Alibaba invests in Rent the Runway

An Alibaba affiliate has invested US$21 million in online fashion rental service Rent the Runway.

Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman says that over time the company has built a great relationship with the team at Blue Pool Capital, an asset-management firm established by Alibaba founders Jack Ma and Joe Tsai.

The funding values Rent the Runway at nearly $800 million. In December 2016, it closed a $60 million series-E funding round led by Fidelity Management and Research Company.

“Launched in 2009, Rent the Runway seemed to struggle a few years ago amid the complex logistics as a renter of high- to mid-fashion apparel,” says Retail Dive. “As the company evolved, it has also tested the limits of its own revolutionary premise – that people will begin to think of their wardrobes as existing ‘in the cloud’, making them virtually infinite.

“It is a step beyond the original concept of renting special-occasion dresses and shoes – the Cinderella approach – to renting casual wear and office wear on a routine basis.”

The stance is a direct challenge to fast fashion, which relies on inexpensive ownership and a closet’s high turnover.

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