Actress Reese Witherspoon’s clothing company announced earlier this month its innocuous plan to “give teachers a free dress.” Two weeks later, an online backlash has prompted the company to apologize.
Draper James was founded in 2015 and named for Witherspoon’s grandparents. In an Instagram post from April 2, the company wrote:
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 giveaway quickly went viral and the company reportedly received nearly 1 million applications. The problem? The company only planned to give away 250 dresses.
“We were really overwhelmed. It was way more volume than the company had ever seen. We expected the single-digit thousands,” Marissa Cooley, the senior vice president for brand marketing and creative at Draper James, told the New York Times.
While many felt the initial terms of the giveaway were misleading, some said they never received a promised email confirmation after submitting their application. Others complained about fine print on the application stating the offer was only good “while supplies last.”
Many were upset because the initial wording on the post reflected a giveaway while the company was treating the promotion as a contest. Teachers who did not receive a free dress were given a 30 percent discount.
According to E! News, Witherspoon recently made a donation to DonorsChoose, a nonprofit organization that gives teachers grants to spend on “books, notebooks, pencils, art supplies, activity kits and food, all shipped directly to their students’ homes.”
“Reese and Draper James have made a donation to DonorsChoose that will support all of our highest-need teachers in New Orleans, Atlanta, and Nashville, and many more throughout the country, as they work to educate their students while schools are closed,” a spokesperson from the organization told E! News.