September 26, 2016 • Category: Articles & Interviews, Draper James •
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Reese Witherspoon on Draper James, Southern Hospitality, and More
The Oscar-winning actress gives AD the inside scoop on the design of her new store in Dallas
Southern hospitality comes naturally to Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon, who was born in New Orleans and raised in Nashville before making it big in Hollywood. Despite the movie premieres and glamorous sets, it turns out she’s still a Tennessee girl at heart. Witherspoon’s charming, down-home vibe is evident in Draper James, her southern-inspired fashion and lifestyle brand, which offers everything from ladylike skirts to plaid coaster sets and pom-pom keychains. After launching her flagship boutique last year in Nashville, the actress recently opened her second Draper James location, fittingly enough, in Dallas’s buzzy Highland Park Village, collaborating with A-list interior designer Mark D. Sikes on the 1,800-square-foot space. Packed with ready-to-wear dresses, accessories, and home products in a variety of upbeat seasonal prints (including the classic-meets-modern pieces in her new Tailgating collection), the store is sure to become the next It shopping destination. Read on for a look inside the pretty-as-punch boutique and see how Witherspoon pulled it all together.
What was your vision for the new Draper James store? I wanted the store to embody the graciousness of southern culture with traditional elements like wallpaper and moldings, but also have a contemporary feel with light fixtures and art. It was important that the store felt like people were walking into my own home.
What was the design process like? I found inspiration all over—on my travels abroad, on Pinterest, of course, and even in my own family heirlooms. In fact, my grandmother Dorothea Draper had a great affinity for design. Her blue-and-white transferware china was a big inspiration for our blue-and-white decor.
What details stand out in the space? The store is set up with an open floor plan, but there are distinct spaces within. You’re meant to feel as if you’ve entered a friend’s house; first you find yourself in an entryway, then at a long marble island with stools (it’s our cash wrap, but it resembles a kitchen), then finally in a living room. The “rooms” are delineated by beautiful floor-to-ceiling curtains.
What was your collaborating like with Mark D. Sikes? He has an amazing blog that I followed with keen interest; Mark has a contemporary take on traditional design that I find very appealing. When I met with him for the first time, I discovered that he had lived in Nashville as well, so when the time came for me to find a designer to collaborate with, he was a natural fit. He understood my southern sensibility and my desire to create a space that incorporated all the comfort and charm of a southern home.
If you ask the Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon, there’s nothing the American South doesn’t have: historic cities, a rich music culture, unbeatable food, and people, she says, who are always cheerful and greet one another with a hug and a smile.
She should know.
Though she lives in Los Angeles, Ms. Witherspoon, 40, was born in New Orleans and raised in Nashville. She is so attached to her roots that she bought a house in Nashville a few years ago and a year ago started a fashion, accessory and home goods line, Draper James, that’s inspired by the region (lots of colors and lots of prints). She named it after her grandmother Dorothea Draper and grandfather William James Witherspoon.
Because the brand has its flagship store in Nashville and many of the goods for it are produced in Southern cities — the jeans in Blue Ridge, Ga., and the stationery in Raleigh, N.C. — the venture has Ms. Witherspoon visiting the area at least once a month. She reflects on why she thinks the South, a place she still calls home, is an appealing travel destination.
Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with her.
Q. Nashville is where you grew up and a city you now have a home in. What are your go-to spots there?
A. There’s an area called Charlotte Pike with great thrift stores. I grew up shopping in them and still go back, but my new go-to for shopping is an up-and-coming part of town called 12 South. That’s where Draper James is located along with many cool stores like Emerson Grace, a boutique selling great clothes from lots of different brands. And I like going to Broadway, which is the heart of the city’s music scene. There’s record stores like Ernest Tubb and bars to hear country music like the Stage, Tootsies and Robert’s Western World. I also head to Pinewood Social. They have a pool and bowling alley and also serve the best fried chicken and fried broccoli.
Where do you like to eat in Nashville?
Jonathan Waxman’s restaurant, Adele’s, has amazing kale salad, roasted chicken and spaghetti.
Hattie B’s is known for the hot chicken. The chicken is coated in some sort of spice before it’s fried. They always have a line out the door. For barbecue like ribs and brisket, it’s Edley’s. The fried okra there reminds me of my grandmother because that’s a dish she used to make every Sunday.
What other cities do you enjoy visiting?
Charleston is a favorite. It’s beautifully preserved. King Street there has great shopping, and the food all over the city is insane — you’ll find spicy fish and shrimp and grits. The best part is that the beach is only around 15 minutes from downtown.
Working on Draper James has taken you to different cities in the South. What discoveries have you made?
