Fashionable Discovery With Rent the Runway's Sarah Tam



Here at Brand Assembly our love and admiration for emerging designers and their unique point of view knows no end. So, you can imagine our excitement whenever we meet likeminded individuals and companies who share in this passion - take our recent meeting with Sarah Tam the SVP of Merchandising at Rent the Runway for instance.

You could say that the sartorially inclined, bubbly, and passionate industry executive reignited our fervor for fashion when we met with her at Rent the Runway’s new Style Studio in Lower Manhattan earlier this month. She happily showed us around the space which many brands, both emerging and established alike, now call home (even if only temporarily). With Rent the Runway’s commitment to making fashion more attainable for shoppers everywhere, we were happy to learn that their mission also encourages discovery too. “There has been a paradigm shift in fashion recently. Consumers are leaning more towards discovery and experimentation,” Sarah explained, “Emerging brands are providing this sense of discovery versus big brands. My advice to our clients would be to experiment with something new that you are not familiar with.”

We couldn’t agree more and are excited to share our conversation with Sarah today in partnership with The Style Line. Read on for our chat below featuring Sarah’s insight on fashion and technology, the importance of the emerging designer community and what she’s assembling daily. 

Please introduce yourself! 

I'm a mom of two rambunctiously fun boys and a wife to a truly amazing man who happens to be a fabulous dad as well. We love living in Manhattan but also enjoy escaping the city on the weekends.  You can usually find us near water – swimming in the pool, stomping around in the ocean, or paddle boarding in the harbor. Our gatherings with family and friends are chock-full of laughs and good times. I also have an affinity for interior design and gardening vegetables and herbs.  

Based on your experience how do you think Rent the Runway enables emerging designers to make their mark on the fashion industry and grow their community? 

Having the privilege to work with so many talented designers, I realized how hard it was for a brand to get the exposure it deserved. At Rent the Runway we give brands a voice to reach our 5.8M members. Our customers also have a much further reach than any other consumer previously. She is willing to share by writing reviews, posting on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook therefore expanding her reach to her whole network of family, friends, and acquaintances. In addition, Rent the Runway is able to provide our designer community with greater insights and data into our customers. We are able to give detailed feedback based on reviews, behavior, and geo-targeted information.  

How would you describe your relationship with Rent the Runway designers and what is your favorite aspect of working with them?

After spending the majority of my career within the merchandising organization at Saks Fifth Avenue, I left to join forces with Rent the Runway. It has been so invigorating to work with the brands I love and partner with them to innovate and introduce a new concept that will further develop the fashion landscape. At Rent the Runway we are tackling a whole new demographic. I truly enjoy collaborating with brands on developing a strategy on engaging our customers with their brand.   

Being that Rent the Runway is online what are your thoughts on the growing synergy between fashion and technology? How do you think this impacts designers more than anyone else?

Technology is enabling brands to reach a wider audience than ever before. There are also more mediums brands can now use to interact with their consumers. From Snapchat, Instagram, blogs, videos and Facebook – consumers can feel more connected to brands and experience a brand more personally.  Also, many of these mediums offer consumers the chance to comment or post creating an engaging relationship between consumers and brands. At Rent the Runway, we are harnessing the power of Snapchat where customers can reach out to us on specific concerns they have over a garment. We then access our internal community to video back answering questions on fit, styling, or other specific concerns with a particular dress they are interested in. This personalization and dynamic relationship is what will create a more authentic relationship with your audience. Designers will have more tools than ever before to tell their story and articulate the passion, creativity, and craftsmanship that go into growing/creating a brand.  

Here at Brand Assembly we’re all about fostering support for emerging and contemporary fashion designers. What advice can you offer to Rent the Runway clients who are looking to incorporate more “on the rise” names in their wardrobe?

There has been a paradigm shift in fashion recently. Consumers are leaning more towards discovery and experimentation. Emerging brands are providing this sense of discovery versus big brands. My advice to our clients would be to experiment with something new that you are not familiar with. Emerging brands present a fresh perspective and further individualization in the fashion landscape. It will enhance and evolve your personal style and what better way to do so than trying something new from our Rent the Runway closet. So many of our clients discover new brands they totally fall in love with.  

What do you assemble daily? 

Inspiration boards. I love assembling images that trigger inspiration, emotions and ideas. Every day, I culminate a few photos that inspire my creativity, style and evolve my personal preferences. They could be images of interiors, travel locations, street style, gardens, or nature. Taking notice of the details that surrounds us empowers me to have a greater appreciation of the beauty that our environment provides us daily.