Now no one is disputing Reese Witherspoon’s accomplishments or general talents in every possible life skill. But her clothing company’s efforts to support some hardworking teachers went from noble cause to hot mess quite rapidly. Insider first noted how Draper James, Witherspoon’s southern-inspired clothing line, wanted to do their part to support hard-working professionals whoa re forced to work remotely right now. Witherspoon’s company decided to donate free dresses to isolated teachers across the country. With the release of their “Draper James <3 Teachers” initiative, Witherspoon stated, “Teachers are broadcasting lessons from their own homes and figuring out new remote-learning technology and platforms on the fly, all while continuing to educate and connect with our kids. Advocating for the children of the world is no easy task, so I wanted to show teachers a little extra love right now.”
The idea was to send out 250 expensive dresses to some lucky teachers across the country. But when many, many more news outlets started covering this story, the news spread like wildfire. Almost one million applicants filled out their Google form, but Draper James only had 250 dresses to donate. While they intended to convey that the company had a limited stock, viewers barely took notice of the “while supplies last” clause and applied as soon as they could.
The senior vice president of brand marketing for the company, Marissa Cooley, stated that, “Once we realize we weren’t able to handle the volume, we have been working around the clock to try and find other ways to honor this incredible community and address need to the best of our ability. It was all hands on deck.”
The teachers on the other end of this debacle had a much different mindset. That said, there were still 250 lucky teachers who got a free dress of their very own, so there was a wide range of reactions. You can also see one of the sample selected dresses below:
Skylar Schur, a New York City high-school teacher, noted how, “They said ‘while supplies last,’ but 250 is minuscule compared to the number of teachers in the country. I don’t remember seeing that number when I tried to enter. I think for teachers who were really excited about it, it should have been more clear.”
Rachel Serpico, a New Jersey high-school teacher, echoed that sentiment, saying, “I don’t think they were really clear from the beginning. It was a nice thing to do, but it felt like a scheme. They changed their original messaging.”
Other teachers, despite not winning dresses, had a very different mindset. Alexis Salomone, a second-grade Connecticut teacher, responded with, “Draper James was doing something nice for teachers, and it goes against what we are supposed to teach our students. Acts of kindness matter, even if you don’t benefit from them directly.”
Michelle Mustardo, a New Jersey art teacher, who happened to win a dress, noted how, “We should be building each other up and honoring the fact that there is a company out there giving something pretty to wear for when we go back to school. Give Reese a break, she just did something good. SHe’s a mother, her kids are home, she’s in quarantine too, and here she is trying to run a business and do something nice, and it is getting turned into something negative.”
Both Witherspoon and her company weren’t just content with this chaos. In addition to sending coupon codes to all the participants, both Witherspoon and Draper James donated to Donors Choose, a nonprofit organization that allows people to donate directly to classroom projects at public schools. Marissa Cooley also stated that, “We are very sorry for any confusion. We hope that any misunderstanding doesn’t eclipse the original intent: to draw awareness to teachers’ heroic efforts … We also learned that clarity is key. Moving forward, we would want to take more time to develop a concept like this and anticipate potential risks and challenges beyond the positive outcomes.”
It seems that Reese and her company are working hard to advocate for these crucial educators, and although they made a highly publicized mistake, they are working on how to better improve their charitable efforts going forward. What do you think about their response and this whole endeavor in the first place? What could they have done instead? Whatever their next move may be, Minq will be sure to cover the latest updates.