If you take a minute to flip through the pages of any high fashion magazine today, you’ll notice monotonous photos of women in monochromatic hues, barely there dresses and lack of outfits fit for a Sunday afternoon stroll. However, Tenessese-born-and-bred Reese Witherspoon is adding fashion and lifestyle entrepreneur to her list of titles (in addition to being an Academy Award-winning actress, producer, philanthropist, and mother of two), and hoping to add a little Southern sass to today’s retail environment.
“About three years ago, I was making a movie in Atlanta and going back and forth to visit my family in Nashville,” said Witherspoon in a recent interview with FastCompany. “There was a real interest in the South to broaden our cultural reach, with hotels opening up, interesting restaurants becoming popular, and music emerging. I felt like I was seeing an artistic and cultural resurgence.”
Witherspoon went on to explain that other retailers weren’t shy to ask her to be the face of their brands. But she didn’t connect with any of the brand messages. Instead, she invested in her vision of what a brand should represent. Enter Draper James, named for her grandparents who represented “true Southern gentility.”
The recently launched apparel and lifestyle brand has already proven to be one of the top new e-tailers of 2015. Within just a few hours of the site going live in May, several items sold out, including $125 tank tops and $325 purses. Fast-forward five months, and Draper James is getting ready to open it’s first set of brick-and-mortar locations at the end of October in Witherspoon’s hometown of Nashville.
While the brunt of Draper James’ success is attributed to Witherspoon, it’s exponential growth can also be credited to CEO Andrea Hyde, a veteran retail executive with experience at Chris Burch, French Connection, Gap, and Calvin Klein, and Forerunner Ventures founder Kirsten Green, who has an impressive track record with retail concepts including Warby Parker and Bonobos, who has joined Draper James’ board of directors.
“More often we see concepts built around a certain product or a business model innovation,” says Green in the FastCompany article. “Reese’s company stood out in that it’s less about an item, or even a category, and really about an attitude and a whole way of life. It’s easy to see a content and product strategy striking an emotional chord with a consumer and delivering a unique experience, which we believe is the strongest place to compete from in business.”
Whether it be more brick-and-mortar stores or expanding a women-led team, one thing is for sure — Witherspoon, CEO and creative director of Draper James, is determined to stay grounded in her Southern roots.
“I’ve never been particularly urban,” Witherspoon said. “There’s a whole world out there, people who are educated and interested and cultural. I want to speak to that audience.”