Rent the Runway – Face to Face with the Inspiration for My Canadian Fashion Startup

I first heard of Rent the Runway years ago and their vision for a “Closet in the Cloud“, where one could rent designer fashion pieces for a fraction of the price. What a great idea! A chance to have access to designer pieces that would normally be out of the average budget, while also being economically responsible and environmentally friendly. It made so much sense, especially as I was starting to get invited to weddings and needed some fancy dresses. I also attended gala events through work – I would help organize the “Academy Awards” of the local Biotech and Life Sciences industry, handing out awards for categories like “Researcher of the Year” and “Emerging Life Sciences Company” where our invitations would read Black Tie Requested. To my dismay, this dress service was only offered in the US, like many cool emerging technologies and apps (there is still no Uber in Vancouver, at time of writing!).

The Genesis of LookLab – Social Impact Fashion Startup in Vancouver, Canada

So in late 2017, after a friend invited me to promote a Facebook page allowing women to “borrow” special occasion dresses, the Fashion Startup LookLab was born! We sourced dresses from “Lenders” and offered it to customers to “borrow” for a small fee. There were some other businesses in this space (like FlauntBox, run by Kim), attempting to serve the same needs: Give women access to special occasion dresses at a reduced cost, while encouraging them to think of the environment. If you rent, instead of buy, you help extend the lifecycle of clothes since they are shared by many!

We had our share of successes and lessons at LookLab including several pivots from the original business plan – from one central Boutique to many Boutiques in Vancouver. Since I am now living in San Francisco, I am certainly embracing the mentality of failing fast and learning quickly to adapt, so I’ll share more lessons in the future and in the meantime, previous posts about the build up for LookLab can be found here.

Announcing LookLab on my personal social media account

Today I want to talk about the original organization in this dress sharing space: Rent The Runway and how I’ve enjoyed using it while in San Francisco!

The Gift of Rent The Runway

I met Heather and April, two Fashion-forward women on my first full day in San Francisco while waiting for the BART! We quickly bonded over each being transplants to the city (they each had a year on me), and they shared some fun observations. We got talking about Fashion and I casually mentioned my Canadian Dress Rental Startup (which I was still working on when I first moved here, before we closed it down in late 2018) and both Heather and April had some thoughts.

Turns out Heather was a member of Rent the Runway’s “Unlimited” Membership and April was about to accept a role at The Real Real – Authentic Luxury Consignment company!

Soon after, Heather took to me to the Rent the Runway Flagship store at Neiman Marcus by Union Square and also, gifted me 1 month of Rent the Runway! Thanks Heather 🙂

My First Rentals using Unlimited Membership

Fun photoshoot with Personal Shopped and Stylist Amanda Saeed – @_styledbyamandasaeed – who also happens to be my Co-host for our upcoming Bay Area Babes Clothing Swap!

Taking Rent the Runway on Holidays

I went to Vegas for my birthday and also on a Family Reunion to Hong Kong in the Fall and I know I’m not the only one that likes to go shopping for new outfits before the holidays!

Sparkly birthday dress, for my desert photoshoot in Vegas!
An Alexis dress I brought to Hong Kong when I stated at the Conrad! Read about my stay here:

Rent The Runway x WeWork Collaboration Event

My friend Zeni invited me to fun event one Winter evening and it was a collaboration between 2 organizations I was really enjoying having access to in SF – WeWork and Rent The Runway!

So fun to go to this event – they had great healthy appetizers in addition to donuts that both Zeni and I cried about not being able to eat because we try to eat gluten-free!

San Francisco Fashion Community Week – Volunteering and Holiday Soiree

I am very passionate about Building Community and promoting causes I believe in (in this case, sustainable Fashion, but also Life Sciences and FemTech) and I knew I needed to immerse myself in the local Fashion Community.

I met the Founder of SF Fashion Community Week, Shirin, and offered to help volunteer, in order to offer support and learn about the local ecosystem. I was out attending lots of events, like Women in Business, Women in Tech, Social Impact Entrepreneurship and helping Shirin with Partnerships made the most sense.

To wrap up the year, Shirin and the team organized a Holiday Soiree and I was delighted to attend and find a fun dress at the physical Rent the Runway store by Union Square.

Got this dress from the RTR San Francisco Boutique

Final Thoughts on Rent The Runway

I told my LookLab Business Partner and Co-Founder in December how much I was loving RTR and how different things in the US were. At the end of the day, we both agreed that the logistics system in the US is incredibly sophisticated and well-supported, and this frictionless delivery was key to its success.

I had to admit, the ease of dropping off a dress in the mail, and having it delivered right to my door in only a couple of days was amazing.

Because I had a series of special-occasion events, it made a lot of sense to be renting these beautiful dresses, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the service!

I plan to keep using RTR, and even shared the trial with a few friends who never knew something like this existed!

Wearing pants from my friend Jen in Vancouver and a Faux Fur coat from RTR

For now, I’ll leave the Fashion Startup scene to others, and will fulfill my personal mission via partnerships with amazing organizations like SF Fashion Community Week.

My Referral Code for $30 off your First Rental!

Use this link for a discount off your first rental. Let me know what you end up choosing by tagging me on instagram – @poymeetsworld

NEXT: SF Fashion Community Week and Interview with the Founder

*UPDATE* READ my interview with the Founder, Shirin here:

Also stay tuned on my Instagram for latest RTR outfits!

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