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Rent the Runway will start offering kids’ clothes

The sharing economy is coming for younger and younger customers.

A mother and daughter Rent the Runway

When Rent the Runway launched in 2009, the idea was that women could benefit from renting black-tie clothes on a night-by-night basis instead of spending a lot of money on something they’d only wear a few times — or maybe even just once. The company has ballooned in the decade since, offering its members temporary access to everything from vacation outfits to jewelry. And now the company is going after a new corner of the market: children.

Starting April 15, Rent the Runway will begin renting out kids’ clothing in addition to its offerings for adults. The service, called Rent the Runway Kids, will be offered as an extension to its Unlimited and Update plans, which give members access to four items at a time. RTR Kids isn’t a standalone service — it’s an expansion of the company’s existing membership model. (Members will also now have the option to rent more than four items at a time for an additional fee, ranging from $25 to $39 per item depending on the membership plan.)

For now, the offerings on RTR Kids are limited. The collection is launching with 60 styles (for girls only) from 13 brands, including Chloé, Fendi, and Stella McCartney’s kids’ lines — not the kind of thing your child could wear every day. “I would say [these styles] are more in line with special occasions that you would have with your kids: everything from a holiday party to a birthday to a mommy-and-me look,” Jenn Hyman, Rent the Runway’s founder and CEO, told Vox.

The clothes are only available in sizes 3Y to 12Y for now because, according to Hyman, those are the sizes the designers RTR partnered with tend to produce for kids. But she added that the company plans to expand “into everyday clothing for kids very shortly after our launch.”

“We wanted to cover the ages where kids are moving around a lot, where they’re growing quickly, they’re going to holidays and parties and fun events, [but] it becomes both time-consuming and expensive for moms,” she said. “Keeping up with the cleaning and the upkeep [of those clothes] becomes a burden. We thought this would provide the most benefit for moms.”

little girl in a tent Rent the Runway

Hyman said RTR Kids was partly inspired by her struggles dressing her own daughter. “When I became a mom a few years ago, I realized the enormous expense of continuously outfitting my daughter as she grew,” she said. “Kids are messy, so I didn’t really want to invest in fun special occasion dresses for my daughter, because they might end up with spaghetti sauce on them two seconds later.”

As with RTR’s adult offerings, the cost of renting kids clothes will include dry cleaning, shipping, and insurance costs. In other words, parents aren’t liable if their kid gets stains on the nice dress they rented.

Branching out into children’s clothes seems like a natural extension for RTR, which transformed itself from a luxury rental service to an everyday product in less than a decade and recently announced a home goods partnership with West Elm. After it launched, Rent the Runway single-handedly convinced thousands of women that renting designer clothing was more sustainable — both for their wallets and for the environment — than buying. Now it’s trying to convince those same women, many of whom have children, that there’s no reason they shouldn’t do the same thing with their kids’ clothes.

It makes sense. Children outgrow their clothing much faster than adults do, and constantly buying new outfits for them can be expensive. But RTR’s latest move points to a future — or, more accurately, a present — where ownership of everything from housewares to maternity clothes to kids’ outfits is temporary, if it can even be called ownership at all.

As Chavie Lieber wrote for Vox after RTR announced its partnership with West Elm, the company is taking a big bet on the sharing economy. At the time, the company said it had more than 10 million members but did not disclose how many of those had unlimited memberships. In 2018, analysts told the New York Times it had about 50,000 unlimited members.

Adding kids’ offerings could potentially expand RTR’s membership base — and even if it doesn’t, it could help mold a future generation of shoppers who are more used to renting outfits than buying them.

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