On its Web site, RTR explains how its dress rentals work:
- Browse through our array of A-list designers and find a dress you love. Or two!
- Schedule a delivery date and your dress will appear on your doorstep, in two different sizes. Just to be safe.
- Put your dress in our handy pre-paid package and drop in the nearest mailbox. We take care of the dry cleaning!
Rentals run between $50 to $200.
So, is RTR worth the hype?
CNET’s Caroline McCarthy, the bicoastal Queen of the geeks, says yes. After trying out an RTR dress for a recent charity ball, she tweeted this morning: “Assuming this cute purple thing makes it back to @renttherunway safely, I might never buy a party dress again.”
The Fashion Beat‘s Lauren Sherman, however, isn’t such a fan:
I hate to beat an idea down before it’s had a chance to prove itself. But here’s why, from a consumer’s standpoint and an investor’s standpoint, I don’t like this concept. Not one bit.
Consumers: In an era when cheap is chic and sample sales are rampant, why spend $200 renting a Brian Reyes dress when you can buy one on Gilt Groupe or Shop Bop for not much more? Sales are easy to come by these days. In the past, I’ve scored a Balenciaga blouse for $60 (Barneys Warehouse sale), a Helmut Lang blazer for $100 (Gilt) a Lanvin dress for $40 (again, Barneys Warehouse sale) and Rachel Comey heels for $85 (at my favourite local shop, Bird). Yes, I am an avid shopper, but really, it’s not that hard, people. Plus, who wants to wear the same dress that everyone else has? If fashion journalism has taught me anything, it’s that women like to look unique. Thus far, the pieces on the site are beautiful (like the $2,100 Brian Reyes stunner shown here). But they’re not “it” items.
Consumers: If you’re the type of girl who goes out on the town so often that you need several different party ensembles–so as not to offend your cohorts by wearing the same thing twice–you can probably afford to pay full price for these dresses.
Investors: I have not been briefed on the complete financials of Bag Borrow or Steal, but I do know that the Seattle-based company raised a round of venture capital in 2006 that amounted to $8.25 million, according to The Deal. Since that glorious time, the company has changed its look, its name and who knows what else. I feel like the name-change in September 2008 is the biggest indicator that something wasn’t working.
Investors/Customers: What was that something, you might ask? It’s sad but simple: Most consumers aren’t responsible enough to use a service like this. (Including yours truly.) Think about how many Netflix DVDs get ruined per year. DVDs are made of plastic, not delicate fabrics! While DVDs are cheap enough to replace, clothing is not. Even though RTR does charge a fee for damaged goods–think about all the red wine you’ve spilled on silk dresses over the years–the number of torn, discolored and sweat-stained garments is going to eventually run up a very large tab that damage fees will not supplant. Plus, if consumers are constantly paying fees for damages, they’re going to get frustrated quickly.
Think about it this way: Every time you’ve borrowed a special garment from a friend, it’s ended badly. And so will this.
Photo: Guest Of A Guest