Where Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James Dress Giveaway Went Wrong

A well-intentioned charitable effort went awry for Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James apparel label.

On April 2, the brand announced it would give away free dresses to teachers as a way of thanking them for their efforts during the coronavirus crisis.

“Dear Teachers: We want to say thank you. During quarantine, we see you working harder than ever to educate our children. To show our gratitude, Draper James would like to give teachers a free dress,” the brand wrote on social media, sharing an application form for teachers to fill out.

The company, which employs less than 30 people, had 250 dresses to give away. But during the time applications were open, Draper James received nearly 1 million requests — or roughly seven times more than the total number of dresses it sold in 2019.

Faced with an unanticipated mass influx of requests, Draper James began contacting those who applied to let them know the program was actually a raffle rather than a giveaway. It also informed shoppers of the actual number of dresses it had on hand. But by that point, some applicants were already left with a bad taste in their mouth — especially after those who didn’t win were offered a 30% discount. Further, some felt that the giveaway was a marketing gimmick rather than a sincere effort to give back.

Draper James isn’t the only company to be perceived by some as tone-deaf amid the pandemic. Fast-fashion label Fashion Nova was confronted with blowback on Twitter yesterday after tying a sales promotion to the federal government’s stimulus checks. The site sent many shoppers a text message that read: “When That Stimulus Deposit Hits 🤩💰 Save Up to 80% OFF SITEWIDE.”

Meanwhile, Rothy’s received negative feedback from consumers after launching a purchase-to-donate face mask initiative on April 13. The sustainable shoe label had planned to donate five masks for every product sold on its site, but decided to instead make a bulk donation of 100,000 face masks, not tied to sales.

FN has reached out to Draper James for comment.

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