People may question whether fashionable clothing can truly be sustainable. Four University of Richmond students worked as campus ambassadors for Rent the Runway this semester, persuading the UR community fashion and sustainability don’t always have to clash.
Rent the Runway (RTR) is an online clothing subscription service that allows customers to rent clothing from different designers and brands at a fraction of their retail cost.
This semester, Elizabeth Harrison, Erin Watton, Ava Cummings and Jillian Jetmore made up the team of RTR college ambassadors at UR.
Jetmore, a sophomore from Kansas City, Missouri, had seen posts from other RTR ambassadors she followed on Instagram and decided to apply after one of them posted the application online in December 2019, she said. She is not interested in going into fashion in the future, she said, but liked the idea of having monthly statement pieces that she could swap out.
Throughout the RTR program, ambassadors have to post three Instagram posts and four Instagram stories monthly in RTR clothes, tagging #rtrrep and #thanksitsrtr, Jetmore said.
Cummings, a junior from Bernardsville, New Jersey, and Watton, a junior from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, both heard about the program when they were abroad together in Milan, Italy, during the fall semester, they said.
“We were both enthralled in the fashion life that was in Milan,” Watton said. Watton said she and Cummings had wanted to do something fashion-related when they returned to UR from their semester abroad.
“We thought the audience at Richmond would be really great for Rent the Runway because a lot of people get dressed up for class,” Watton said.
Each ambassador received one free “swap” each month, which contained four pieces of clothing or jewelry. The ambassadors got to pick which four pieces they got, Cummings said. The ambassadors would then return their swap at the end of each month, she said.
The spring ambassador program typically runs from February to May but was cut short because of universities suspending in-person classes, Watton said.
“People are still renting and they’re still encouraging people to rent,” she said, “but it’s a really sensitive time and there’s a fine line of how to post on social media right now.”
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The four women were in the process of planning monthly events to raise campus awareness of RTR, Watton said. They had planned a clothing drive with the Office of Sustainability for after spring break, she said.
Cummings said she had been really looking forward to that event. The Office of Sustainability had had issues with low-quality clothing donations in previous drives, so the representatives had created new marketing materials to rebrand the drive, Cummings said.
Rent the Runway offers several types of subscriptions, all with four pieces of clothing per swap. Subscribers can apply for two swaps monthly, unlimited swaps and even one-time rentals.
Senior Hayden Ivey has subscribed to RTR since last August, renting everything from jeans to casual dresses to more formal dresses that she wears to sorority socials, she said. A subscriber can also buy a piece of clothing from their swap at a discounted rate if they really like it, she said.
“At first I think I was skeptical about buying something to keep, just knowing that other people have worn it, but the dresses and clothes are really well taken care of,” Ivey said.
Cummings agreed. “I think they are doing a really good job of making sure that the product they put out is really ethically sourced and really great material, and really flattering,” she said. “And to be able to do it at a student's budget was incredible.”
Rent the Runways’s main core values are empowering women, Cummings said.
“One thing about Rent the Runway that’s really great is the power that clothing gives to people in terms of just confidence and happiness,” Watton said.
Contact news writer Ellie Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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