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Ann Taylor Is Pulling a Rent the Runway

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Would You Pay $95 to Rent Ann Taylor?
Woman wearing a red sweater and a plaid skirt

There are shoppers who view Ann Taylor’s family of brands, including Loft and Lou & Grey, as the destination for classic, affordable clothing (some would even go so far as to call it a cult favorite). For others, it’s just another mall brand consistently shouting that it’s 40 percent off.

Is either group willing to pay $95 a month to rent an unlimited amount of clothing from the company? Ann Taylor is betting on it.

Last month, Infinite Style quietly launched on an independent website. For a monthly fee, including shipping and exchanges, members can rent three pieces of clothing at a time from Ann Taylor’s current season. Jewelry, accessories, Loft, and Lou & Grey aren’t included, but there is an option to buy what you want to keep (at a discount). By launching something that’s like a cross between Stitch Fix and Rent the Runway’s Unlimited service, Ann Taylor is trying to win back the customers it’s likely lost to both. Both startups have surged to success over the last few years: Stitch Fix filed for IPO last month, boasting 2.1 million members and $977 million in annual sales; Rent the Runway, which has a $1 billion valuation, just debuted a lower-cost membership of four monthly pieces for $89.

“At Ann Taylor, we are exploring new ways to connect with a new base of clients as well as engage and delight our loyal existing clients,” an Ann Taylor rep wrote to Racked over email.

“We’re definitely optimistic and I think it’s going to be a great new way for this 63-year-old brand to do things in a new and exciting way,” Ann Taylor senior vice president and general manager Julie Rosen told WWD, which first wrote about the service yesterday.

When Rent the Runway launched in 2008, founder Jenn Hyman aimed to fill a now-obvious void: Black tie and eveningwear is usually worn once, so why not rent instead of invest? The company has since expanded to rent clothing, jewelry, and handbags from designers like Mara Hoffman, Proenza Schouler, and Tory Burch. Shoppers can stock their closet with basics like jeans and shoes while paying a fee to pepper in occasion-based clothing like expensive blazers, cocktail dresses, or colorful trendy prints — no strings attached. Classic clothes from Ann Taylor hardly fit this bill; the most expensive item currently on the site is a $400 leather jacket; most of its clothing is workwear like dresses and suit pants that average $100 (and is almost always on sale).

The industry, however, has been hailing rental services as the future for quite some time now. This is thanks, in part, to Rent the Runway, but also because fast fashion has conditioned shoppers to favor disposable, seasonal clothes over investing in a more expensive, longer-lasting wardrobe. Even mid-priced shoe retailer DSW recently announced it was starting to test shoe rentals.

Shoppers don’t have to commit to anything in 2017. They can stream TV shows and music, use a ride-sharing service to avoid buying a car, adopt a puppy for an afternoon, get individually packaged meal prep and never have to buy a whole jar of any one spice. While the market of shoppers who rent clothing is still relatively small — around 6 percent, according to Forrester — 62 percent of millennials and 57 percent of teenagers say they’d like to be able to rent from more brands, according to research firm Cassandra. Add this to the list of ways to (possibly) save mall brands from their ill-fated future. —Chavie Lieber, senior reporter

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The bags, shoes, beanies, and more that comprise Urban Outfitters’ latest promo, up to 50% off women’s fall accessories, are generally either extremely neutral or extremely bright. In the neutral category, there are these tan suede Chelsea boots ($44, from $89), this oversized scarf (now $29), and this rather perfect black saddle crossbody bag ($129, from $199). And on the bright side — get it? — we have this faux-snakeskin purse for $29, a hot pink neoprene mini backpack for $39, and iridescence on everything from fanny packs ($8) to tote bags ($19).

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This Week I Wanna Dress Like: Rachel Green in Search of a Monkey
Rachel Green in season one of Friends

Sometimes, you come across an outfit you just can’t forget. It could be from a movie, a music video, a TV show, or a book — or perhaps it’s something your favorite famous person once wore while walking the dog or grabbing coffee. Welcome to This Week I Wanna Dress Like, where we pair pop culture inspiration with actually shoppable outfits.

Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green might be most famous for her namesake haircut, but her personal style was just as influential throughout the ’90s — and unlike that layered shag, it totally holds up today. From layered slip dresses to overalls, nearly every look Friends’s resident fashion plate put together was, as Chandler Bing would say about gum, perfection. (Okay, except for this purple schoolmarm situation. Rach, why?!)

But while there are tons of memorable Rachel style moments worth shouting out (and shopping out), nothing really compares to the rolled-neck sweater, plaid mini kilt, and striped knee socks she wears in season 1’s “The One Where the Monkey Gets Away.” Keep in mind that this episode aired months before Clueless hit theaters, and years before Britney Spears stormed her high school halls in a similar schoolgirl-style outfit. And what’s more, it looks just as stylish 22 years later. Below, a few preppy pieces to help you complete the look, should you feel so inclined — whether you plan to wear it to the office, out to dinner, or, you know, while scooping monkey poop out of your shoe. Elana Fishman, entertainment editor

A white sweater, a plaid skirt, and tube socks

Wilfred Garrand Sweater, $85; Boohoo Zaina Buckle Skirt, $18; American Apparel Stripe Knee-High Sock, $10.

Got an iconic outfit you’re equally obsessed with? Email me at elana@racked.com — I just might shop it out for you!

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