Jan 07
Her eye on the news
Designers for rent

The entrepreneur who devised the idea behind a popular startup that’s been described as the “Netflix of fashion” is speaking out about how her company is allowing women to rent expensive designer outfits each day — instead of dishing out the hundreds or even thousands of dollars they would have to pay in order to buy them. Rent the Runway was originally dreamed up by Jennifer Hyman, who told ABC’s Nightline that she came up with the idea after her younger sister put herself into credit card debt so she could buy a “very expensive designer dress for a wedding that she knew she was only going to wear once.”

“It was a lightbulb moment — if all we want is to walk into an event and look great in an outfit we’re going to wear once, why can’t we rent clothes?” she recalled in an interview with Rebecca Jarvis.

After a discussion with her friend Jennifer Fleiss, whom she met while attending Harvard Business School, the two women co-founded Rent the Runway and began the difficult process of attracting backing — not only financially, but from the designers who would supply their wardrobe. To begin, they decided to target legendary designer Diane von Furstenberg — the problem was, they had no contacts or connections that could facilitate and introduction to the fashion icon.

Hyman and Fleiss then came up with a shrewd solution to their problem: They sent out emails to every possible variation on “” that they could think of. Amazingly, one of the emails went through and made it to von Furstenberg. She agreed to meet with them.

Diane von Furstenberg, Founder and Co-Chairman, DVF Studio on ‘Designing Disruption’ at The 2017 Women In The World Summit in New York City in 2017. Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss of Rent the Runway came up with a clever way of pitching her the idea for the company — even though they had no business connections with the fashion icon.

“The meeting started off terribly because she hated the idea,” said Hyman. “But by the end of the conversation we learned that she would be interested in working with us if we could introduce her to women in the teens, 20s, 30s and even 40s.”

In short order, more than 500 other designers had signed on as well. The financial backing followed suit. Hyman has now reportedly raised more than $190 million for the venture, more than other woman-led startup, according to the company. Today, Rent the Runway is valued at nearly $1 billion and raked in $100 million in revenue in 2016, according to CNBC.

Initially, the company rented out one dress at a time to customers. Now, it also offers an unlimited package, in which women can rent out three pieces from their collection every day if they so choose. And the company operates what ABC News describes as the largest dry cleaning facility in the country in Secaucus, New Jersey, to clean and all of the garments customers rent and return

Eventually, Hyman predicts, the idea of spending money on buying clothing will seem ridiculous.

“I think between 10 and 15 years from now the closet is going to feel like a relic of the past — just like a landline or cd does today,” Hyman said. “You’ll wake up in the morning, put on a pot of coffee, go on your app, tap here’s what I want to where today, and it’s delivered to you within half an hour.”

Watch the Nightline report below, which also features an interview with Rachel Jo Silver, pictured above, a New York woman whose says her entire designer wardrobe is rented.


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On ice

Nearly a quarter-century ago, the American sports world was jolted by a stunning attack that left Team USA figure skater and Olympian Nancy Kerrigan injured after she was slammed in the leg with a metal crowbar by a mysterious assailant who promptly fled the scene. News cameras captured the brazen assault and its immediate aftermath, showing Kerrigan crumpled on the floor of a skating rink screaming in pain just after she left the ice where she’d been practicing. Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and his associate, Shawn Eckardt, eventually pleaded guilty for their involvement in the attack (Eckhardt was identified as the assailant who delivered the crowbar blow.)

This week, Harding, spoke out about the perception that she was involved in planning the attack, a notion that has followed her ever since. The disgraced figure skater has spoken out several times about the attack in the past, but, according to Kerrigan, has never given a personal apology in the ensuing years after, even though she’s expressed regret in front of news cameras on several occasions.

Tonya Harding seen here in 1994, apologizing that her teammate and rival Nancy Kerrigan was attacked. (Facebook / ABC News)

In an interview with Amy Robach of ABC News, Harding said she had nothing to do with the attack on Kerrigan. “I’m always the bad person,” Harding lamented about her public image, “and I never understood that.” She denied that she cooked up the idea of going after Kerrigan and proposed it to Gillooly, but did admit that she was aware Gillooly and Eckhardt were plotting some sort of dastardly deed.

“I did, however, overhear them talking about stuff, where, ‘Well, maybe we should take somebody out so we can make sure she gets on the team.’ And I remember telling them, I go, ‘What the hell are you talking about? I can skate,’” Harding recalled.

“This was, like, a month or two months before [the attack],” Harding added. “But they were talking about skating and saying, ‘Well, maybe somebody should be taken out so then, you know, she can make it.'”

Harding married Gillooly in 1990 at the age of 19. Three years later, the two divorced and Harding said she was aware Gillooly had a dark side. She told Robach that during their tumultuous marriage, she feared for her life “many times” because of Gillooly. Harding said Gillooly was never able to fully destroy her, though.

After watching the video footage of the infamous attack, Harding became emotional and said,

“It makes you cringe, hearing it. Because you know how much that it had to have hurt.”

Watch a short video of clips from the Harding interview and others, including journalists who have covered the story over the years.

Read the full story at ABC News.


A shocking outpouring of hate and racism greeted the family of the first baby to be born in Vienna in 2018, after a picture of the mother wearing a headscarf while holding the newborn was published in Austrian newspapers across the country. While public announcements of “New Year’s Babies” have long been a popular tradition in German-speaking countries, internet rights and refugee support groups said they had never seen such a furious response directed at an infant.

In the picture, Naime and Alper Tamga can be seen posing with their newborn daughter Asel, beaming with pride. But, initially at least, many of the comments posted on the social media pages of outlets that showed the picture were vindictive, cruel, and threatening.

