“If you make simple things and make them really well, you just need a few of them.”
The words above come from a Richmond, Virginia, man named Paul Trible, and to us, they embody a certain idea that sits at the center of Southern craftsmanship — if you make something well, it will last.
Trible and his business partner, Paul Watson, a native New Orleanian, first bonded when they met as business-school classmates in England. As the two Pauls explored British culture, both were smitten by the work of tailors. For hundreds of years, tailors have plied their trade on London’s Jermyn Street, and the little one-way thoroughfare is one of the world’s primary destinations for men who want and can pay for clothing made specifically to fit their own bodies, from the hats down to the shoes.
“Could there be a Southern version of what we loved about Jermyn Street shirt making?”
Both Pauls admired the tailors’ dedication to craftsmanship. They both even spent time working at a custom shirt maker’s shop. But both also had jobs lined up in the financial biz back home in America. Then, only one day after they graduated in 2008, the economy crashed — and their job offers disappeared.
“We started thinking,” Trible says, “could there be a Southern version of what we loved about Jermyn Street shirt making?”
A little over a year later, they put their business-school smarts to work and launched Ledbury back in Richmond. They wanted to sell ready-to-wear shirts that felt and fit like shirts from London tailors. “Custom-fit feel for a ready-to-wear shirt,” as Trible describes it.
“For men and the way they’re dressing, they just need a few classic pieces,” Trible says. “They need them to fit great, and they need to feel great. And they just need to last.” Trible himself still wears a jacket of his grandfather’s. That’s what we’re trying to do. If you make simple things and make them really well, you just need a few of them.”
“For men and the way they’re dressing, they just need a few classic pieces... They need them to fit great, and they need to feel great. And they just need to last.”
How did they pull this off in an online business? For one thing, they source fine fabrics from European weavers, but the products get the Ledbury touch from their design to the finished product. Ledbury had sense enough to know sleeve shortening is one of the more common shirt alteration requests, so for a $10 fee, they're happy to shorten them by 1 to 3 inches for any order.
“Normal guys will get a shirt and it will fit perfectly on the body, but if the sleeves are three inches too long, it ruins the whole thing,” Trible says. “We’ve got a small army of tailors in Richmond. We shorten a lot of sleeves.”
I ask him this: “Why buy a shirt from y’all instead of someone else?”
“I think it’s because it’s gonna fit better, feel better and last longer than anything else in your closet. When guys put on our shirt vs. a competitor’s who sells at $180, it feels better. It just does.”
Their dedication to craft has since turned Ledbury into a successful business. And last year, when the owner of Richmond’s 107-year-old Creery Custom Shirt Makers, one of the last true custom shirt shops in the South, decided it was time to retire, the Pauls bought the shop. Creery’s was an institution in Richmond, with more than a century of making shirts for the city’s gentlemen, as well as VIPs such as President Harry S Truman.
Although it’s still not economically feasible for Ledbury to make all its shirts in Virginia, the old Richmond shop — now called Ledbury Creery Workshop — has become the heart of Ledbury’s enterprise. In that little spot on Patterson Avenue in Richmond, tailors create true custom shirts for anyone who visits the shop and a new ready-to-wear line, made in Virginia and sewn in the shop, called the Commonwealth Collection.