Ledbury, and its influential founders, have essentially changed the game for "small" businesses in Richmond - bringing the city into the limelight for its creative prowess and passion for American-made.
This summer, Ledbury acquired Creery Custom Shirts, a 108-year-old Richmond-based shirt company. The new location, dubbed The Ledbury Workshop, will serve double-duty as a production workshop and retail store. As co-founder and CEO, Paul Trible puts it: “It means a great deal to us to produce our own bespoke shirts in-house – and to do so in our hometown of Richmond.”
Today we sit down with Paul Trible to discuss how the company started, who it looks to for inspiration and what the future of Ledbury has in store.
Let’s start at the beginning. What was the inspiration behind the beginning of Ledbury?
My business partner Paul and I spent a lot of time in London in our 20’s and the inspiration for the business really came from the tailors of Savile Row and the shirtmakers of Jermyn Street. On our trips back to the States we were always frustrated by the lack of offerings in menswear. Big name men’s retailers created formless and baggy clothes and high fashion brands charged extortionate prices. It seemed like there was a real need for an American shirt maker that prioritized fit and quality and was relatable to a 30-year-old guy.
How did you and Paul Watson meet?
I grew up in southeastern, Virginia (Newport News) and Paul (Watson) is from New Orleans. We both met in business school at Oxford in 2007. In a bizarre twist of fate his wife and I actually went to elementary school together. I had been in London for four years prior to business school heading up a non-profit and Paul came to Oxford from the U.S. Defense Department. Following business school, we were both heading into finance, but graduated the day before Lehman Brothers went under. Plans changed and we decided to become shirtmakers.
What were the major hurdles when you first started?
Not knowing how to make shirts! We spent a year learning under a master tailor in London before coming out with our first collection. Also, convincing people to invest in a luxury shirt clothing brand at the very bottom of the market. One investor suggested we make shirts out of burlap.
What does the process for a Ledbury shirt look like? What’s a little timeline for the life of a shirt?
The design process, for us, starts when we head over to France and Italy to meet with our fabric mills and start designing and selecting fabrics. From there we will start the sampling process in Richmond, which is really never-ending. We come out with shirts every week and this year alone we will have over 300 different styles. Our goal is make classics that should be in every man’s closet, but also introduce guys to different styles and unique fabrics. There is a lot out there for men besides the button-down Oxford.
Who do you look to for inspiration for your business? Whose aesthetic do you most admire?
Inspiration for clothes comes mostly from travel. I head back to Europe every three months or so and it’s always creatively refreshing. We always make certain to mix those European influences with the experiences of our life here in Richmond. Our day-to-day in the city, weekends in the mountains or on the bay.
A lot of inspiration for business comes from the old world specialist clothing brands like Tod’s, Brioni, Incotex. We like brands that focus on being the master of their craft. That’s one of the reasons we just established a shirt making workshop here in Richmond. The goal is to not only be designers, but to be makers and experts in what we do best.
What books have you recently read that you’d recommend to other entrepreneurs?
Good question. Tony Hsieh’s “Delivering Happiness” comes to mind. As does, Jack Mitchell’s “Hug Your Customers”. Both share the thesis that building impactful customer relationships is the key to long-term success.
What restaurant do you frequent in Richmond that doesn’t get enough publicity?
Belmont Food Shop. A night eating at the bar with my wife. Perfection.
If you’re not wearing Ledbury, what are you wearing?
What’s your morning ritual? Walk us through the first hour of your day.
Up at 6am and at the office by 7am. Two hours of quiet work before things get hectic.
Favorite cocktail when you’re done making drool-worthy shirts?
Bulleit Rye on the rocks with an orange peel.
What’s next for Ledbury?
Hopefully big things. Excited about the other clothes that we have launched like pants and sweaters. Excited about new Ledbury stores and bespoke shirtmaking. We have lots on the plate, but loving it.