Ledbury: Making A Shop for Sharp Shirts

By Paul Karns


There are three things to know right off the bat about the founders of Ledbury — Paul Trible and Paul Wilson. They know clothes, they know business, and their staff refers to them as The Pauls.

It might seem counter-intuitive to come out of business school — Oxford, no less — watch the economy implode and decide to open a luxury brand based in Richmond, but that’s what this pair did. Trible went from statistics to seams when he convinced a Savile Row shirtmaker to let him apprentice in the trade. He learned what it took to make a shirt, beginning with the assignment to pull a shirt apart and reconstruct it. The result looked like an octopus, but after many months, Trible had begun to master the art of fine shirt making.

The Pauls set their plan in motion and moved to Richmond where Trible had grown up and began work to get the business off the ground. Their ethos was driven by two basic goals: authenticity and scalability. A balance of idealism and realism. To build a business that would produce the best products possible at a model that would be scalable for the kind of growth the company has seen — nearly 200 percent each year since opening in late 2009 — they would have to find suppliers with the quality and capacity to meet potential demand. This search took them to Italy for the highest-quality fabrics and Poland, where they found a factory with generations of experience in producing the highest quality shirts. At the same time, Trible and Watson were determined to maintain a presence as a local company.

The Pauls and members of their staff are always looking for ways to build and maintain local connections. The company’s blog is a testament to their spotlights on local business — from Steady Sounds to Lamplighter Coffee to Hardywood Singel. For their Short Run shirt collections, they spotlight local businesses such as the John Marshall Barber Shop, Connie’s Shoes, Rappahannock River Oysters, and Classified Moto for photo shoots and partnerships. Also essential to the Ledbury crew is their collaboration with local artisans for accessories such as their belts and cufflinks. Even their few critics comment on the beauty and authenticity of these lines, produced by Wiley Belts and Joe Rhames outside of Charlottesville.

So where is Ledbury headed from here? Having completed a $2 million round of investments in August 2012, they plan to expand their staff and the retail shop in Shockoe

Having completed a $2 million round of investments in August 2012, they plan to expand their staff and the retail shop in Shockoe Slip, and expand the operation to meet the ever-growing demand, particularly as they add product lines. Still, The Pauls explain that they look forward to continuing to “celebrate commonalities between producers and places.”

Ultimately, it seems the gamble to open a luxury goods company when the economy is crashing paid off. Perhaps it’s part of an overall shift in our society when we have begun to give true value to craftsmanship and local connections.

CategoriesGeneral, Play, Shop Local

From Boston to New York to Arkansas to Richmond, Paul has worked in publishing and marketing for more than 20 years. He has most recently turned back full-time to two of his main interests—craft beer and writing. Paul is co-founder of Ardent Craft Ales in Scott’s Addition.