Actress turned fashion entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon was in town the other day to kick off the holiday shopping season in Southern style, with the launch of her Draper James boutique in Buckhead.
“Draper James is a brand that is about celebrating the South,” she said during a quick interview during the private preview party. “There’s nothing more quintessentially Southern than Atlanta. It’s about being open and friendly, the way Southerners are.”
The brand, with a strong online presence and other brick-and-mortar locations in Dallas, Nashville and Lexington, Ky., pays homage to her grandmother, Dorothea Draper, and her grandfather, William James Witherspoon.
“I learned from my grandmother that when you look good, you feel good,” she said. “I always have loved fashion, ever since I was little. I love pretty clothes. I love happy, cheerful things. I think we need some optimism right now. Sometimes clothes can do that for you.”
The Buckhead Draper James is at 3400 Around Lenox Drive, in the Shops Around Lenox shopping center across the street from Lenox Square. (It’s not part of the mall, and don’t even think of parking there and strolling off lest you get ticketed, booted or towed. Atlanta parking is no joke.)
Filming projects that have brought Witherspoon to metro Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia include the 2014 drama “The Good Lie,” the 2013 legal thriller “Devil’s Knot” and the 2002 romantic comedy “Sweet Home Alabama,” but this trip was all about fashion. Joining Witherspoon to christen her new shop were broadcaster Mara Davis, author Emily Giffin and Spanx founder Sarah Blakely. Guests included Barbara Dye, Lauren Flint, Hayley Kleinknecht and Darby Fallon.
Earlier in the day SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace honored Witherspoon with the university’s Étoile Award, saluting her contributions to fashion, culture, design and style.
“What a great woman who’s doing so many wonderful things, creating educational opportunities and real building blocks for people,” said Witherspoon, who joins previous honorees including David Yurman, Pierre Cardin, Linda Fargo and Carolina Herrera. “It was inspiring.”
In May, Draper James will unveil an exclusive “Mommy and Me” collection representing Witherspoon’s partnership with SCAD’s Collaborative Learning Center.
“I love matchy-matchy anything,” she said.
She advises those interested in a fashion career to get as much retail and design experience as possible, and to link up with a business partner. Folks more on the numbers side of things should join forces with creative types.
A successful start-up, she believes, blends the two. Her line, with must-haves like a “Happy Y’allidays” sweatshirt, T-shirts with sayings like “Sweet as a Peach” or “Southern Fried” and lots of pretty party dresses, has been a meaningful labor of love.
“I love that things are unapologetically feminine,” Witherspoon said.
There’s one thing you probably won’t find with a Draper James label, though.
“I’m not a big fan of the crop top, to be totally honest,” she mused. “I’ve had three kids. It’s not my favorite look.”