I recently had an event to go to which required me to wear a ball gown. Being a 25 year old still living in my parents’ household with loans and bills to pay, I quickly realized I did not have the money to afford such an elegant dress. This is what led me to the website Rent the Runway. Rent the Runway is a website which allows women to rent designer clothing and accessories at affordable prices. As a professional I considered how this organization and others like it could be sustainable.

How It Works

The process is simple. Customers go to the site to browse an assortment of dresses and other clothing and accessories. They can then rent a dress for four or eight days at rates ranging from $30 to about $700. From there the dress is shipped and scheduled to arrive the day before a customer’s event. There is an option which allows you to order the same dress in two different sizes without an extra charge for the second dress. This allows for women who vary is dress sizes to make sure when they receive their dress it will fit like a glove. Once a customer’s event is over they have 3 days to drop it off to a UPS drop box in a box provided by Rent the Runway with a prepaid return label already printed on the package.

Risk Mitigation

Despite the comparison with Netflix, Rent the Runway is in a business where the stakes are higher, the problems more complex. So with every dress it lends, Rent the Runway’s algorithms must get smarter about ways to track the location of each item, select shipping methods, set prices and control inventory. These algorithms scroll through customer reviews to present which dresses women are renting for certain occasions and then forecast demand to determine if a prepaid shipping label that goes out with the dress should get that dress back overnight or if it can wait for three-day return.

Why they Are Successful

Today Rent the Runway is averaging 30 turns per dress, which means some get worn many more times. That may seem repulsive to some, however, the fact is that an increasing number of women no longer get hung up on such boundaries. Adding to the company’s success is social media. We now live in a world which revolves around technology, social media and constant post updates that allows us to see each minute of people’s day, with fashion as a major focal point (#OOTD: outfit of the day).These outlets make the Rent the Runway all that more appealing.


Overall, Rent the Runway allows boldness with their clothes without the risk of a forever purchase. It introduces customers to a new level of luxury that could become a habit. It makes the connection between appearance and confidence ever more clear. Let’s face it rentals have become part of our everyday lives. Majority of the population currently rent their music (Spotify), their transportation (Uber), their entertainment (netflix) and even their homes (airbnb). Why hasn't our closet caught up with our lives??
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