South Texas Style

For Double D Ranch, the first family of western couture, some like it haute y’all.

Written by Jenn Thornton

For 30 years and counting, Double D Ranch has weaved an array of American West influences into high-fashion western dress—“literally,” says Cheryl McMullen, creative director of DDR, where she works in cahoots (and some pretty fabulous boots) alongside her sisters, CEO Audrey Franz and Director of Production Hedy Carter, as well as her mother, owner Margie “Nana” McMullen. “We were raised in South Texas and always on road trips throughout the country,” she continues. “I feel fortunate to have grown up immersed in a multitude of cultural influences—Mexican, Native American, multi-generational Texas cowboys, horse racers, jewelry makers, all kinds of folks.” And, therefore, all kinds of looks, threaded with a signature regional aesthetic.

 Based in Yoakum, Texas, this female-led family brand—one that, by its own telling, “comes from a long line of revolutionaries and outlaws”—is itself a little outlaw, starting “almost by accident in 1989,” says Cheryl of what was then a “garage operation” with the custom collections, artisan collaborations and calls for red-carpet couture yet to come. There was no grand plan, just long hours, hard work and steadfast faith. And a lot of humility, which is, despite the brand’s changes in fortune, unchanged. “We’re just hard-working, small-town, regular folk,” Cheryl insists. “We’re a far cry from Camelot!” But damn if they couldn’t design for it. In “putting one foot in front of the other, season after season, expanding a little each time,” this accidental brand is a bona fide fashion house turning out eight collections a year with forays into home design and accessories.

“We’re just hard-working, small-town, regular folk.”

— Cheryl McMullen, creative direct of DDR

And all from South Texas, too, which is both the home and heartbeat of DDR. “We might’ve sprawled out a bit, but our headquarters and our showroom are still there on Grand Avenue,” says Cheryl. “I think that one of the things that made Double D Ranch what it is—that really defines and sets us apart—is that we stayed right here, true to our roots. Our quality and craftsmanship and designs could stand up against any label you’ll find on Rodeo Drive or 7th Avenue, but I think there is a good chance we would’ve lost ourselves, lost our authenticity, lost our aesthetic, if we didn’t stay rooted here in Yoakum.”

For not losing themselves, many have found their way DDR, among them the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, which honored the brand with the Mary Jane Colter Award in 2015—a recognition of the women who create, design, build and interpret the traditions of the American West—and none other than Tanya Tucker, who they dressed for the 2020 Grammy Awards. Of this particular “‘whoa’ moment,” Cheryl remembers the legendary country singer rolling up in her giant tour bus, right into the heart of Yoakum and into the DDR showroom where she spent the afternoon “shopping and singing and sipping tequila.” They’ve since photographed Tucker at her ranch in Tennessee and “dressed her and her whole cast of characters when she headlined the Grand Ole Opry in January 2020,” says Cheryl.

Actor Jon Voight in a jacket designed by DDR.

DDR supports Cheryl’s “your outfit is your armor” ethos by with plenty of reinforcements. Beginning with its now iconic blanket coat (which came about as a chance encounter in a New Mexico grocery store, where Cheryl saw woman wearing a version of the coat then reimagined it and made it DDR’s own) and continuing with garments featuring all manner of dazzlements—embroidery, sequins, appliqués. What if DDR had designed a little something for the Duke? “Oh wow… we’d be honored to make him anything his little heart desired!” says Cheryl, who settles on a jacket like the one DDR designed for Jon Voight, inspired by his iconic portrayal of Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy. “It’s classic cowboy, rugged and timeless. But for Duke, I envision a shorter box-cut scout style jacket. But definitely fringe, baby!”

“For Duke, I envision a shorter box-cut scout style jacket. But definitely fringe, baby!”

No brand embellishes quite like DDR, after all. But the humble, hard-working ladies behind it come by their success honestly. It’s simply their style.

Photographs courtesy of Double D Ranch