Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

About 40 percent of the Oscar winner’s Draper James line is made in the United States.

“Pretty please is just not just a phrase to get what you want, but it is a lifestyle.”

That is one of the mottos of Academy Award winning actress Reese Witherspoon’s company, Draper James.

Launched in 2015, Witherspoon’s southern lifestyle company is designed to be a southern experience, and the actress wants it to tell a southern story. The company’s very name honors her grandparents and the community in which she was raised: Draper James comes from a combination of her grandparents’ names: Dorothea Draper and James Witherspoon.

Unlike some celebrities, who partner with a fashion retailer to start their own clothing line, Witherspoon invested her own money to launch Draper James. With her family’s name on the company (and her own money on the line) Witherspoon wanted the quality of the clothing to be great.

In order to meet that goal, Witherspoon decided that her clothes and products should be made in the United States whenever possible.

Today, more than 40 percent of Draper James products are Made in America. “The company’s eventual aim is to produce everything domestically, and whenever possible, south of the Mason-Dixon line,” Draper James CEO Andrea Hyde states.

Witherspoon’s devotion to Made in America can be found on the Draper James website, which includes a video of Witherspoon visiting a factory in Blue Ridge, Ga., where the jeans for her company are made. This factory is made up of 40 women who have been making blue jeans throughout their life. 

“I want to support artisans that are already existing in the south, and it is crucial to bring more opportunities to them,” Witherspoon says.

“It was really important to me that as much as possible we could make the clothing in the United States,” Witherspoon adds. “People from here work hard; they care about their work. They take pride in it, and it makes all the difference to know that each pair is made with love.”

Witherspoon also developed a bond with the factory workers. “They all talked like my grandma, and it made me so happy to empower them and to tell their stories," she says.

Despite Witherspoon's aim to have her clothing and products be completely manufactured in the United States, not all Draper James products are Made in America. Witherspoon admits that there are hurdles.

“It’s hard doing the manufacturing in America. It’s been interesting, and we are learning a lot about how the customers respond to it,” she says. “There are certain things they do care about, and there are certain things they don’t care about. We tried selling a blanket that was made by an artisan on a farm, and it ended up being just too expensive for the customer. It has to be custom to the brand and something that the customer is getting at the right price point.”

For example, Witherspoon explains how when she invested in the denim factory, she found she needed to buy new machines in order for workers to produce the jeans with more of a stretch; the workers were used to making stiff jeans that government contractors ordered.

While the company is still learning about how to help define potential wholesale partners and manufacture more often in the south, it's easier for consumers to find Made in America Draper James merchandise.

To make it simple for shoppers, there is a special section on the Draper James website exclusively for made in America products. The Made in the U.S.A. tab features clothes, stationary, and home accessories just like the rest of the website, making it easy for consumers to take part in the lifestyle of Draper James and support the artisans who are close to home.