Rent the Runway Hopes Its Newly Expanded 'Unlimited' Service Will Replace Fast Fashion

Founder Jennifer Hyman, who champions access over ownership, wants you to have a never-ending "closet in the cloud."
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Maria Bobila
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Founder Jennifer Hyman, who champions access over ownership, wants you to have a never-ending "closet in the cloud."
Photo: Rent the Runway

Photo: Rent the Runway

As of Wednesday morning, Rent the Runway subscribers are no longer limited to returning their party dresses after 4 to 8 days. The fashion rental site has launched a new service: Unlimited. The program, which has been in beta since July 2014, offers subscribers across-the-country access to Rent the Runway's entire inventory for a monthly fee of $139 both online and via its app. Once subscribed, you can have in your possession up to three items at a time, which you can keep as long as you want (as long as your membership is in good standing) or switch out for new pieces — which means you can rent a coat for the winter months and a dress for a wedding you're attending one weekend. Some items even have the option to purchase.

Alongside today's launch, thousands of seasonal pieces from dozens of newcomer brands like Tory Burch, Marni, Derek Lam, Proenza Schouler and Suno, among others, have been added to the company's inventory. Founder and CEO Jennifer Hyman's catchphrase for this launch is "closet in the cloud," and it could also be seen as a possible alternative to fast fashion and throwaway purchases.

"Prior to Unlimited, the only way to have constant newness in your wardrobe was via fast fashion," says Hyman. "Instead of buying junk that's going to fall apart and be disposable, put an end to shopping for fast fashion, subscribe to designer fashion and buy your basics better."

Unlimited quietly launched two years ago, but only offered accessories. Through 2015, the service slowly but surely went through numerous updates and reiterations: dresses were added during late March of 2015, then casual ready-to-wear in May and by September, subscribers could choose work wear pieces, too. Eventually, Hyman and her team had discovered the sweet spot — and core customer — for Unlimited: a professional woman in her 30s and 40s whose busy schedule may entail work presentations and meetings, brunches on Saturday or weekend trips to the mountains or the beach. For instance, while chatting with a friend who works at a major social media platform, this writer learned that a number of that company's female executives take advantage of Unlimited.

Photo: Rent the Runway

Photo: Rent the Runway

The service's offerings have expanded to include a mix of contemporary and high-end brands, all meant to add a dose of panache to your everyday wardrobe. "Its more editorial, trend-driven," explains Hyman. "Use the subscription to add colors, prints and newness." Inventory is updated once a week, so subscribers are constantly given variety. If you're an avid Instagram user for whom a good #ootd is a top priority, then Hyman believes this will be a boon to your feed, too.

While not everyone has the budget (or perhaps the need) for Unlimited, the idea of having a never-ending supply of outfits from a slew of coveted labels certainly sounds appealing. And although fashion subscription services are nothing new, Unlimited's flexibility in choice and timespan to keep products takes it one big step ahead of its competition. Hyman argues that if you can stream any song or watch any television show or film whenever you'd like, why not be able to access any item of clothing, too? "This movement of access over ownership is even stronger today," she says. "We're renting basically everything in our lives."

You can subscribe to Rent the Runway's Unlimited service here.

Photo: Rent the Runway

Photo: Rent the Runway

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