our customers because, at the end of the day, what they love and what they wear is the most important. Because of that, we have a mix of trendy and classic looks on the site—there is something for everyone!
How far ahead do you scout for the best pieces for RTR?
Neil: About six months in advance. As soon as the designers showcase their collection it becomes a mad dash between all the major retailers’ buying teams to make sure they choose the best products.
Rent the Runway accessories line the display shelves of the showroom.
What are some of the fall trends you are looking forward to the most?
Neil: For women, I’m all about a long sleeve dress this fall. Whether it’s a gown or a mini, I can’t think of anything chicer. And a matte berry lip color is going to be major. For myself, I’m excited to wear all black everything again. In the spring and summer I tend to do the whole bohemian prep thing. In fall I’m back to the gothy hip look.
Justine: Baroque prints and wine-colored everything. The peplum and ‘print on print’ are two spring trends I also see continuing into fall. Unlike Neil, I want to embrace the color wheel this season…not everyone looks as good as him in all black.
Emily: I am all about jewel tones! If the color of my dress resembles a stone in my ring then I am into it! I am also a fan of print on print on print, so you’ll definitely see me mixing it up this fall.
What’s your favorite thing about working for RTR?
Neil: We are a group of very well-educated young professionals doing something that we are extremely passionate about and that no one has done before. The instinct for innovation that naturally cultivates itself within this organization is inspiring.
Justine: I love being a part of a startup company with all the potential in the world. Each employee at RTR goes above and beyond their job description on a daily basis to keep the business thriving. And, of course, access to an endless closet!
Emily: It’s an amazing feeling to know that you have the power to really make a difference to the company. Working here, I am constantly encouraged to put my ideas into action. I also love coming to work with my best friends. I don’t know many people who can say the same thing.
Any piece on RTR that you wish you could keep?
Neil: I’ve never been one for drag, despite what Emily and Justine may tell you.
Justine: I covet everything Proenza Schouler and Helmut Lang. We also carry vintage Chanel and YSL pieces that are hard to part with.
Emily: I agree with Justice (my nickname for Justine), I too love Proenza Schouler and Helmut Lang. I would also hold on to this brand new Moschino Amplify the Noise Dress. It’ll be a classic.
Viktor & Rolf Ruffling It Dress
How did you get into styling and what would you recommend for people looking to break into the industry?
Neil: Fashion was something my family introduced me to at a very young age, but I never thought it would become a career. It all started while I was in school studying music. I got a job at a Betsey Johnson store that brought me to Manhattan after graduation. The rest, as they say, is history. My best advice to people trying to break into the industry is: start small. In this field it’s all about building your portfolio and networking. Your reputation will carry you very far if the talent and passion are truly there.
Justine: I moved to NYC right after attending college at the University of Texas. New York has always seemed like the center of fashion to me, and once you’re here it’s all about networking and gaining experience. If you’re not in a fashion capitol, I recommend starting local and getting involved with retailers, boutiques and fashion magazines and blogs.
Emily: I was a Rent the Runway customer from the very beginning! I called in with questions and had a great chat with a stylist. I happened to inquire about the internship program and it all unfolded from there. I moved to NYC shortly thereafter and have grown with the brand for the last two plus years. Scrappiness is key. If there is a company or designer you are dying to work with, reach out to them directly and sell yourself.
How do you sparkle?
Neil: It comes very naturally to me. I’m all about doing what feels right.
Justine: In my favorite sequin Sachin + Babi dress from Rent the Runway.
Emily: On the dance floor with Neil and Justine. Together, they are my best accessory!
Emily, Neil and Justine check out the Lela Rose Splish Splash Dress in front of the showroom’s three dressing rooms.