I thought of writing this article primarily as a review, of a luxury shirt company on the rise. But I soon realized there was so much more to the Ledbury story. In a time of high unemployment and rampant layoffs I hope their story can serve as inspiration to those of you who are unemployed, underemployed, laid off from a great job, and those with an idea, seeking the motivation to chase a dream and start a business.
The company was started by Paul Trible and Paul Watson, two Americans at business school in England. The day before graduation in 2008, Lehman Brothers
collapsed, and the finance jobs they had lined up in London disappeared with the ensuing financial crisis. Instead of sitting around and moping about the anemic job market, they defied conventional wisdom and all the naysayers as they hatched a plan to launch a luxury shirt business. They identified a void in the seemingly over saturated luxury shirt market and decided to fill it. After the financial collapse hit, many men, uncertain about their job security started to cut back on their spending, especially luxury purchases. The man accustomed to spending $300 for a custom shirt, may no longer be willing to spend that amount, but what if he could spend half that amount on a luxury shirt, that was made from the same quality Italian fabric, with the fit and finish of a custom shirt…..
Long fans of the custom tailoring of London’s famed Savile Row and the fine shirtmaking of Jermyn Street, the guys already had an appreciation of fine clothing. Before starting the business, Trible actually apprenticed for a year with one of the most respected shirtmakers on Jermyn Street.
Paul Trible, Paul Watson
The company was launched in December of 2009, with Paul Trible in charge of design and Paul Watson running the operations. Today Ledbury is based in Richmond, Virginia and their shirts are manufactured in Europe. The fabrics used are from the finest Italian mills, such as Albini and Monti.
Besides quality and price, what you may ask, separates Ledbury from the competition. They’ve made some seemingly simple adjustments that will put a smile on the face of even the most discerning shirt connoisseur. They slightly lowered the second button from the top, to provide greater comfort when wearing your dress shirt without a tie, they added a special canvas lining to their shirt collars, in order to keep the collar up under jackets and sweaters. And lets not forget the mother of pearl buttons on all of their shirts, nice touch. Did I mention the amazing fit? I’ll delve deeper into that aspect shortly.
I would venture to say that their gamble has paid off. Over 50,000 shirts later and growing at a rate of 200% per year, the founders of Ledbury are looking like visionaries, they’ve successfully managed to create a niche market in a seemingly over saturated sector.
Ledbury by the numbers - 98% of sales are online, and an impressive 60% of customers reorder in the first year. With a return rate of only 6.5% per year, it should come as no surprise that the company is growing so rapidly. Talking about returns, Ledbury has one of the best return policies in the business, one year from purchase no questions asked and they’ll even pick up the shipping. It’s refreshing to see a company willing to stand behind their product.
I recently met one of Paul Trible’s best friends, after hearing about this amazing company I knew I had to find out more. He made the introduction, and after a nice chat with the charismatic co-founder, I was offered the opportunity to review one of their shirts, here we go….
I found their website very clear and easy to navigate. The fabric selection is quite impressive, for even the biggest shirt snob. They offer two fits, Classic - a full cut for any size, without the excess fabric of some of their competitors, and Slim - a more more tailored cut with less fabric in the waist and torso.
My shirt is the Blue Starks Twill, a Thomas Mason fabric, of the Albini Group in Italy. The collar is the Ledbury Spread Collar, I went with the classic fit, single button rounded cuff, mother of pearl buttons, price $135. My size is 17 1/2 x 36 1/2, so my sleeves had to be shortened by half an inch, this alteration is available for $10. My shirt arrived in a timely fashion, well packaged in a signature Ledbury box. The quality of the fabric was unmistakable from the first touch, it had an amazing hand to it, reminiscent of luxury shirts I’ve purchased at much higher price points. The pattern, a classic tattersall in vibrant shades of blue, Ledbury did not disappoint. I was pleasantly surprised by the fit of my new shirt, it didn’t have the extra fullness through the body that some of the other luxury brands have, a leaner cut without being too fitted. The collar size was perfect and my sleeves were shortened correctly.
If you’re worried about sizing don’t be, there’s a helpful sizing guide on the website. They also provide a handy sizing comparison, to some of their competitors fits. I found the comparisons to be spot on.
I paired my shirt with a cotton summer suit from Calvin Klein, a navy tie from Ermenegildo Zegna and a white cotton pocket square.
For a less formal look, I’ve added a navy blazer from Corneliani. As far as pants are concerned, I suggest mid/charcoal grey or beige family. For a more casual look, try a pair of dark wash jeans.
I love what Ledbury is doing with their Short Run Program. They release new shirts every two weeks for customers to vote for on Facebook, the winning shirts remain in the permanent collection. Its a great way to engage their devotees through social media.
The future looks very bright for Ledbury, they’ve introduced new product lines such as custom leather belts made by local artisans in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to blazers, sport jackets, cuff links, ties and most recently and just in time for summer, swim trunks.
The Afton Cashmere Sport Coat
Free Union Belt Monroe Cufflinks
Grey Derby Tie Hilliard Swim Trunks
I hope you’ve been inspired by the success of Ledbury. I would wholeheartedly recommend them, if you’re looking for a quality product at a reasonable price.
****For more information or to make a purchase, please go to ledbury.com