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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Runway fashionistas rent out style to students

Published: September 16, 2011
Section: Features, Top Stories

While other students began to wind down from a long week of classes and prepare for the weekend, Emily Troge ’14 and Abby Hirsch ’14 spent last Friday organizing the first trunk show for Rent the Runway at Brandeis. That morning, five young national representatives drove from New York City to help set up the event in Sherman Function Hall. By the time people started arriving, there were racks of designer dresses and tables of jewelry for girls to try on.

Started in 2009, Rent the Runway is a New York-based company founded by Harvard Business School graduates Jenn Hyman and Jenny Fleiss. After watching Jenn’s sister, Becky, work through a “closet full of clothes but nothing to wear moment,” they created Rent the Runway, a website where members can rent designer dresses for a fraction of the retail cost.

In order to better market to college students, a demographic that often attends formal events but is generally on a strict budget, Rent the Runway branched out to have College Runway Reps. This semester, Jordana Gluck ’12 became the first Brandeis Runway Rep, quickly recruiting Troge and Hirsch, who now oversee everything on the Brandeis campus.

“I was browsing the Rent the Runway Web page while searching for a dress and I came across an article that talked about a spring internship. After contacting Rent the Runway and speaking with their campus liaison, I found out that many students across the country were acting as the middleman between their school and Rent the Runway,” Gluck said.

“I thought it would be perfect for a small campus like Brandeis where one is sure to be spotted in the same gown twice. It also gives those girls who are not able to purchase designer dresses a chance to wear one at an affordable price.”

Although Troge is officially manager, the highest-ranking position, she and Hirsch, the PR representative, work closely to build up a team. In addition to raising awareness and membership of Rent the Runway, last week’s event was intended to entice other girls into applying for other positions on the soon-to-be committee; they are still currently accepting applications on Rent the Runway’s homepage.

“We’re trying to reach out to the Brandeis community,” Troge said. “We didn’t have much time to advertise the event, but a lot of people came anyway, which is great for our first event.”

The national representatives at the trunk show included Director of College Marketing Becky Hyman, whose sister Jenn was a co-founder of Rent the Runway. She also has a personal connection to Brandeis: It’s her parents’ alma mater.

“Brandeis prides itself on giving unsurpassed access to students, both inside and out of the classroom. Runway Reps are able to develop their leadership, marketing and entrepreneurial skills in the fashion industry by working closely with the marketing team at Rent the Runway. I have been able to see firsthand the amazing opportunities that Brandeis has paved for its students by looking at my parents’ success … I am determined to bring continued success to Brandeis’ campus with our College Runway Rep program,” Hyman said.

Word of mouth, Hirsch added, has been and will continue to be an important form of communication for the group, whether girls mention to their friends that they’ve signed up or see Facebook notifications about events and dresses.

The dresses at the event reflected the range of choices on the website, which run from dresses that retail for only a few hundred dollars to dresses that cost more than $2,000. None of the dresses had prices, but all of them can be rented for a fraction of their retail cost.

After the event, 15 girls were the first to show interest in applying on Rent the Runway’s website for committee positions like Social Media Rep, Greek Liaison and Event Coordinator.

At an information session and meeting on Tuesday, Troge and Hirsch met with three interested girls and began to map out the rest of the semester and the future of Rent the Runway at Brandeis.

“Because there isn’t a large presence yet, everyone on the team can be really hands on both behind the scenes and at events,” Hirsch said.

In between jokes and goofy and fun tangents, the team began discussing possible events for this semester and the more distant future.

Many people already involved in Rent the Runway are members of off-campus Greek life and need dresses for formal events, but the majority of Brandeis students rarely have the opportunity to get dressed up, Troge said. With that in mind, one major goal of Rent the Runway at Brandeis, in addition to marketing the company, is to organize events to which girls can wear the dresses.

With a small budget passed to them from the company, Troge, Hirsch and the meeting’s attendees began brainstorming, coming up with ideas like a fashion show and dinner, a night out in Boston, and another trunk show to give students a taste of the dresses and accessories available.

“Right now we’re planning to team up with Rent the Runway at BC for the night out,” Troge said, explaining that it would help build up the name of the group as well as helping ease costs and have more people to help out.

“Next semester and next year, though, we’ll have a lot to do and so many people will be coming to our events that we’ll be able to have our own nights out in Boston,” she said.

The group also wants to hold an open semi-formal event on campus, possibly a fashion show of Rent the Runway dresses combined with dinner.

Until then, the committee, once finalized, will market dresses to attendees of on- and off-campus formal events, spreading awareness of the website.

“I’m really excited for this year and next year. I initially applied because I wanted to get more involved in something on campus, and this seemed perfect,” Troge said. “I’ve learned a lot about the company, and I’m happy to be representing it and bringing it to everyone else.”