Blue Ridge in Georgia, where the Draper James jeans are made, is a quaint old mining town that’s worth seeing. There’s a train that still runs through it, and the old bank is now a cute coffee shop, L&L Beanery.
And although I had been to Atlanta before, I’ve made some new discoveries there like Ann Mashburn, a store with the most stylish clothes. Ann’s husband, Sid Mashburn, has his own store in the back of hers where he makes custom shirts for men, and you get a true Southern gentleman experience. I’ve found some nice restaurants like JCT Kitchen, which has yummy cocktails and cheese sandwiches, and the Optimist, where the seafood is fresh and there is a mini golf course outside. Also, a great to-go spot is Yeah! Burger, where you can get many kinds of burgers along with tasty sides like crispy brussels sprouts.
Reese and Draper James are featured in the new May issue of O – the Oprah Winfrey magazine. In the spread, Reese showcases items from her Draper James line whilst holding a Southern brunch for her friends. Read the article below (courtesy of oprah.com), and find the scans and photoshoot in our Gallery:
Reese Witherspoon Showed Us How to Throw a Classic Southern Party
Another perfect L.A. day made for an outdoor get-together—warm, sunshiny, breeze rippling the backyard pool. But there’s something distinctly un–Bel Air in the air. The smell, for one thing, which is almost like…homemade biscuits. Could there be carbs on the premises? And coming from the speakers—is that Toby Keith, lamenting that if women come a dime a dozen, he ain’t got a penny?
On the patio is the smoking gun: a cauldron of hot-popping fat. A deep fryer must be grounds for a citation here in the land of sea vegetables and hemp milk. Either the apocalypse has come or there’s a Southerner in the house.
Fortunately, it’s the latter. In this case, the Southern girl is Reese Witherspoon, born in New Orleans and raised in Nashville. The actress and producer loves to throw a party, and today there’s a good excuse: She’s celebrating the first anniversary of Draper James, her line of fashion, housewares, and other little touches essential for gracious living. It’s a uniquely Southern combination of tradition (a monogrammed mint julep cup modeled after vintage barware) and humor (a tote bag that says TOTES Y’ALL, which is so popular, it’s sold out twice). “I wanted to make the kinds of things I grew up with and things that would make people happy,” she says. “Southerners don’t take themselves so seriously, and at Draper James, we didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously, either.”
Reese Witherspoon’s New Role: Power Broker The actress has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most influential literary tastemakers in the book-to-screen business
Reese Witherspoon was frustrated. It was 2011, and the screenplays coming across her desk had one bland female character after another. Defined as wives or girlfriends, they were nice, respectable and, for an actor interested in character work, boring. She was drawn much more to the protagonists of the novels and memoirs she curled up with at night.
“My husband said, ‘Honey, you read more books than anybody I know. Why don’t you just option some and turn them into movies?’ ” Ms. Witherspoon recalled in a recent interview in Santa Monica, Calif.
In short order, she teamed up with producer Bruna Papandrea, launched an independent production company called Pacific Standard, and went on the hunt for challenging female characters. The pair quickly demonstrated that they could sniff out best sellers. They scooped up their first two books—Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, “Wild,” and Gillian Flynn’s thriller, “Gone Girl”—before they were published. In July 2012, just five months after the company was launched, the books hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list at the same time—in the nonfiction and fiction categories, respectively. Together, the films earned three Oscar nominations and grossed more than half a billion dollars.
Since then, Ms. Witherspoon has emerged as one of the most influential literary tastemakers in Hollywood. Her regular book recommendations on Instagram send Amazon rankings soaring. At a time when book adaptations remain a crucial segment of the film industry, Pacific Standard is an increasingly important player in the book-to-screen business. She and her partner have also invited some authors to adapt their own books, in the hopes of bringing new writing voices to film and television.
Reese graces the cover of the upcoming February issue of US Harper’s Bazaar magazine! She looks stunning in a new photoshoot, and talks about her current career path and Draper James in the interview. I love the colours and styling of the photoshoot, it’s so pretty. Read the interview below, find the pictures in our Gallery, and watch the behind the scenes video further down this post.
The magazine hits US news-stands on January 19th.
From screen sweetheart to power producer to lifestyle entrepreneur, Reese Witherspoon brings Southern charm to every role.
Reese Witherspoon is sitting in a random office in a glorious location: Nashville’s grand Cheekwood Museum of Art. She’s been twirling all day in concoctions for this cover story—on horses, holding piglets and parasols, and battling oddly aggressive ladybugs. But the great charm of Witherspoon, of course, is that she can look like she’s having the most fun in the world.
