Our Story

Rent the Runway was founded in 2009 by Jenn Hyman and Jenny Fleiss.
Here’s how it all started.
Rent the Runway was founded in
2009 by Jenn Hyman and Jenny Fleiss.
Here’s how it started.
Red dress with sparkly gold sash

The ‘aha’ Moment

Over Thanksgiving, Jenn’s younger sister Becky showed off a $2,000 designer dress she bought to go to a wedding. This splurge was sending her into credit card debt!

Jenn wondered, wouldn’t it be so much smarter if we could rent designer items rather than purchase them? She returned to Harvard Business School and shared the idea with her friend, Jenny.
An email from Diane von Furstenberg saying that it was nice to meet Jenn and Jenny

Dream Big and Go After It!

Dream Big and Go After It!

Jenn and Jenny wondered whether the fashion industry would be on board with their idea. They cold-emailed Diane von Furstenberg that afternoon (why not start at the top?!) who agreed to a meeting.

The very next day, they walked into Diane’s office (wearing their DVF dresses) and introduced themselves as the founders of Rent the Runway. While Diane was initially skeptical, she offered key advice and gave each a good luck charm.
Jenn and Jenny wondered whether the fashion industry would be on board with their idea.
They cold-emailed Diane von Furstenberg that afternoon (why not start at the top?!) who agreed
to a meeting.

The very next day, they walked into Diane’s office (wearing their DVF dresses) and introduced themselves as the founders of Rent the Runway. While Diane was initially skeptical, she offered key advice and gave each a good luck charm.
A silver-gray sparkly Tory Burch dress

Everyone Deserves a
Cinderella Experience

It was time to test whether women would ever rent clothes. Jenn, Jenny, and Becky set up a pop-up shop on campus where students could rent on the spot.

One woman spotted a Tory Burch sequined dress across the room, ran over, put it on, and exclaimed, “I look so hot!”. It dawned on them that renting could make women feel amazing, solidifying RTR’s mission to deliver that feeling of empowerment to all women.
It was time to test whether women would ever rent clothes. Jenn, Jenny, and Becky set up a pop-up shop on campus where students could rent
on the spot.

One woman spotted a Tory Burch sequined dress across the room, ran over, put it on, and exclaimed, “I look so hot!”. It dawned on them that renting could make women feel amazing, solidifying RTR’s mission to deliver that feeling of empowerment to all women.
The original Rent the Runway office

Make the Most With What You Have... Scrappiness is a Virtue

Make the Most With
What You Have...

With a few months to launch the site, Jenn and Jenny, along with a few core team members and a slew of interns, hustled to get the job done... even when things didn’t work according to plan.

They pitched to countless designers (and persevered through constant rejection), staged a last-minute photo shoot (when they realized designers don’t provide product shots), outsourced tech development (and recovered when they dropped the ball), set up a distribution and dry cleaning operation (in a local dry cleaner), and emailed anyone and everyone to get the word out.
With a few months to launch the site, Jenn and Jenny, along with a few core team members and
a slew of interns, hustled to get the job done... even when things didn’t work according to plan.

They pitched to countless designers (and persevered through constant rejection), staged a last-minute photo shoot (when they realized designers don’t provide product shots), outsourced tech development (and recovered when they dropped the ball), set up a distribution and dry cleaning operation (in a local dry cleaner), and emailed anyone and everyone to get the word out.
A mock-up of The New York Times cover story

We Are All Founders
of Rent the Runway

The launch day was huge. The New York Times ran a cover story picturing Jenn and Jenny. The story drove 100,000 people to
sign up!

The go-getter mentality that propelled Jenn and Jenny from idea to launch still drives Rent the Runway’s entrepreneurial culture, where every team member plays a critical role in building the ‘closet in
the cloud’.
The launch day was huge. The New York Times
ran a cover story picturing Jenn and Jenny. The story drove 100,000 people to sign up!

The go-getter mentality that propelled Jenn and Jenny from idea to launch still drives Rent the Runway’s entrepreneurial culture, where every team member plays a critical role in building the ‘closet in the cloud’.

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