Rent The Runway Has Secret Private-Label Brands

Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images.
Half the fun of picking out a Rent the Runway dress is the thrill of wearing something worth, oh, 10 times the amount you paid to borrow it for that fancy wedding or black-tie ball. But what if that exorbitant retail value wasn't nearly as high as you thought it was — because the dress in question was a private-label piece that never had a real retail value to begin with?

It turns out the high-end rental retailer carries two secret, in-house brands that you can't find anywhere else, dress label Slate & Willow and accessories line Ella Carter, and there's a pretty sneaky reason it's doing so, reports BuzzFeed. The site lists retail prices for Slate & Willow pieces as high as $500 to $600 (with rental prices ranging from $40 to $90 for four days). Yet there's no indication that the pieces are actually created by Rent the Runway, meaning they've never hit a selling floor in the first place. That retail value is "based on the cost of production,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed.

This detracts from the thrill of getting a designer piece for a whole lot less (albeit briefly, of course), doesn't it? But besides making us feel duped, these covert private-label pieces seem to be quietly boosting Rent the Runway's much-touted stats. The company boasts of the combined retail value of all the items it rents out over the course of a year as evidence of how awesome it is doing — which gets inflated by adding the imaginary retail values of these private-label pieces. In 2014, Rent the Runway reportedly rented out $809 million worth of goods, and in 2015, it is on track to rent out $1 billion in merch.

These discreet Rent the Runway-manufactured pieces do have quite positive reviews on the site, as BuzzFeed notes. So, even if customers don't realize their rented threads and baubles aren't technically designer, they seem pretty satisfied with 'em.
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