And right now, it would seem that she is. After 25 years in films—a long reign as America’s sweetheart, an Oscar for Walk the Line, and a lull before her second nomination, for 2014’s Wild—and with her 40th birthday on the horizon, Witherspoon is not just a star but a force. With her tenacity and sonar-like acumen, she is deftly changing cinema.
“It’s almost like my brain is hardwired to collect information and do things,” Witherspoon says. “I used to do very little with it, and now I’m being more productive, which feels good.” Turns out, she handily notes, that if you spend 25 years making movies, “that’s the way that you learn how to make movies.” In the past four years Witherspoon optioned two books, Gone Girl and Wild, shepherding them through production (and in Wild, shepherding herself up the Pacific Crest Trail) and seeing both receive Oscar nominations.
While Witherspoon could have surfed on a wave of rom-coms until the end of her days, it was a combination of frustration and curiosity that forged her new path. “There was a point, around 2011, there were like five actresses that I admire very much and they all called me and said, ‘There’s this role of this girlfriend in this movie,’ which was kind of just a terrible movie. And we’re all kind of clamoring for this terrible part? We are so much better than this.” So Witherspoon went about changing things.
“I certainly can’t star in all these movies,” she says. “I want to get a female perspective on film that would make my daughter [Ava] understand what it means to be a woman in a different way.”
Witherspoon—who along with Ava, 16, and son Deacon, 12 (with ex-husband Ryan Phillippe), has a three-year-old son, Tennessee James, with her husband, talent agent Jim Toth—credits Toth for her renewed cinematic mojo. “He said, ‘You should produce movies. You read more books than anybody I know. You should just buy some of them and turn them into films.’ ”
A couple of weeks ago Reese attended a conference in Nashville to teach teenage girls about the importance of managing their money and planning their futures. The conference was sponsored by Draper James. Read more about the event in the posts below, and see some pictures in our Gallery:
Reese Witherspoon hosts ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Funds’ event
One of Hollywood’s most powerful women joined some of Nashville’s on Tuesday night, all to mentor the city’s next generation of female business leaders.
Five hundred girls from Metro Nashville Public Schools and their women mentors and moms gathered at the Music City Center to learn the tools of financial responsibility.
Harpeth Hall graduate Reese Witherspoon, her new 12 South boutique, Draper James, and First Tennessee Bank sponsored the free conference.
“When it came up that it was the YWCA, I was so excited,” Witherspoon said. “We used to go there when I was a little girl and take Jazzercise classes with my mom, and my grandma took bridge classes there. It’s always been an incredible place of resource for women in this city.”
Reese was featured in the October/November issue of Garden & Gun magazine, talking about Draper James. Below is the interview, and if anyone can provide us with scans from the issue then please get in touch!
Talking Shop With Reese Witherspoon
The Oscar-winning actress on grace, grandmothers, and breaking ground on her Nashville store
Self-determined since childhood, Nashville-raised actor and producer Reese Witherspoon has always been a get-it-done kind of woman. And so it was with Draper James, her budding fashion and lifestyle brand, which she developed because she “couldn’t find the sort of items I wanted anywhere else.” Named after her grandparents, Draper James celebrates what Witherspoon sees as a renaissance in Southern style, featuring playful dresses and jewelry alongside engraved julep cups and embroidered linens. This fall, she plans to open Draper James’s first store, in Nashville, realizing her dream of building a new tradition in the town she credits with building her.
Tell me about the genesis of Draper James.
I started this for many reasons. First, because I was being approached by Northeastern brands to represent them and I thought, I don’t know anything about the Northeast. I don’t even go there very often. [Laughs.] Then, two years ago I was shooting a movie in Atlanta, and I noticed this boom of cultural growth in the South: in food, music, art, fashion. I saw something similar in New Orleans and other places. I feel like a lot of people who left the South are moving back and bringing with them everything they’ve learned from living elsewhere.
You source and develop much of your line in the South. Your denim is sewn in Blue Ridge, Georgia; your linen pillows in Savannah.
Southerners have such pride in their work. I was tapping into a community that already existed. I started the company myself and funded it myself so I wouldn’t have to do what someone else wanted. My goal was to create a retail experience that spoke to Southern people. I feel like Southerners have their own unique sense of style, and I wanted to be a part of telling the story of what it means to be a contemporary Southern woman.
You’ve always been a bit of an ambassador on that front.
My mother always said, “If you want to get something done, ask a Southern woman to do it.” It’s so true. No matter what you need, within twenty-four hours it has gotten done. The last movie I shot in Georgia, I couldn’t find summer camps for my kids. And I asked one friend, the phone tree happened, and before the day was over I not only had a camp but also women volunteering to drive and pick up the kids. It’s incredible how Southern women take care of each other.
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