Dream Closet

This article was published in the January 2017 issue of STORES Magazine.

My dream closet would be a walk-in space, about 10 times its current size. It would be painted a soothing color, and there would be several hanging rods and open shelves for shoes and handbags. Of course, I don’t have enough clothes, shoes or accessories to fill a space like this — but a girl can dream.

Last month I visited Rent the Runway’s newly minted New York City flagship store and instantly felt as though I had stepped into my dream closet. Shoppers entering the 4,000-square-foot store are greeted by the RTR Bar, a genius-esque service area intended as a command center for the company’s unique rental business model. Shoppers who have just enough time to pick up a dress they’ve chosen digitally will find it waiting when they arrive. Dropping off last weekend’s cocktail dress? Just slip it into the repository on the left.

Shoppers can check in by tablet and receive a text notification when one of the nine fitting rooms is available; a Style Studio is designed for personal styling appointments.

It’s the main area that’s the stuff dreams are made of, however. The store conjures up the scene from “Sex and the City 2” in which Mr. Big gives fiancée Carrie Bradshaw an epic walk-in closet — blended with Cher Horowitz’s virtual closet made famous in “Clueless,” complete with a computerized wardrobe that can be mixed and matched.

Samsung worked with Rent the Runway to integrate immersive display technology throughout the store, including four 32-foot-tall end cap displays that give visitors a sense for just how expansive RTR’s inventory is; it basically serves as a “closet in the cloud,” allowing users to explore items not on display using touchscreen technology.

A 75-foot-tall digital video wall located at the entrance incorporates RTR’s one-of-a kind editorial canvas; it brings the brand to life, inspires customers with the scope of possibilities and fosters the community of women that have embraced the concept from its earliest days. The fitting room area is home to a Samsung 55-inch mirror display, which allows shoppers to experience the clarity of the mirror and interact with sales associates as they try on items to pull together the perfect outfit.

RTR figured out a long time ago that the future of fashion lies in the fusion of technology with design. COO Maureen Sullivan points out that the born-online business is evolving to serve shoppers wherever they’re most comfortable via the mobile app, website or retail stores.

“We have a very diverse customer base, but one commonality 90 percent of them share is they work full time,” she says. “They’re looking for efficiency and convenience, and RTR is not in the business of wasting customers’ time.”

Sullivan believes that as the technology that powers the business becomes embedded, RTR will be able to deliver 10 times more personalization to loyal shoppers. Amassing data and applying algorithms are essential, but so is the human element. That’s the beauty of this store, and why it stands a good chance of becoming the de facto substitute for many women’s dream closet.