Like many, I laboured under the misapprehension that Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater was the most beautiful house in the world until the day Mariah Carey opened her home to MTV Cribs. From that day onward, there was no contest. Now, that is what I call a palace. Never mind requesting 20 white kittens on your rider, never mind the off-colour penchant for sexy-elf costumes, Mariah will forever be a pop-culture goddess by dint of owning the best walk-in wardrobe the world has ever seen. If you haven’t seen it – and seriously, what have you been doing with your life since 2002? – suffice to say, there is an entire room just for ankle-strap sandals.
The walk-in wardrobe has been an ultimate lifestyle trophy for the living memory of many women. As Carrie Bradshaw once said, “I like my money where I can see it – hanging in my closet.” (Before Carrie had a walk-in wardrobe, she turned her hallway into a walk-through wardrobe.) But the latest fashion trend could one day make your wardrobe as anachronistic as built-in CD shelving. Welcome to the new age of the rented closet.
New York-based Rent the Runway – “a fashion company with a technology soul” – is to the walk-in wardrobe what Netflix is to the DVD shelf, what Spotify is to the record collection, and what iCloud is to the photo album. CEO Jenn Hyman, who founded the company with Jennifer Fleiss eight years ago, calls the subscription-based model, which allows clients access to a “library” of designer fashion, a “closet in the cloud”. The company, which has bucked the trend by which female-led companies lag behind the mainstream in securing venture capital, turned a profit for the first time last year and made a splash this week when it announced a cheaper entry-level subscription plan. For a discounted rate of $89 (£67) a month, a little more than half the price of the full-fat rate that allows unlimited rentals, subscribers have access to four garments each month.