Rent the Runway is offering South Asian fashion for the first time, and it all started with a cold email

This is the first time Rent the Runway has offered South Asian fashion on its platform.

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This is the first time Rent the Runway has offered South Asian fashion on its platform.
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Rent the Runway
  • On Wednesday, Rent the Runway made Indian formal wear available to rent for the first time ever.
  • The rental website is offering two lehengas and an anarkali from a brand called Sani.
  • Rent the Runway will also be releasing how-to videos on the proper way to style each garment.
  • One of Sani’s founders, Niki Shamdasani, told Insider the partnership started after she emailed Rent the Runway’s CEO, Jennifer Hyman.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For the first time ever, Rent the Runway is offering South Asian fashion on its platform.

On Wednesday, the rental company made three designs from Sani, a brand founded in 2017 by sisters Niki and Ritika Shamdasani, available to rent.

“Rent the Runway has always been a destination to get dressed for special events and celebrations, which made expanding our inventory with Sani feel like a natural extension for us,” Sarah Tam, chief merchant officer at Rent the Runway, told Insider via email. “We gravitated towards Niki and Ritika’s modern take on South Asia’s timeless styles and are excited to offer this female-founded brand to our community.”

Rent the Runway is currently offering three options from Sani

The rental platform has two lehengas – full ankle-length skirts with matching tops – and an anarkali, which is a dress-like garment that’s fitted at the waist, on its site. All of the options come with a dupatta, a scarf-like piece that can be styled in a number of ways.

Those who don’t have an unlimited membership with Rent the Runway can still pay to reserve the South Asian pieces for four or eight days.

The sleeveless red Siri Anarkali costs $80 to rent for four days or $128 for eight days.

The Siri Anarkali by Sani.

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The Siri Anarkali by Sani.
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Rent the Runway

The blue Husna Lehenga, which comes with a cap-sleeve top, a matching skirt, and a detached dupatta, costs $95 to rent for four days or $152 for eight days.

The Husna Lehenga by Sani.

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The Husna Lehenga by Sani.
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Rent the Runway

The final garment available is the silver-and-navy Ashley Lehenga, which includes a sleeveless top, a floral embroidered skirt, and a detached dupatta. The outfit costs $100 to rent for four days or $160 for eight days.

The Ashley Lehenga by Sani.

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The Ashley Lehenga by Sani.
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Rent the Runway

Niki told Insider the partnership started after she decided to email Rent the Runway’s CEO on a whim

Sisters Niki and Ritika Shamdasani founded Sani in 2017.

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Sisters Niki and Ritika Shamdasani founded Sani in 2017.
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Niki Shamdasani

Insider spoke to Niki who said the partnership came about after she decided to cold email Rent the Runway’s CEO, Jennifer Hyman.

“Over a year ago, I listened to the podcast ‘How I Built This’ where Jennifer [Hyman] talked about how she cold-emailed and cold-called Diane Von Furstenberg, and that was one of the things that helped get her business off the ground,” she said. “That inspired me to email her because we had been thinking about how perfect a partner Rent the Runway could be for some time.”

Niki told Insider that she believes this happened because a CEO that’s at Hyman’s level “still does for others what she has to do for herself.”

“She very quickly put me in touch with her amazing team, and the rest is history,” Niki added.

Rent the Runway and Sani plan to release how-to videos to teach people about the clothing

In addition to making the traditional South Asian pieces available for rent, Sani and Rent the Runway are going to share how-to videos in order to educate people about the clothes and how to style them.

Rent the Runway is already offering tips for how to wear a dupatta on its site.

Rent the Runway currently has styling tips on how to wear a dupatta.

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Rent the Runway currently has styling tips on how to wear a dupatta.
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Rent the Runway

“Releasing the how-to videos will help make sure people who are wearing the clothes have an understanding of what it means and what it is,” Niki said.

“From the beginning, for us, its been about providing incredible South Asian fashion and making it accessible to South Asian Americans but also bringing other people into it, and celebrating our culture on a global level, increasing the visibility of the craftsmanship and culture behind South Asian fashion.”

For the Sani designers, it was important to note that their designs are only a fraction of all the South Asian fashion that’s available out there.

“Something we’ve been so mindful of is that all of South Asian fashion isn’t being represented with the styles we have online,” Niki said. “It’s such a rich and complex region that there is a lot that isn’t being shown.”

“We are getting to help open the doors for more of this and it’s really a privilege to do it with Rent the Runway because they’ve been so excited about bringing that knowledge and awareness instead of just putting up a bunch of designs online, and that’s exactly what we wanted.”