Imagine a competitor with a 200,00-sq.-ft. plant that can
process 5,000 pieces per hour, targets high income
customers in the 25 to 40 age group. This competitor has
already raised $130,000 million to fund its growing
business and has the goal of capturing 10 percent of the $7
billion U.S. drycleaning market.
This is not an imaginary competitor. It’s Rent the Runway,
which aims to replace the closet in the home with a closet
in the cloud.
A look inside this operation was provided by Charles Ickes,
former chief logistics officer of New York-based Rent the
Runway, who spoke during the National Cleaners
Association’s Texcare event in Secaucus, NJ, in October.
The company was started in 2009 by two Harvard Business
School classmates, Jennifer Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman,
who thought women might be interested in renting rather
than owning high-fashion attire.
The company was still relatively small by the time Ickes
joined it in 2011, handling 150,000 pieces per year with all
the drycleaning outsourced. He brought with him a
background in drycleaning having worked for Madame
Paulette in New York and Dependable Cleaners in
Now he said the company’s drycleaning facility near
Secaucus is the largest in the world with enough business
to keep its 78 drycleaning machines spinning through two
shifts a day with four million pieces cleaned in 2017.
Rent the Runway’s customers can make their selection on-
line at renttherunway.com or at one of the company’s
brick-and-mortar stores in New York, Chicago, Washington,
San Francisco and Los Angeles. The price of the rental is a
fraction of what it would cost to buy the garment outright
and that price includes shipping to and from the customer
and, of course, the drycleaning.
“Drycleaning is not something that is really important to
Rent the Runway,” he said. “It’s something they do on the
side. They’re really out to disrupt fast fashion but you, the
drycleaner, will probably be collateral damage.”