Rent the Runway strutting towards a sustainable future

Alexis Myszka

Rent the Runway(RTR) is an online rental service that gives its customers the opportunity to rent designer clothing and accessories without paying wholesale prices. The company is one of many that offer renting as a more environmentally friendly option than buying. RTR is most commonly used by customers who are searching for special occasion or one time use outfits.  


Iowa State now has Rent the Runway representatives on campus, one of whom is Hannah Mauser, a student studying apparel, merchandising, design and journalism.


“I heard about (RTR) last semester and I saw a lot of things on social media about it and it really sparked my interest,” said Mauser.


A big part of Rent the Runway’s mission is sustainability, as expressed in one of their mottos, “Buy less stuff” which can be found on many of their social media posts. The company states on the website how they have incorporated a sustainable mindset into every aspect of their operations.


“We decided there had to be a more sustainable way to ship and invented just that: patented eco-friendly garment bags,” from


As the world’s current rate of consumption regarding apparel continues to increase, as stated in the 2011 documentary, “The True Cost,” sustainability is on the minds of students across all majors, especially those studying apparel.


“As an apparel major myself, I’m really interested in the ethical and sustainable aspect of the fashion industry. So being a part of Rent the Runway is a really great stepping stone into that area of my major,” Mauser said.


Renting has presented many benefits for consumers according to Rent the Runway users and sustainability supporters like PhD student and graduate assistant Danielle Testa, who is also teaching AESHM classes at Iowa State.


“Realizing the big opportunity there is to be more sustainable…i think just knowing that there has to be a solution and ways to make fast fashion and just fashion in general more sustainable has been what’s intrigued me about the situation,” Testa said.


Mauser explains how rental and secondhand companies like Rent the Runway and Thredup (an online resale platform for buying and selling) are two websites that are attempting to pave the way towards a more sustainable future. By renting or buying second hand rather than buying new consumers will create less waste and spend less money in the long run.


“There is so much available that it’s hard to consume less, one of the hardest things with sustainability is that we are over consuming,” Testa said.


To address the topic of over consuming Rent the Runway gives consumers the chance to turn their wardrobes into a capsule like wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is an assortment of a few classic pieces that can be worn year round by being mixed with seasonal pieces to help reduce waste.


“Those kinds of businesses (RTR and Thredup) are really maximizing the opportunity that they know exist and they’re really able to minimize that waste element, and that benefits both the business and the consumer its really addressing that end of life issue,” Testa said.


Rent the Runway representatives like Mauser have the opportunity of trying out one of RTR rental plans that emulates a capsule type wardrobe for free.


“For us reps we get the benefits of choosing what we want. You get to pick four rentals that you want for the month, almost like the idea of a capsule wardrobe so you have so many pieces but they’re usually very versatile and you can incorporate them into your wardrobe anyway you want,” Mauser said.


Lots of Iowa State students have sought the services of Rent the Runway through Mauser and the other campus representatives, one RTR customer is Elli Jennings, a sophomore studying marketing.


“I chose rent the runway actually because a couple girls in my sorority house are reps for the company….my one year anniversary was coming up with my boyfriend so i thought that would be a great occasion to use up my rental and wear something special,” Jennings said.


First customers go onto the website and decide what kind of service they are in need of. Whether that be a one time rental, or one of the many rental plans.


Next is picking the garment or accessory to rent, rentals are shipped out so that they will arrive two days prior to the event. RTR sends the garment in two different sizes just incase, as well as a goodie bag with little gifts such as nail polish.


“The experience was super fun honestly, I loved looking at all of the clothing, and once I picked out my piece they had site ‘stylist recommendations’ for accessories I could choose to style my outfit with which I thought was super fun,” Jennings said.


After use customers are given a date by which the rentals must be shipped back, RTR provides the shipping label and dry cleaning services so customers don’t have to worry about doing any cleaning of their own.


“I have rented an orange jumpsuit, skirts, pants, purses and jewelry. Everything has always arrived in amazing condition….I would recommend RTR to anyone who loves current fashion trends but doesn’t want to spend an overload of money,” Jennings said.