38. Rent the Runway

Designer apparel rentals

Jennifer Fleiss (left) and Jennifer Hyman, co-founders of Rent the Runway
Source: Rent the Runway
Jennifer Fleiss (left) and Jennifer Hyman, co-founders of Rent the Runway

Founders: Jennifer Fleiss, Jennifer Hyman (CEO)
Date launched:
Funding: $54.4 million
Industries disrupted:
Fashion, Retail
Disrupting: David's Bridal, Kohl's, Saks
Competition: BagBorrowOrSteal, GirlMeetsDress, LeTote

Few working women can afford to have a closetful of designer gowns and accessories. That's where Rent the Runway comes in. The brainchild of two Harvard Business School classmates, the e-commerce site rents designer apparel and jewelry for a fraction of what it would cost to buy it. A Missoni dress that retails for $1,800? Yours to rent for several days for just $200.

The New York City-based company even includes a second size of the same dress for free. Once a customer is done, she simply packs the clothing up in a prepaid envelope and sends it back to the company. Rent the Runway takes care of the dry cleaning and any minor repairs.


Hundreds of designers are available—Calvin Klein, Vera Wang and Versace among them—and dresses rent anywhere from $30 to $500. The company has three retail locations—two in New York City and one in Las Vegas—where women can try on the gowns and leave with their rentals on the spot. In five years the company has garnered more than 4 million members who rent party, wedding, Halloween, prom and other special-occasion dresses.

Dubbed the "Netflix of designer clothes," Rent the Runway has already raised $54.4 million in venture capital money. But perhaps more importantly, it's provided a solution to that eternal female lament: "I have nothing to wear."

How did you come up with your big idea?

"Consumers were beginning to favor access and experiences over ownership, yet their closets looked the same as they had for decades. I wanted to change the way women get dressed ... elevate a woman’s current wardrobe and add some thrill to the everyday." -Jennifer Hyman, co-founder and CEO


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