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Rent the Runway Taps Recycled Materials for Sustainable Brand Launching in Spring

Premium rental service Rent the Runway is stepping into the production space with a new sustainable line.

The 10-year-old company, once famous for shipping evening gowns across the country at a breakneck pace, has blossomed into a business valued at more than $1 billion.

RTR’s Unlimited and Update programs (which allow subscribers to supplement their wardrobes with monthly infusions of fresh fashions) have transformed the unicorn startup from an occasion-wear rental service to an everyday staple.

As fast fashion takes a back seat with increasingly conscious millennial consumers, rentals have emerged as a way for shoppers to curb their environmental impact. What was once the “pride of ownership” has evolved into “pride of access,” RTR chief operating officer Anushka Salinas said Tuesday at Business Insider’s Ignition: Redefining Retail conference, adding that some shoppers feel “burdened” by the things they own.

The company will now be taking its sustainable mission a step further by launching its own brand made entirely from recycled materials, said Salinas, describing a broadening of RTR’s assortment as “a key part of our strategy.”

According to Business Insider, RTR will team up with a yet-unnamed “great influencer” for the project, Salinas said. She declined to provide further details about the forthcoming line, which is set to launch sometime during the spring season. Currently, RTR collaborates with 650 design partners on its selection of clothing and accessories, and has been surprised to find that categories like denim and sunglasses are among the most in demand.

While Salinas acknowledged that rentals may not be the key to combating climate change, she did say that encouraging consumers to borrow, not buy, is “driving much more sustainable outcomes.”

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Over the years, RTR has phased out cardboard packaging completely, opting instead for a patented and reusable garment bag. Any additional plastics used in the shipping process are recycled through a company called Trex, which converts them into decking materials, Salinas said.

In recent months, RTR has debuted expanded options for accessing its vast and covetable wardrobe, providing even more convenience to on-the-fence potential renters and loyal users alike.

A partnership with Nordstrom budded and bloomed in 2019, with the retailer latching onto the unicorn startup as a way to infuse excitement into its brick-and-mortar locations. Pioneered in five stores across the country, the program allowed RTR users to deposit their worn wares in Nordstrom drop boxes instead of UPS locations. Since its inception in July of 2019, the program has expanded to 29 Nordstrom locations.

Underscoring the convenience of its business model even further, RTR launched a program called Closet Concierge in December, in partnership with the W Hotel chain. Seeking to expand on its “access versus ownership” mantra, the program allows jetsetters to have rented items delivered directly to their hotel rooms. At the end of their stay, guests simply leave their laundry behind at the front desk to be returned by W Hotel employees.

The company’s expanded services and product lines will ultimately serve to broaden its reach, Amanda Hunter, senior director of strategy and business operations, said in December. The company’s most engaged customers wear RTR product 120 days a year—“more than the average American buys a cup of coffee,” she said.