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Rent the Runway introduces South Asian formal wear

Rent the Runway goes desi! Users can rent an anarkali suit or lehengas designed by fashion company Sani.
/ Source: NBC News

Rent the Runway goes desi! It made its foray into South Asian clothing Tuesday with the introduction of formal Indian wear.

The clothing rental service, which offers a range of options from casual sweaters to formal gowns, partnered with the U.S.-based South Asian clothing company Sani to offer an anarkali suit (an embroidered, dress-like frock often paired with a pant called a churidar) and two lehengas (a long skirt usually paired with a blouse called a choli).

Sani’s CEO and co-founder Niki Shamdasani said Rent the Runway was the perfect partner to create accessible pieces because they placed importance on the context behind the garments.

“For us, with Sani, it’s always been about celebrating our culture on a global level, and increasing the visibility of the craftsmanship and culture of South Asian fashion,” Shamdasani said.

Sani's co-founders, from left, Niki and Ritika Shamdasani
Sani's co-founders, from left, Niki and Ritika Shamdasani.Courtesy of Niki Shamdasani

Sani also created videos showing customers how to drape the dupatta, a scarf-like cloth worn to accessorize many South Asian outfits, so that people won’t wear the outfits out of context.

Sarah Tam, Rent the Runway's chief merchant officer, said the company listens to customers' feedback to see if it is meeting their needs, and it launches new products, categories and designers in response.

"Sani is the first South Asian style brand that we've added to our offering and we look forward to gathering the feedback on it from our members, so stay tuned for more," Tam said in an email.

After New York Times reporter Sapna Maheshwari tweeted about the three Sani pieces Rent the Runway is offering, people voiced their appreciation for the availability of Indian formal wear.

“This is brilliant since many only wear outfits once or twice for weddings!” one user wrote.

Maheshwari also wrote that Rent the Runway’s offerings were “extra thrilling” because she is planning an Indian wedding and wants to refer guests to reliable rental sites, but that it could also eventually be bad news for independent rental sites that already offer Indian formal wear.

Shamdasani, however, said having a platform where Sani can inform people about South Asian fashion is incredible for the company. She said that she sees the partnership increasing the market for those who are in the South Asian fashion space.

“We don’t see it as it’s minimizing or shrinking who’s out there,” Shamdasani said. “I think it’s going to create more and more opportunities.”