Whitney Port, the TV personality, designer and author, is back in the fashion game, designing a summer capsule for Rent the Runway called Love, Whit.
Launching on Rent the Runway today, the capsule is comprised of 19 different styles that run the gamut from floral dresses and sexy tops to two-piece dressing and suits.
“I had a clothing line [Whitney Eve] that I stopped doing in 2014, and I have been itching to design ever since I stopped doing it,” Port said in a telephone interview. “Once I started developing a relationship with Rent the Runway when I was renting and posting, we started talking about a collaboration, and it just seemed like the perfect fit.”
Port said she wanted to design in a way that was dedicated to promoting sustainability. “I didn’t necessarily have the tools to make that happen,” said the 35-year-old, Los Angeles-based designer. “I wanted to be a part of this new way that women get dressed. It’s just a more sustainable way to experience fashion, without having to really sacrifice anything. You have access to so many designers and so many great pieces, you don’t necessarily have to break the bank.”
Sarah Tam, chief merchant of Rent the Runway, has high expectations for the capsule.
“We expect Whitney’s collection to perform well during this period of time given the true versatility of the styles that can be worn from Zoom calls to small gatherings. Statement tops like the ones in Whitney’s collection have been performing exceedingly well during work-from-home. Dresses still remain our number-one category and Whitney’s dresses are easy to wear and a perfect transition from work calls to small social outings,” Tam said in a separate interview.
One third of Love, Whit is made of recycled fabrics and/or BCI cotton. “We wanted to make sure a portion of the fabrics had the earth in mind and was recycled,” she said.
Port described the line’s aesthetic as reflective of her own style. “I wanted a collection that was easily styled and also a collection that can be mixed and matched together,” she said. The capsule contains floral-printed dresses “that are statement pieces on their own,” that can be styled with sandals or sneakers, she noted. There’s a soft suit that can be worn separately or together, as well as two piece sets. “It’s an outfit designed for them, and they don’t have to think much, and they’re also just really flattering.” The prints were “all custom designed, the color story is very reflective of my aesthetic,” Port said.
“If you were to look in my house, you’d see all those colors in the textiles of my house. There’s really pretty reds and corals and teals and a citron/lime green. It’s based on a neutral palette, nudes, cremes, blushes,” she added.
Port said every piece is for rent, but a customer can purchase it once she’s rented it. Retail prices range from $156 for blouses to $276 for dresses.
Obviously this is a difficult time to launch a new collection, and Port said the deal was in the works for many months and she started designing last year.
“Because this is a rental program and people can shop in the luxury of their own home, this is a way for women to put themselves together in a way that empowers them and brings a little bit of happiness to their lives. For me, getting dressed during this whole experience has made me feel sane. It makes me feel I can accomplish more, and it makes me feel a little bit more ‘normal.’ I’m not just comfortable in my sweats, which obviously I sometimes want to be. I do think people who love fashion will be excited about this because it’s a way to just appreciate new things and bring some happiness into the world,” she said.
Port said it hasn’t been decided whether this will be a one-time collection or an ongoing collaboration.
She said she worked very closely with the Rent the Runway team. “I was there from the inception, and provided all of the inspiration, the mood boards and the color story and the print direction and the silhouettes. I was a part of the fittings and made sure from the beginning to the end that it all had my stamp of approval,” she said.
To promote the capsule, both she and Rent the Runway will be posting various content on their social media channels.
Port envisions the customer being a woman ranging from her young 20s to 40s, or older. “I feel that there’s something for everyone in the collection,” she said. She described her favorite piece as the suit, and more specifically, the jacket. “The color is so pretty and it looks good on everyone. The fabric is really soft, it can be worn over a dress, over jeans, over leather; it’s one of the pieces you’ll have in your closet forever and wear so many different ways,” Port said. Another favorite is a statement piece that’s a neon green, voluminous peasant-y top.
Everything is made in China.
Port had her own contemporary collection from 2008 to 2014. She ran the company with her brother, sister and dad, who essentially served as president of the company. When her dad died, they tried to continue moving the company forward, but it was too hard without him, she said. They had to close it down.
Her collection supports a nonprofit, Until We Do It, which helps overlooked communities in times of crisis. Port and Rent the Runway will donate $10 every time a new customer signs up using Port’s redemption code for a Rent the Runway Two-Swap Membership through 2020. The charity is focused on distributing 50,000 masks to the communities most at risk for COVID-19, including Black and brown communities, the homeless, Native American communities, the elderly, working families and rural communities.
Port said she’s keeping busy with her weekly “With Whit” podcast (during quarantine she’s been recording a series called “Staying Home With Whit,”) and is working on her YouTube videos, where they run reaction videos to her old TV show, “The City.” She also does a series on Instagram called “Wait What With Whit,” where she tries things she’s never had the time to do.
When Tam was asked whether it was hard to launch a new rental collection during COVID-19, when women aren’t necessarily looking to dress up or aren’t going to their offices and are working from home, she said, “Rent the Runway is about so much more than occasion dressing. So many of our members have made RTR an important part of their everyday lives, so we’re hearing from them that renting is an act of routine and normalcy that sparks joy during this time. We know from countless studies that getting dressed is an important tether to identify and that mood and clothing are heavily connected, so even for newer members, we’re continuing to see rental behavior during this time.”
“As our new normal accelerates and solidifies, some of the structural changes we’ve been seeing in retail over the past decade, sustainability and value are becoming even more important decision metrics — both of which are key to the RTW value proposition,” Tam said.
As for how the rental business is doing overall, and whether women are starting to sign up again now that things have eased somewhat and women are starting to socialize a little more, Tam replied, “We’re seeing many positive signs that indicate our business will emerge from this time in a strong position, including resumption of memberships in states entering later phases of reopening and members continuing to pause rather than canceling. We are also seeing our customers electing to join some of our more value-geared subscription options, because they offer four or eight items a month which fits their needs during this time. Finally, it has been interesting to see that although casual and ath-leisure styles are performing exceptionally well, we’re seeing increased demand in fun, daytime looks such as maxidresses and printed jumpsuits as our customers are ready to move on from leggings and Ts.”