Marchesa is using Rent the Runway to test new collection of blouses

Marchesa is using insights from Rent the Runway to inform its strategy for a brand-new apparel category: tops.

Marchesa, best known for its ornate ballgowns and elaborate formalwear, is launching its first-ever collection of tops, available exclusively through the rental platform. According to Sarah Tam, svp of merchandising at Rent the Runway, the five-piece capsule collection was directly inspired by data the Rent the Runway team shared with Marchesa that showed a significant increase in consumer demand for blouses. (In the past year alone, rentals for tops have doubled, and as a result, Rent the Runway has increased inventory in this category by 400 percent.)

“What our data gives brands is specific insight and feedback, which they are using to connect with the customer,” Tam said. “Marchesa is mostly known for cocktail dresses and intricately designed gowns, but when we came to them with data about how our customer is shopping, they were quick to react.”

Spotting an opportunity to test new products, the Marchesa team went to work designing the tops, which include ample doses of peplum and lace that reflect the brand’s classic aesthetic. The collection, officially available on Wednesday, will ultimately act as a trial run for Marchesa, as it considers a forthcoming collection of tops that would be sold beyond Rent the Runway. Rental prices range from $50 to $70, while full retail prices range from $345 and $425.

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Looks from the Marchesa capsule collection for Rent the Runway

Tam said the increased demand for tops is in large part due to the implementation of its unlimited subscription program in 2015, which allows users to rent everyday apparel and workwear for a monthly fee. Rent the Runway also recently launched a same-day delivery service in select cities, an attempt to meet consumer demand and compete with retailers like Amazon and Zara.

Tam said because Rent the Runway’s consumer base skews younger than traditional luxury shoppers — given its lower prices and increased accessibility to high-end products — it can serve as a valuable experimental playground. Rent the Runway has similarly consulted brands like Jason Wu and Derek Lam, providing the designers with real-time data and feedback from its site, which the designers incorporated into subsequent rental pieces. Tam said Rent the Runway’s data is valuable in a way that simple e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sales numbers are not, in that turnover on the garments is high and means higher volumes of feedback within a shorter amount of time.

“Our feedback is more immediate. We have high feedback from our customers posting reviews, and we see immediately what they’re liking,” she said. “Brands can adjust to the feedback on items they’re working on, on the spot. Say we’re reporting some fit problems with a top. They can adjust it immediately.”

Additionally, as the fashion industry continues to transition to a see-now-buy-now model propagated by fast fashion, Rent the Runway’s recent focus on immediacy is an advantage. It’s same-day delivery service can help brands keep up with the new standard pace and may help it avoid being thwarted by fast-fashion copycats, Tam said.

“We wanted to change the landscape to be more beneficial to brands. We’re leveling the landscape, and we want customers to understand the value of brands, and celebrate the quality and craftsmanship of every garment they create.”

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