Gabby Etrog Cohen
SVP of Brand, Communications and Business Development

Rent the Runway’s Brand SVP on the Shift to Experiential Fashion

Gabby Etrog Cohen credits where she is today to investing in relationships—and of course, a little bit of LinkedIn. SoulCycle recruited her in 2010 and Gabby helped shape the brand’s story and place in culture, tapping into the early power of celebrities and influencers. Today, as brand svp at Rent the Runway, Gabby is spearheading a new retail partnership rooted in sustainability and discovering new ways to make fashion an experience.

How did you get to where you are today?

It's a combination of LinkedIn and relationships. Early on, I was recruited to SoulCycle on LinkedIn. At the time there were only four studios in New York and I decided to take a risk by joining a small fitness startup—it was the best decision I ever made. Every other opportunity has been through relationships. I deeply believe in two things: work hard and invest in relationships. People are everything.

What’s currently happening in marketing that most excites you and how is it changing the future of the industry? 

"True community storytelling resonates with consumers."

I've always deeply believed in the power of community both digitally and IRL. And I love how brands like Twitter are highlighting their community in marketing. Authenticity matters—consumers are so inundated with messaging and they can see right through the fluff. True community storytelling resonates with consumers.

What's the biggest marketing challenge you face on a day-to-day basis? 

A big aspect of my role is helping to change consumer behavior from buying to renting. While industry tailwinds are fueling this behavior change, it is still a relatively new behavior and explaining the benefits of Rent the Runway in a one-dimensional way can be a challenge which is why we're tapping into tastemakers, word of mouth (WOM) marketing, local marketing and experiential to demonstrate how transformative an unlimited closet can be.

Recently, at the CMO Moves Summit East, you talked about the importance of accessibility in the fashion industry. How do you see that shaping consumer and brand behavior? 

Consumers are transitioning from traditional ownership to dynamic ownership—people want access to all types of fashion across the spectrum, whether it is for a day, a week, a month or a year. I also believe brands that stand for quality and have rich stories will continue to most resonate with consumers.

What are you working on now that's innovative?

I’m incredibly excited about the launch of our second life brand Revive. Rent the Runway has deep expertise in extending the life of garments and now we are taking our gently used items that are no longer rentable and are giving them a second life through Revive. Today, Revive product is available in 25 Nordstrom locations and Rent the Runway sample sales but will expand in distribution in 2020.

Rent the Runway garment bag being closed by guest at W Hotels
Rent the Runway will continue the "Closet Concierge" pilot at W Hotels Hollywood, South Beach, Aspen and Washington, D.C. through March 2020. (Photo credit: Chase Colman)

I’m also looking forward to the continued success of our W partnership where you can direct ship your rentals to select W Hotels and your items are unpacked and waiting for you in your hotel room. With W, we’ve taken the concept of luggage free travel and brought it to life and I’m excited to scale to other locations with W.

What innovations are you most excited about and why?

I’m obsessed with the circular economy and the idea that all your items are leased or rented—for a day or years. For example, Rebag will sell you a bag and at the time of purchase will give you a quote of how much you can resell your bag back to them. Fashion has become an experience.

How do you pick and develop the talent on your team? 

Radical Candor really inspired how I manage a team. I’ve always believed in getting to know my people—personally and professionally so I can give them regular feedback, both constructive and positive. I also often ask for feedback from my team because I too am always learning and appreciate the perspective.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 

High road, long view.