Most Influential People2019

Jennifer Hyman

By Diane von Furstenberg
CEO of Rent the Runway Jennifer Hyman
George Etheredge

In November 2008, a young Harvard Business School student emailed me and asked to meet with me to discuss a business idea. Her boldness inspired me to see her right away. She much later confessed to me that when she saw me, her idea of renting designer clothing online was only three days old. As soon as Jennifer Hyman began to deliver her pitch with passion and confidence, I knew she would go far.

And go far she has. The company Jennifer co-founded, Rent the Runway, has not only become a $1 billion business—a milestone fewer than 20 woman-owned companies in the U.S. have ever achieved—but also did so when Jennifer was nine months pregnant. Its highly successful introduction of a sharing economy for fashion is completely transforming our industry.

In our first meeting, I told Jennifer that fast fashion was hurting the designer industry. She ran with that problem and solved so many others along with it: democratizing access to designer fashion, increasing sustainability by reducing the tendency to overbuy, and helping her customers to feel their best and live their most confident lives.

Jennifer has been on countless lists of top founders and disrupters, innovators and trailblazers. But what impresses me most is her dedication to advocating for women, come hell or high water. I can only imagine how far she’ll go and how many she’ll bring along with her. Just as she came to me for mentorship, she has now become a mentor herself.

Von Furstenberg is a fashion designer and chair of the Council of Fashion Designers of America