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Pop quiz: you’re invited to a wedding, black-tie bash, or other similarly fancy-pants fête that requires a killer dress –but have nothing, and we mean nothing, to wear. Do you (A) splurge on a one-hit-wonder destined to cause buyer’s remorse or (B) high-tail it to RentTheRunway.com to ‘borrow’ a hot number from their collection of 95-plus designers? If you’re anything like us, you’ve already reserved that Proenza sheath and Missoni stunner for a fraction of the retail price –and your wallet and over-stuffed closet are thanking you. That’s exactly what co-founder and president Jenny Fleiss intended when she and a Harvard Business School buddy launched the biz in 2009. “Embracing femininity and testing out exciting new designs is such fun,” says Fleiss. “Hearing about how great women feel when they put on a designer dress made us want to enable more women to have this experience.”
Here, the style-savvy entrepreneur opens up her own closet to us, talks favorite frocks, and shares her philosophy on rentable fashion.
How would you describe your personal style?
Functional, fun and versatile. My personal style is flirty and fun, modern, yet classic. I particularly love styles that are comfortable and can go from day to night since I am constantly on the run!
What and how much of your wardrobe do you rent?
I rent 60% and buy 40% of my closet right now. For fun, statement pieces and more trendy styles renting is a fantastic option. I have learned about so many great new brands through Rent the Runway, and now love building my wardrobe by investing in staples from them – like the classic white shirt or black skirt –but continuing to rent for the more one-off pieces.
What rented pieces do you have the hardest time returning?
I think for me, it’s somewhat correlated to the functionality [of the dress] –so right now, dresses that are jersey material, because they’re so comfortable and easy to wear. Also, there are certain dresses I’ve gotten a ton of compliments in, especially a lot of our gowns, which are just these great, statement-making, 'look-at-me' gowns. We have a really pretty one by Catherine Malandrino I wore recently, which is a really rich cobalt blue color. I definitely wind up having such a great night and experience in them, it’s really difficult for me to give them back sometimes.
What staple pieces you invest in?
A great, versatile coat (I have had my Prada long coat since college, and it still looks so classic); handbags (vintage Chanel, which we just started carrying on Rent the Runway, as well as a bunch of Prada bags that I steal from my mom); cashmere cardigan (I have one by Loro Piana that I wear to death, and also love J. Crew for every day), and amazing running shoes, since I am an avid runner.
What’s the most cherished item in your wardrobe?
A necklace my mom gave me that used to be hers. It’s a gold Tiffany necklace with three circles and a diamond in the middle, and the three circles are supposed to be me, my mom, and my dad. I got it on my graduation. It goes with everything. [Our Travel Jewelry Case is the perfect place to store heirlooms!]
Are you more of a pack-rat or a self-editor?
Since I am seven months pregnant now, I am hoarding everything because my body is changing daily and I have no clue what will fit after January. In general, I have a hard time getting rid of anything sentimental –be it a magnet I bought on a trip, or my HBS sweatshirt that has seen better days. I still have some jeans in my closet from college that I am determined to fit into again, and I’m not ready to give up on that yet!
How do you tackle closet clutter?
I alternate clothing depending on the season and put out-of-season items in storage. I put items that I wear less frequently to the back. I also rely on a lot of storage bins and slim-line hangers, which always make me feel more organized. Even though my husband didn’t understand it, I threw away all of our hangers at one point and replaced them all with slim-line hangers. This season, I’m particularly loving Clos-ette Too’s colorful hangers – I think the pink hue adds such a chic touch to your closet.
What’s your favorite piece of style advice?
“Be a woman, wear a dress” – Diane Von Furstenberg. I find that when I put on a great dress there’s an extra bounce in my step and sense of confidence about me.
Whose closet would you like to raid?
I feel like I have the ultimate ‘dream closet’ now, given that our warehouse has over 30,000 dresses and 10,000 accessories. It’s so much fun trying everything out and working with our styling team to put together cute looks. I also think Rachel Zoe has an amazing closet that I would love to raid!