Frumpy. Dated. Conservative. No matter which synonym for “unfashionable” you choose, Washington doesn’t seem to be listening. Actually it was hard to hear anything over the oohing and ahhing at Rent the Runway’s new 3-D store opening in Georgetown on Monday.
Well-heeled women (and a few men) petted the pretty designer dresses displayed throughout the 4,000-square-foot space by color and occasion. Trays lined with pastel-colored macaroons made their way around the room. “That would look sooo great on you” was the hook of the evening. And hey, isn’t that designer Christian Siriano, of “Project Runway” fame, striking a fierce pose behind the register?
With only the second brick and mortar outpost for the five-year-old online retailer, co-founders Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss are banking on Washington’s allegedly chic-less crowd, its endless cocktail parties and, of course, Instagram — both a boon and curse to the party-hopping set.
“The women here are very rational about how they get dressed. Buying something you may only wear once is just not the smart thing to do,” explained Hyman, whose black and white Karolina Zmarlak dress can be temporarily yours for $175, “and in D.C. women are smart, professional, educated.”
Fleiss, seven months’ pregnant in a sequined Badgley Mischka sheath (rental $95), ticked off the list of “galas, balls, political events and fundraisers” where wearing a rented outfit makes more sense than showing up in the same dress over and over again.
“We’re not Hollywood by any means, but people here certainly want to look the part,” explained Aba Kwawu, principal of TAA PR which has luxury fashion retail clients like Tysons Galleria.
It’s not just the young Georgetown or Howard student shifting through the store’s racks on racks of runway looks, it’s also the seasoned chief of staff and glossy mag editor-in-chief, said Kwawu. She has yet to rent herself, but noted that there were plenty of renters in Washington. A fact Hyman backed up Monday, adding that Washingtonians make up the site’s largest member group.
Still, for some, renting remains a secret between a girl and her UPS delivery guy.
“You’re going to have the people who don’t care that people know,” Kwawu said. “But in a town like this, you’re also going to have the folks who don’t want it to be known.” These are the Type A fashionistas, explained Kwawu, who want to keep up the illusion that they own “closets of endless possibilities.”
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