Kiss my grits. Butter my biscuit. Sweet as sugar.
These and a handful of other Southern sayings are just part of the feast-for-your-eyes that is Draper James, one of Highland Park Village’s newest retailers. Gingham and monograms abound in the store founded by actress Reese Witherspoon, but that’s not the only thing that sets the label apart.
A strong social media presence – particularly a guerilla-style Instagram regimen – has garnered the new-ish boutique a household name among the young millennial women of the U.S. And it’s a heavy emphasis on analytics from both sales and social that brought Draper James to Dallas.
The brand, which launched as an online-only entity, opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Nashville in late 2015. Now, less than one year later, Draper James has cut the ribbon on its second location at one of Texas’ most iconic (and high-end) shopping destinations.
Witherspoon and Draper James CEO Andrea Hyde have staunchly entwined the brand in the fabric of south, sourcing roughly 35 percent of its manufactured goods from the southern United States.
How the brand’s second location landed in Highland Park, Texas – an area that doesn’t necessarily identify itself as “southern” – is a story of both magnetism and raw data.
“[Highland Park Village] has welcomed us with open arms, and so that felt like a really natural fit as well because our brand is very inclusive,” Hyde told me on Wednesday. “It feels like a real community here (Highland Park Village), and that was something that was really important to us, too. There are kids here and there are families here and that’s important to our brand.”
Hyde, a Washington, DC-area native, met Witherspoon about three years ago and felt that her southern roots-based concept had a clear vision.
“It really just resonated with me, and it felt very modern,” said Hyde, who has worked with fashion, retailing and brand-building at big-name houses like Calvin Klein, French Connection and GAP.
I talked to Hyde more about Dallas, the challenges of entering the North Texas market, growth plans, and just how much we could expect to see Witherspoon around the Park Cities, in the interview below.
Why did you pick Dallas for your second location?
It was a magnetic attraction. We are a 21st century brand, so we have a lot of intel and analytics about our customers. We know that they love us here in Texas and we know that they shop with us from Dallas online. Then, we also have an incredible, fluid dialogue with our customers through all of our social media platforms. So we knew that the demand was here.
More importantly, the Dallas woman is smart and she’s witty and she’s charming and she’s gracious, and those are all the things that are important to us as a brand. So, it seemed like a really natural fit.
What are the challenges in coming into a market like Dallas, or is it simpler than launching brands in other parts of the country?
It’s such a pleasure working in the south. Everybody extends themselves and are overly friendly and really has your back and wants you to do well. That’s a little bit different than working in other parts of the world, and so it’s actually been a really easy transition.
After undergoing a round of very tailored Series B funding a few years ago and opening two stores, are y’all thinking about scaling any more?
We’re going to grow the brand, and we’re going to scale the brand. We have this connection with our customers where they can help set the trajectory and tell us exactly what they feel like we’re missing and what they’d like from us – like product extensions and where they’d like us to be. We’re definitely building this brand in order to scale it.
Are y’all reliant on Dallas’ blogging population at all when you’re measuring for analytics?
We have [internal analytics] as well because we sell online. We can scour through and understand the customer very well from their demographics. Then, also, through social media, through all the platforms.
With our customers, it’s a very fluid, it’s a two-way dialogue. We’re talking to them everyday. We’ll post something or Reese will post something, and they’ll tell what they think and what they want and what they love.
If Reese wears something, it sells out immediately. You know, so we need to be careful about that as well so we have enough product, but we’re okay with selling out of things.
I’d never really though about the fact y’all have to be careful when she posts something.
Well, we don’t want her to not post something because she’s very involved in everything that we do. So, she wears [the brand], and she wears collections that are farther out or old things. So, if she wears it, there is a little bit of a frenzy. We want to make sure that we can satisfy everybody because that’s important.
I know that y’all source deeply out of the south for your goods, but do you source anything particularly from Texas?
We are doing some of our fixtures here in Texas. It’s really important for us to do southern manufacturing. Part of the reason Reese developed this brand was to give back to the south.
When we initially started, we thought that we would do all our sourcing in the south, and that was a very big proposition and we realized that wasn’t possible. We’ve invested in some of the factories in the south, and we are working to bring as much as we can here. So, we do about 50 percent in the U.S., and about 35 percent that’s out of the south right now.
The south has an incredible ecosystem, and we’re trying to tap into that in any way that we can.
So, the Dallas buzz question right now: Will Reese be around the store from time-to-time?
The thing I love about Reese is that she’s not compromising, and she’s always a part of the brand. She’ll be here. She pops into Nashville all the time. My guess is that she’ll pop into Dallas all the time. She loves being in the store and she loves talking to the customers.