This article was originally published by RTR CEO & Co-founder Jenn Hyman on LinkedIn on June 3, 2020.
We at Rent the Runway vehemently condemn the racial injustice and violence that the Black community faces on a daily basis. RTR stands in solidarity with our Black employees, partners, designers and the larger Black community. We are committed to taking action to dismantle racist systems, but we know there isn’t a quick fix to this massive systemic problem. This is about taking the time to do the substantive work – to listen, learn, take action, fail forward, and repeat.
As Rent the Runway’s CEO and co-founder, I am in a position, alongside our leadership team, to ensure that we hire, promote and support diversity internally and externally. We are creating strategic goals and timelines to align our organization behind achieving racial change in the short and long-term.
We, of course, support the current protests around the country and are contributing to organizations that support racial justice. In addition we’re seeking long-term and measurable change in how we operate both at RTR and as a part of the broader fashion ecosystem to combat systemic racism and bias. For too long, the fashion industry has co-opted the style, inspiration and ideas of Black culture without ensuring that Black people are economically compensated for this. For better or for worse, fashion plays a powerful role in our sense of self-worth, identity and perceptions of beauty. The fashion industry must do better – and we at Rent the Runway are responsible for being a part of this change. We believe that supporting Black business, Black designers, and Black talent is both in the fashion industry’s moral AND financial best interest.
Our Immediate External Actions:
- Donating for Change: We are donating $100,000 to immediately support organizations combating racial injustice, including NAACP and Black Visions Collective. Financial commitments like this are challenging at this time for Rent the Runway, but we are dedicated to these causes and wanted to take action.
- Allocating $1M for Black Designers: We will also be allocating an additional $1M to support Black designers through our wholesale, platform and co-manufacturing initiatives, which includes providing design resources, data, mentorship and financial support to create collections for RTR. It is critically important to us that a significant portion of our $1M goes towards launching fashion brands from Black designers who have not had the investment capital to launch on their own.
- Contribute to Aurora James’ #15PercentPledge: Inspired by Aurora James, we are making our own pledge and committing today that at least 15% of the fashion talent that we feature and support moving forward are from the Black community, inclusive of the models in our marketing, the ambassadors we use, and the styling talent, photographers, videographers and crews behind the camera.
Actions in the Works:
- Community Involvement: COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the Black community not only from a health perspective but from an employment perspective too. We are brainstorming how to donate clothing both from RTR and our community to women as they prepare for job interviews and other important life moments.
- Our Employee Community: We are proud of what we’ve built so far, but know that we have more work to do to strengthen our culture of diversity and inclusivity at RTR. Here are some of the steps we are evaluating – please know – much more is to come.
- We will build a formal Diversity & Inclusion competency within our HR department
- We will build a formal and comprehensive diversity & inclusion strategy that includes company-wide training, recruiting initiatives, employee feedback, and other steps to embrace and celebrate differences.
It is a difficult time to re-examine how we do business and how we allocate our capital. COVID-19 has not been kind to the fashion industry. Whether you’re in the business of renting, selling or designing clothing, right now, we’re all suffering financially due to a lack of demand for clothes as much of our society is sheltered at home.
But, this time of chaos — when our country is reeling from both racial injustice and coronavirus — is the best time to re-examine our values as business leaders and to change how we do business. Our customers and our teams are watching – let’s make them proud.