How Ledbury came to be is a cool story. I’m constantly amazed at how we end up where we are as a result of circumstances outside of our control – but the outcome turns out to be a win. Ledbury is like that – the creation of two Pauls, one from Virginia and one from Louisiana, by way of Oxford in London, resulting from a financial crisis, and focusing on a passion. Based in Richmond, VA, they are making a name for themselves by letting their products do the talking.
For a shirt in that price point, it is an investment, but after giving it a try I think it’s worth what they are asking. Here’s why: The Italian cotton material and the plaid design are great; not like many I’ve seen, as the feel and colors are very rich. The construction is as nice as any shirt I own – the stitching is tight and specific. It’s obvious this isn’t ‘mass-produced’. The best part about the shirt is the fit. That’s what sets it apart. I got a regular neck/sleeve measurement in ‘Slim Fit’ – which fits me like a glove. From the top down: the collar sits a bit higher than most of the spread collar shirts I have – it’s a nice, regal look. The armpits are high, giving it a leaner appearance. The chest and waist are truly slim – I would compare it to a Brooks Brothers Slim Fit, but a bit more fitted.
I would call this a very ‘mature’ shirt, but also very versatile. This is great with wool slacks and a sport coat, or with jeans and loafers. It’s a luxury shirt – but one that’s fine to roll up the sleeves. Bottom line – they make an excellent off the rack shirt. It has good ‘value proposition’ written all over it. You get important characteristics of a MTM shirt, but without the process. (Full Disclosure): Thanks to the Pauls for sending me a shirt for the review.
In addition to sending me the shirt to review, Paul Trible was nice enough to spend a little time discussing his Ledbury. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
Who is Ledbury?
I grew up in southeastern, Virginia (Newport News) and Paul (Watson) is from New Orleans. We met in business school at Oxford in 2007. I had been in London for four years prior to business school, heading up a non-profit and Paul came to Oxford from the Defense Department. Following business school, we were both heading into finance, but graduated the day before Lehman Brothers went under, so plans changed.
I always loved shirts, suits and good tailoring, and after years in London, had become spoiled by Jermyn Street and Savile Row. At business school, Paul and I had always discussed our frustration with finding clothes and particularly shirts when we came back to Virginia and Louisiana on holidays. The big name menswear retailers made formless/boxy clothes, and the luxury brands, sold in smaller men’s specialty stores, were too expensive. It seemed that there was real need for a regional brand that prioritized fit and quality, all at an accessible price.
The financial crisis presented us with an opportunity to do something we loved. It got to the point where I was staying up all night just thinking about it – so one day, between interviews, I approached the tailor on Jermyn Street who was making my shirts and told him that I wanted to work under him and learn the shirtmaking business. He thought I was crazy, but we ended up meeting for a beer. We met again the next week and then the week after and, eventually, he said yes. So I stopped interviewing for jobs and spent the better part of a year working with him, learning about fabrics, stitching, collars, cuffs and what makes a great shirt. I somehow convinced Paul that we should be shirtmakers, and he could focus on the operational side of the business while I hashed out the design. At night, we would meet at a pub on Ledbury Road to put together the business plan. We made our first collection with a couple of small innovations that people really seemed to like, ended up raising money from a handful of friends and launched the business in December of 2009.
What is Ledbury about?
Our entire focus with our shirts on delivering great quality and great fit at an accessible price point. On quality, we only use Italian woven fabrics and mother-of-pearl buttons. On fit, we have a both a classic and slim fit shirt. But, even our classic fit uses less fabric in the waist and torso for trimmer silhouette. We have also added some minor innovations like the lowered second button. Nothing revolutionary, but it’s something that our customers have really responded to. Most of our styles retail from $115-$135, which opens up a whole new demographic to a luxury shirt.
At its core, we want to do great, accessible menswear. Our Parker Gingham may not revolutionize the men’s fashion industry, but we think it’s going to fit better, feel better and last longer than anything else in your closet. I’m convinced that’s what the majority of men are looking for. As for our style, I think it’s a mixture of our background in the South and our time in England – I guess Anglo-Southern American for the lack of a better word. It might come off a little bizarre when we put a cutaway collar tattersall next to a moleskin hunting shirt, but that kind of represents how we have always dressed and consequently, now what we like to make.
As for regional style, there is such a great tradition of personal style in the South; it’s a classic look, which is very similar to that in England. The only thing that seems to be missing is fit, and that’s where we come in. We aim to differentiate ourselves on fit and quality rather than pushing wild patterns and logos. We have a store in downtown Richmond and all of our shirts are available online at www.ledbury.com.
What’s coming up?
Short Run Shirting This March we will kick off the second installment of our Short Run Shirting where we will release a collection of limited-edition shirts each month. These shirts are one-off designs and are only available for the month. It allows us to get more creative with our fabrics, styles and cuts. We have a great group of cotton-linen blends coming out this spring that I love and also some lightweight voile plaids that are perfect for summer in VA. Between now and July, we will release more than 50 new styles. Here are a few:
Commonwealth Collection The Commonwealth Collection is our accessories line that we are making in collaboration with local Virginia artisans. When we came back to the States from England, we were really amazed by the quality and craftsmanship that we kept seeing around Richmond. We knew that we wanted to create a line of accessories, and we got really excited about collaborating with other Virginia-based artisans to create a unique collection of goods. Our first release was the Free Union Belt, and later this year, we are coming out with cufflinks, a garment bag, pocket squares and a couple of other items.
Who is going to win the Masters?
Who is going to make it to the Final Four?
UNC, Missouri, Kentucky, and VCU (of course…)
What is playing on your iPod?
War on Drugs – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMqWSFNC1jU We’re taking the whole office to see them this week.
The Paul images and Short Run Shirting photos courtesy of Ledbury