Fashion Your Way: Stitch Fix if You Don't Rent the Runway
Every woman loves to shop right? We know, it is a tired stereotype, and you are far from alone if you don’t. Buying clothes is a hobby for some and a chore for others, but a task that has gotten much more optional in the past few years with fashion and stylist services that send clothing directly to you. There is the try-to-buy model, where you get a subscription-box style shipment that is personalized by style quiz or phone call, like StitchFix. Then there is the RentTheRunway option: browse and borrow. Both change up the traditional way we access clothes, but which option is better?
The Special Occasion
Rent the Runway was founded in 2009 by Jennifer Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman. Launched as a way to make designer gowns accessible to more people, the online service offers high end fashion rentals for special events. For decades, shoppers have cheated high price tags by buying a dress for a date or occasion, and then returning it the next day. Better for stores and for anyone who has damaged a planned return, now we have a newly monetized category of the department store and boutique market.
The company went public in 2013 and raised its most recent round of funding in December of 2016, a year when revenue reached over $100 million. According to Forbes, the funding round was the largest ever for a woman-run company. The site expanded its per-rental offerings to an unlimited membership, which offers a wider variety of clothing (business as well as formal wear) at $159 per month for four articles of clothing that can be swapped out as desired. There is another tier of membership called RTR Update for $89 per month where you get four pieces for the month, then swap them for another shipment of four.
Each of these memberships extends accessibility to more women, but access for this site works in more ways than one. Hampton Catlin, RTR senior director of engineering, explained their impact on fashion labels in Digiday. The members generate a huge amount of data from posting on social media, as well as rating and reviewing. And since members are renting instead of buying, they are much more bold and adventurous with the brands they try and the pieces they choose. Not only does renting promote more risk-taking for the wearer, so does being able to try on pieces at the RTR storefronts that have popped up in NYC, San Francisco, DC, Chicago and Topanga.
In fact, labels are gaining tremendously from this shopping model. Instead of a decrease in sales, this combats another main trend that has actually been detrimental to apparel lines: Fast Fashion. Most renters who use RTR would not necessarily buy the designers clothes available. However, when clothes get copied, thus ripped off from the designers and made cheaply, labels loose revenue on thier intellectual property. Hampton Catlin explains that by buying in higher volume and making the items available provide an unparalleled access to authentic designers clothes to the general public, and minimize the counterfeits perpetuated by Fast Fashion.
The Personal Stylist
In a different reimagining of the shopping experience are curated style boxes like Stitch Fix. Founded in 2011 by Katrina Lake, this SF-based platform personalizes apparel and accessory choices to each member. While style boxes started out for the more generally accepted male shopping haters in our midst, this service has now extended to women. You can take an online quiz, talk on the phone or plug your social media into the service to get your recommendations, and with Stitch Fix you pay $20 for the stylist fee, which then acts as a credit toward the purchase of any items that you get in the mail. The service can be tailored for specific wardrobe needs, but it is much more of a fit for someone who needs pieces for everyday wear. In USA Today’s trial, there was a $58 blouse, $88 skinny jeans, $98 cashmere pullover, and a $108 dress.
From a business model point of view, both of these services carve out new consumer niches. Stitch Fix acts like a bridge between those busy customers and brands they have not heard of and styles that have not been had the chance to try. Rent the Runway delivers higher quality clothes to people who want access to what is most current in an affordable way without much commitment. And they both help their users get access to a wide variety of options in very different ways.
If you have more of a casual relationship with clothes, Stitch Fix can take the sting out of replacing your worn out favorites, or updating your wardrobe when you can’t be bothered to follow trends yourself. But if you have got specific tastes and a hands-on approach to what you wear, or tend to get tired of your clothes before they get tired of you, RTR will be more up your alley. That being said, the majority of us could use what both of these services provide: everyday basics we will love to pieces (literally), and some exciting choices for a one-off outfit we won’t have to wonder how to get rid of next season.