What they were hoping you wouldn’t notice
Startup Rent the Runway now has its own clothing line – but you wouldn’t know it from the information on the site.
Rent the Runway was founded six years ago and has already gathered more than $120 million in venture capital. The site allows customers to rent designer brand outfits for special occasions. It’s a brilliant concept that allows fashionistas on a budget to wear top designer brands without having to pay full price – as long as they return the clothes on time.
Recently, Rent the Runway began selling its own in-house brand of dresses under the name “Slate & Willow,” and accessories under the name “Ella Carter.” But the site doesn’t indicate that the brands are the company’s own – it simply lists the items alongside other big names in fashion like Badgley Mischka and Nicole Miller.
Retail value vs. rental value
The site also lists the retail value of the items they are renting. For example, a Nanette Lepore dress that sells for $378 can be rented for $85. What’s weird is that the site also lists retail values for its in-store brands, even though these brands are never sold in a store, and are only available for rent on the site.
A company representative says that the retail values are “based on cost of production” and that they “include the retail value to add context for our customers so they can make informed purchasing/renting decisions.”
Buying brand recognition
But fashion fans aren’t buying it. They think that actual retail prices also reflect brand name recognition, which Rent the Runway’s brands don’t have. Is Rent the Runway being intentionally deceptive? And, unless you really want to brag about what a great “deal” you got on your rental, does the retail value really matter for an item you aren’t buying anyway?
Some think that Rent the Runway is trying to mislead investors. The startup doesn’t disclose its revenue or profit figures, but does use the collective retail value of its products to measure and report its success. Filling in false retail values could make the company seem more flush than it really is.
Suggested retail price
The startup also needs to be careful not to get into trouble, as discount fashion outlets like Kohl’s and TJ Maxx have been sued in the past for dishonest tags that compare their prices the fabricated “suggested retail price.”
So Rent the Runway may be somewhat misrepresenting its in-store brand. But, although name brand and retail cost may influence some customers, the most fashionable shoppers know that cut, fit, style, and quality are far more important than anything written on the tag.