They say nothing in life is free; this may be true, but we’re pretty sure everything in life can be rented these days. Or so says the founder of Rent the Runway – Jennifer Hyman – who (as many of you know) believes you should be able to rent clothing as accessibly and easily as you do movies, music and television shows. With fashion month around the corner, we thought there was no better time to catch up with one of our favorite fashion entrepreneurs on e-commerce, weeknight recipes and why gym memberships are obsolete…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
This is potentially the hardest question in the world for me. I have so many favorites but for breakfast I’d have to go with the spicy egg chilaquiles at the St. Regis Punta Mita breakfast buffet, a croissant from Balthazar with fresh jam, iced coffee from La Colombe, and a fresh squeezed orange juice.
My ideal morning snack is Dannon coffee yogurt. I have eaten Dannon coffee yogurt around five times a week since fifth grade. It’s an addiction that runs in the family; my grandmother was addicted, my mom’s addicted, my sister Becky is addicted. Apparently Dannon has a cohort of customers who only eat their coffee yogurt and I’m proud to be part of it!
For lunch on my ideal food day, I’d have my mom’s famous Gazpacho soup with extra cucumbers.
My afternoon snack if it were summer would consist of a fresh margarita, tortilla chips, and salsa from Mexicana Mama on Hudson Street. My winter version of this would be tomato soup from The Smith and the grilled cheese from Ajax Tavern in Aspen.
Dinner is a no brainer: chicken parmesan from Piccolo Angolo with a side of spaghetti bolognese that’s heavy on the Rao’s tomato sauce, with a big glass of red wine. Finally, dessert would be a cookies and cream cone from Emack & Bolios in Cape Cod.
When you’re not renting the runway, where are your favorite destinations for shopping?
I love the curation and simplicity of a great boutique. I’m often overwhelmed by too many options so stores with a point of view are a great respite. I go to Kirna Zabete in Soho, Five Story on the Upper East Side, Otte in the West Village and Intermix . This is why I love the philosophy behind Farfetch – it helps you discover the best of the world’s boutiques.
I also love stores that are experiences in and of themselves, for instance the Isabel Marant store on Melrose in LA which transports you to another, insanely beautiful world. But I have to say, ABC Carpet & Home is my absolute favorite store. It’s absolutely dreamy and makes me want to own a home with a bit more square footage than NYC living allows.
Why do you think the concept of renting fashion exploded like it did?
Simply, the world was ready for it. There’s a new world order led by women who are living their lives in a smart way and aren’t willing to settle. Woman 2.0 is a go-getter who wants to have it all in every aspect of her life. She knows that a big portion of her closet is comprised of things she rarely wears and she knows that when she does buy things, she often has to settle for the more rational item over the crazy floral piece that she’s fallen in love with. Renting the runway exploded because it gives women their fashion freedom; it’s the smart way for women to access luxury fashion and to be playful and experimental about their fashion choices. If we’re renting our music via Spotify, our entertainment via Netflix and even renting out our own homes via Airbnb, why wouldn’t we rent our closets?
Do you prefer e-commerce to brick and mortar shopping? Why or why not?
The only time that I really have time to shop brick and mortar anymore is on vacation when I’m super relaxed and can wander around new neighborhoods to see where the day takes me. For the majority of my life, e-commerce is the only option. Like most women in my thirties, my career is demanding and I like to spend the precious free time I have with the people I love. This realization was made even more clear to me this past year when I moved to Soho. I feel like I walk by every single store on earth getting to and from work every day, so location-wise shopping in real stores should theoretically be convenient for me. But I still can’t bring myself to enter a store after work – it’s just too exhausting. I would rather shop while lying on my couch watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
What’s your personal definition of good content on the web?
Good content has to be fresh and well researched with the understanding that today’s audience has zero tolerance for bullshit. If something is untrue, advertorial or regurgitated content, it will be ignored. My generation has been marketed to since before we could speak, so we recognize the difference between great content and advertising. I’m also agnostic to content channels and whether content comes directly from a brand; I see fabulous content from Vice News about cancer and I also appreciate how-to videos from Birchbox on a new hairstyle.
What fashion app would you like to see exist that doesn’t yet?
An app that catalogs every item I currently own and makes recommendations on outfits I can wear and pieces that I should rent or buy to supplement what I already have. Basically I’m looking for the modern version of Cher Horowitz’ closet from Clueless (one of my major inspirations for Rent the Runway!).
Three fashion pieces every woman deserves to own, not rent…
Luxurious cashmere sweaters to keep you cozy during our endless NYC winters, an amazing pair of black boots, and the outerwear essentials: a leather jacket, a warm yet sleek winter coat, and a classic trench.
What advice would you give women looking in the mirror and getting dressed in the morning?
Number one: Dress for the day you want to have and the person you want to be that day. Putting on an outfit or makeup that makes you feel like the best version of yourself fundamentally changes the course of your day and gives you that extra boost of power/happiness/attitude you need.
Number two: Don’t put pressure on yourself to turn it up every day. It takes too much effort. Be strategic about when you’re going to invest your time in really and truly “getting ready.” I have a 50 /50 rule. I’ll put effort into it 50% of the time and the other 50% I just roll out of bed. It keeps me sane!
What five things are you coveting right now?
An airy, white, relaxing beach house in the Hamptons, warm weather, a hot tub, another trip to Brazil, and the hot pink snakeskin Celine trapeze bag that I just ordered for myself using the amazing app PS Dept.
What’s always in your bag?
My iPhone, headphones so I can constantly listen to Spotify or Pandora, fire shades of lipstick/lipgloss (a different color changes your entire look!), an Anya Hindmarch notebook to jot down random thoughts, hair elastics, and a million business cards that I admittedly never look at. People, business cards are so 1999!
Go-to recipes when eating in…
Just like my closet has been disrupted by Rent the Runway, my kitchen has been disrupted by innovative food and delivery services. I am a huge fan of Blue Apron, Seamless, Instacart and Postmates. I wish that I had my mom’s talent when it comes to recipes and home cooking but it hasn’t quite set in yet. Maybe someday…
Advice to entrepreneurs starting out…
Go for it. It will be the best, most fun decision you’ve ever made regardless of the outcome. But remember to stay humble. Overnight success takes about ten years.
What are your favorite cities for food? What restaurants do you go to in each?
I have to say that New York City is the absolute best place to eat on the planet. Beyond the city, I love the food in LA, particularly for its Mexican and Korean foods, and of course its Sushi. I adore Gjelina in Venice Beach and when I’m in downtown LA I go to Laurel Hardware or Bar Amá.
I’ve spent the last ten years trying to travel to Italy as often as humanely possible and to eat and drink my way through it. A really special place in Italy is a small restaurant on top of a hill in the middle of Tuscany called Lamole di Lamole.
I also love eating in Tulum. Posada Margherita is amazing for a laid back, beachy vibe and Hartwood is worth all the hype.
In the same vein as ‘what is the new black’ in fashion, what’s ‘the new potato’ right now?
The new potato is never having a gym membership again and instead signing up for Class Pass to experience a million boutique fitness trends. Why commit to one fitness establishment when you can sample all the best classes your city has to offer? The best part is, when you get sick of a workout craze, you can experiment with others and move to the next. It’s the Rent the Runway of fitness!