Rent the Runway Expands Into Children’s Clothing Just Weeks After Becoming a Unicorn

Category expansion is the latest move from the rental company

Rent the Runway's children's line includes a slew of high-end designers, including Fendi and Marc Jacobs. Rent the Runway
Headshot of Diana Pearl

Rent the Runway is continuing its domination of the clothing rental space with a move into a new category: children’s clothes.

Today, the company, which is also known by its acronym RTR, announced it’s expanding its monthly clothing rental subscription services, Rent the Runway Unlimited and Rent the Runway Update, into children’s wear. The news comes just weeks after the company made headlines for becoming a unicorn, or hitting a valuation of $1 billion.

Maureen Sullivan, Rent the Runway’s COO, told Adweek the move is a natural way for the company to not only expand its offerings but also to continue to grow its subscription business.

Rent the Runway began as a destination for women to rent formal gowns and cocktail dresses for special occasions like weddings, sorority formals and proms. In 2016, it launched Rent the Runway Unlimited, which allowed women to rent everyday clothing as well, four pieces at a time, for a monthly fee.

The new children’s category will be a part of that subscription model. Members can now rent four  pieces from either or both categories. For example, they might select two items for themselves and two for their kids. They can also add an extra item or two every month for a surcharge.

“We’re always looking to enhance the experience for our customers and subscribers,” Sullivan said. “We’re so fortunate to have this subscriber that’s the ultimate multitasker, not only in getting herself dressed but probably everyone in her family. We thought we’d make it really easy for her, enabling her to rent for her children as a part of her subscription.”

Children’s clothing has been a constant request from Rent the Runway’s customers, Sullivan said. The average age of RTR subscribers is 29, and many of them are the parents of young children. And due to the fact that children’s clothing sizes are constantly changing as they grow, they make for an ideal customer for a subscription model like Rent the Runway’s.

“It doesn’t make sense to buy expensive clothing for your children when they’re growing that quickly,” Sullivan said. “In some ways, that’s where the culture of hand-me-downs came from because you buy these beautiful things and you can’t bear that they’re not going to get enough use out of them.”

That higher price point is exactly what RTR is focusing on providing in its children’s collection. Buying a $500 Gucci dress a little girl will only get a few months use out of is hard to justify, but renting one as part of a subscription you already pay for is easier. RTR’s is launching with children’s lines from Chloe, Fendi, Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, Lilly Pulitzer and many others.

“Their clothes for kids are really special and unique, and we think that we’ll hopefully be incredible for our subscribers to access that type of designer clothing as a very effective price as a part of their subscription,” Sullivan said.

Children’s clothing is the third category RTR has entered. It started with women’s and announced furniture rental in March in partnership with West Elm. The company has not yet expanded into men’s clothing. As Sullivan explained it, the company is trying to focus first on meeting every need they can for their core subscriber, whom she described as a “millennial female, busy working woman.”

“We’re seeing all these new use cases beyond what we thought we’d do originally, which is get her dressed for work,” Sullivan said. “She wants to wear Rent the Runway on the weekend to go to a soccer game. She wants to wear it for a costume party she didn’t know she was going to get invited to. We’ve expanded our assortment dramatically to keep up with all the use cases.”

It’s all a part of RTR’s quest to change the narrative around fast fashion. Sullivan said 80 percent of the items in a woman’s closet are worn three times or less and that services like RTR Unlimited allow women to keep that ever-rotating array of options available but at a lesser cost to the environment—and the consumer.

“Consumer behavior is shifting,” she said. “There’s a massive cultural trend driving this behavior change. The experience in the sharing economy has made people realize they don’t need to commit to owning so many things.”

@dianapearl_ Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.