“I’m hoping for a crib death. Deport the scum immediately,” wrote one user on Heute’s Facebook page, the newspaper reported. In addition to the hateful messages, however, were positive ones. And in a remarkable turn, Austrians organized themselves in a concerted effort to change the conversation.

Klaus Schwertner, secretary general of the Vienna chapter of the Roman Catholic charity Caritas, called on his followers to support the family on social media, as more than 17,000 people chimed in with congratulations, words of support, and love.

“Welcome to the world little one. May your life be blessed with love and peace,” wrote Facebook user Liesbeth Halbertsma. “I know it doesn’t always look like that in the world … but there is so much beauty and love. Sending you much love.”

According to Barbara Unterlechner, director of #GegenHassimNetz, a center that provides support and legal advice for victims of online hate speech, the arrival during the past two years of more than 145,000 migrants — including many from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan — had coincided with a growing number of Austrians who feel that all Muslims are “an enemy of our culture.”

Speaking with The New York Times, Unterlechner offered her thoughts on how to combat the anti-Muslim sentiment — and the impact of the country’s recent elections.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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First couple

First Lady Melania Trump goes for days at a time without seeing her husband, President Donald Trump, and the two may even use separate bedrooms in the White House, according to excerpts from journalist Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Wolff, who conducted more than 200 interviews, including discussions with President Donald Trump and other prominent figures inside and outside of his administration, claims that Melania’s marriage with Donald was “perplexing to almost everybody around him.” Even when they were both at Trump Tower at the same time, he wrote, the couple would often “go days at a time without contact.”

“Often she did not know where he was, or take much notice of that fact. Her husband moved between residences as he would move between rooms,” wrote Wolff.

Wolff also built on prior reports that the famously private Melania never wanted her husband to run for president, let alone win the election, in the first place — claims she has denied. Melania, Wolff reported, was afraid of the consequences an electoral victory would have on her life, which largely revolved around raising their 12-year-old son Barron. According to Wolff, Melania was seen crying tears of sadness after Trump won the election in a shocking outcome. Donald, he added, had been heard on multiple occasions referring to Melania as his “trophy wife,” and had largely been absent from Barron’s life. Melania, The New York Times has reported, cost taxpayers an estimated $127,000 to $146,000 a day in security costs before she finally moved into the White House in June, after Barron had finished the year at his school in New York City. The book, according to The Daily Mail, also portrays the president as a “chronically” unfaithful husband. Possible enmity that may exist between the two has spilled into public view a couple of times during the president’s first year in office.

First lady Melania Trump looks as President Donald Trump is reflected in her glasses. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

Trump has issued increasingly furious responses to the excerpts from Wolff’s book, claiming on Twitter on Thursday that he had never actually allowed Wolff to interview him or others in the White House.

“I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book,” Trump tweeted.

Melania’s White House spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, has also denied the claims made in Wolf’s book, saying in a statement that she felt the book deserved “to be sold in the bargain fiction section.”

While Wolff’s credibility has been called into question in some of his previous work, reports of the alleged distance between Melania and her husband date back to the beginning of their marriage. In 2005, Melania was addressing students at NYU when she was asked whether she would still be with Donald if he wasn’t rich.

“If I weren’t beautiful, do you think he’d be with me?” Melania reportedly replied at the time.

Read the full story at The Daily Mail.


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Syria-born writer Rayya Elias, the partner of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, has died of pancreatic and liver cancer at the age of 57. In emotional posts shared by Gilbert on social media, she wrote that being with Elias had “been the greatest honor of my life” and that “I will always love you.” Just four days ago, Gilbert had posted a picture of the couple celebrating the New Year together on Instagram.

“She was my love, my heart, my best friend, my teacher, my rebel, my angel, my protector, my challenger, my partner, my muse, my wizard, my surprise, my gift, my comet, my liberator, my rock star, my completely impossible non-cooperator, my otherworldly visitor, my spiritual portal, and my baby,” wrote Gilbert on Facebook. “I loved you so much, Rayya. Thank you for letting me walk with you right to the edge of the river.”

Happy New Year, everyone. You made it. We made it. Blessed be. #2018

A post shared by Elizabeth Gilbert (@elizabeth_gilbert_writer) on

In September 2016, just two months after Gilbert announced that she had ended her marriage with Jose Nunes, the Brazilian trader she met and famously wrote about in Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert revealed that she had fallen in love with her best friend, Rayya Elias. Prompting the public declaration was a grim reality — Elias had recently been informed that she was suffering from terminal cancer.

“Death — or the prospect of death — has a way of clearing away everything that is not real, and in that space of stark and utter realness, I was faced with this truth: I do not merely love Rayya; I am in love with Rayya. And I have no more time for denying that truth,” Gilbert wrote at the time.

This past July, Gilbert wrote a song about Elias, “Happy Home,” that Elias performed herself in a powerful music video. Gilbert explained that Elias had been forced to cancel her one-woman show in New York City because of her declining health, and asked that those who had hoped to see Elias perform watch the video for “Happy Home” instead. The inspiration for the song, Gilbert explained, came from the Chinese myth of “The Banished Immortal,” a divine figure being cast from paradise to “live out one human incarnation on earth.”

“Banished immortals just keep trying to find, or create, or disappear into, a sense of heaven here on earth — because they remember what existence is supposed to feel like, and they know it isn’t supposed to hurt this much,” wrote Gilbert.

The music video for “Happy Home” can still be seen here on Elias’ website.

Read the full story at Mamamia.


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