Fashion rental service Rent the Runway recently secured a $20 million investment from Alibaba founders Jack Ma and Joe Tsai through their investment arm Blue Pool Capital, according to Recode.
With the investment, the company is reportedly valued at $800 million.
“I have huge respect for Joe and Jack and wanted to opportunistically involve them in the business as we embark on our biggest growth stage,” Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman told the publication. “Given the global aspirations that we have—especially in Asia—I thought they would be very good people to have around the table.”
Hyman said the company wasn’t seeking investment but she sees the relationship as an opportunity, regardless of whether Rent the Runway remains private, sells or launches an IPO.
Taking a page from the sharing economy, Rent the Runway allows consumers to borrow apparel and accessories instead of buying them. The service works in two ways, either women can pay per rental or opt for a membership, which allows them to borrow up to four items for an endless closet. The company offers more than 500 brands, including upscale labels like Proenza Schouler, Red Valentino, Cushnie et Ochs and Peter Pilotto.
“Our subscription business is up 125% year-over-year and is projected to triple in 2018,” Hyman said in an October release announcing the company’s lower priced tier, which allows shoppers to access a subset of the options premium members enjoy.
Users can also access “the closet in the cloud” via the company’s five retail locations. Stylists are on hand to help those needing assistance with selecting the styles that work best for them. And tapping into the shopper who turns to the site for special occasions, the company just added a wedding concierge complete with at-home fittings and on-call help to aid the whole party in looking their best. Beyond the rental model, Rent the Runway allows consumers to purchase any look they really love.
“With the decline in physical retail sales…the rise of Amazon happening so quickly, it’s difficult for brands to stay afloat,” Hyman told CNBC. “We are a growing and important player for brands, and it’s one of our missions to help incredible designers have big businesses.”
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