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Over the years, whenever I purchased a “party dress” — meaning an expensive dress for a specific occasion, mostly black tie — I always thought, why can’t I just rent the dress, wear it, and be done with it, instead of spending so much money on something that, while gorgeous, might be out of style or not look so great when the time comes to wear it again? Two Harvard Business School classmates, Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, had the same thought, but went so far as to turn it into an actual business. The first Jennifer, Hymen, was struck with the idea after her younger sister showed off a $1,600 Marchesa dress she couldn’t afford but bought anyway to wear to a wedding. What’s a girl to do when every event is photographed and appears on Facebook? Wear the same outfit twice? Not anymore is the answer the two Jennifers provided when they launched Rent the Runway in 2009 with $1.5 million of venture funding from Bain Capital Ventures.

Rent the Runway has capitalized on several converging trends: the coming of age of the Millennial generation, the sharing economy, social media and our celebrity-driven culture. Millenials, the prime customers for Rent the Runway (75.3 million of them this year, now aged 18 to 34), have limited means and their own set of unique values and aspirations. They are renting versus buying their houses, apartments and cars. And they are sharing every detail of their lives on social media. Our celebrity-obsessed culture, where fashion meets the red carpet on a near-daily basis, has provoked the expectation that women can and should look like stars when they go out to their own “red carpet” events. The bottom line: Why buy a dress when you can rent one?

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Story Cred: Jane Singer