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This New Occasion Wear Rental Program Could Give RTR a Run for Its Money

Move over, Rent the Runway. Dress the Population is hitting the rental market with its own selection of occasion-ready apparel.

On Friday, the women’s dress brand and rental technology platform CaaStle announced a joint partnership that will enable Dress the Population consumers to rent formal frocks for special events. The new “Borrow” feature will be available across the brand’s evening and bridal collections, giving shoppers access to a multitude of styles they can purchase at a discount at any time throughout their 10-day rental period.

Styles are available for rent at a fraction of their retail price (the $268 Bea one-shoulder evening gown rents for $48, for example), and at the end of an item’s prepaid period, shoppers can choose to extend their time with the item for a daily fee or return it. Should renters incur daily fees equivalent to the item’s price, they will own the item without a penalty.

“Dress the Population is thrilled to launch ‘Borrow,’ which allows consumers to rent dresses from a small curated assortment on our website,” Adam Schoenbaum, the company’s CEO, said in a statement. “We believe the ‘Borrow’ feature is going to extend access to our aspirational customers and allow more flexibility to our loyal returning customers.”

The brand, which Schoenbaum said is known for its figure-flattering silhouettes and premium design details, is now making it more affordable for its consumers to wear something unique to every event on their social calendars.

Jessica Dvorett, senior vice president and head of growth at CaaStle, echoed the sentiment, noting that shoppers can now have “the perfect outfit for every special occasion without the guilt of wearing it only once.”

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“As more women are attending in-person celebrations again, it’s the perfect time to offer Dress The Population customers the ultimate flexibility when it comes to rental,” she added.

To use the Borrow feature, shoppers first browse the site’s selection of evening and bridal styles. If a selected style is available to rent, the Borrow button appears under the option to buy. According to Dress the Population, the availability of styles will vary as items are borrowed and returned.

CaaStle, which builds and manages the backend infrastructure powering rental platforms for brands like Vince, Banana Republic, Ralph Lauren and Express, first launched the Borrow button feature for womenswear and accessories label Rebecca Minkoff in May.

As the pandemic’s influence has begun to ebb and shoppers have resumed attending events like weddings and birthday celebrations, they are increasingly turning to rentals to fulfill their occasion-wear needs. While rental pioneer Rent the Runway weathered a rocky 2020 due to logistical disruptions and a decreased consumer appetite for new duds, leading to store shutdowns and the demise of its Unlimited program, company is taking steps to launch an initial public offering.

In May, founder and CEO Jennifer Hyman told the New York Times that the company has seen a 92-percent increase in active subscribers, and is on track to outpace 2019 levels by the end of this year. One month later, Bloomberg estimated that the company could be valued at $750 million, less than a previous billion-dollar valuation that vaulted the startup into unicorn status.