Celebrating 10 years in business here in Richmond, Ledbury co-founder Paul Trible reflects on what he’s learned and reveals the brand’s plans for future expansion.
More than 10 years ago, Paul Trible and Paul Watson were working alongside a master tailor in London, learning the tricks of the shirtmaking trade. Today, Trible and Watson stand side by side at the forefront of Ledbury and at the forefront of entrepreneurship in Richmond.
Ledbury, the Richmond, Virginia-based men’s apparel company that specializes in luxury men’s dress shirts, casual shirts and related accessories, has not only grown, but has made a lasting impression on the Richmond start-up scene.
Trible, originally from Newport News, lived in London for a number of years working for Operation Smile, and attended Oxford Business School. After witnessing a major collapse in business jobs, Trible worked with a master tailor in London to learn the art of shirtmaking.
Family ties brought Trible back to the United States, and the draw to tell a different story through clothing pulled Trible away from New York City and Los Angeles and to small-town Richmond.
“We just kind of fell in love with Richmond,” Trible said of selecting Richmond for his shirtmaking homestead. “It’s amazing that it’s already been 10 years. I can’t tell if that feels like a short time or a long time. It’s fun to be a part of the momentum that’s happening in the city.”
In celebration of Ledbury’s decade of shirtmaking success, the Ledbury team hosted their annual party and released five capsule collaborations last week, featuring Richmond’s own Rider Boots and Shockoe Atelier, among others — each of which sold out within 24 hours.
In Richmond, the brand has moved from Shockoe Slip to 14th St to its now home, the Broad St flagship in the Arts District. There is also a Ledbury brick-and-mortar location in Georgetown near Washington, D.C.
Since establishing the brand in Richmond, Trible’s product line and meaningful connection with the Richmond community has allowed the customer base to expand with its brand story.
“We started as a traditional dress shirt maker and very quickly that turned into doing casual shirts, moleskin hunting shirts… It’s interesting to see that grow,” Trible said. “I feel like we can have an entire guy’s closet.”
Men can turn to the Ledbury brand when in need for just the right outfit to wear to a wedding, important meeting, new job or weekend away, Trible said. The effects of product expansion are evident in the brand’s 50,000 customers online and success in their brick-and-mortar locations. One such loyal customer of over eight years, Duane Diggs, took the time to reflect on the brand’s decade of success.
“I was attracted to the close-knit nature and the quality of the product itself,” Diggs said.
Diggs first noticed Ledbury in publications such as Garden & Gun. Being a curious Richmonder, Diggs sought out a storefront, and first visited their original satellite location at Libbie & Patterson. What started as an interest to support a local brand turned into nearly a decade of brand loyalty.
“If you’ve ever had the personal experience of working with that whole team, it’s very hands-on,” said Diggs. “They retain a lot of memory from previous conversations and how they serviced you in the past.”
What once was viewed as a traditional shirtmaking company has become a safe haven for men spanning ages 18 to 80 years old, due do the attention with which Ledbury team members provide.
“I’ll just go in and have a conversation,” Diggs said. “They’re just as much about the quality of the product as the quality of the interaction that we have.”
“We realize that there’s plenty of other choices out there for clothing,” Trible said. “The fact that we have hundreds of people who have literally bought hundreds of our shirts because they get excited about the box coming, or they’re interested in a new release that they haven’t seen before anywhere else, is such a cool relationship to build.”
With a growth mindset for Ledbury’s next decade, Trible said there are plans to establish more brick-and-mortar stores. His plan starts with a West Village location in New York City in 2020, and potential to bring Ledbury to market in Chicago and Atlanta in following years.
“For us, learning is staying true to our core, continuing to get better and better, and more and more innovative, in the shirtmaking business,” Trible said. “We’ve always realized that our business — the longevity of it — is all about making great products and connecting with our customers and building relationships. One way to do that — and probably the best way — is to tell the stories of who we are as people of the brand.”
Ledbury hosts its Sunday Shirting campaign to highlight brand ambassadors by inviting local entrepreneurs to profile their own stories while modeling a shirt of their selection.
Trible and Watson also celebrate their business’ Richmond roots by giving back to entrepreneurs through Ledbury Launch Fund — intended for entrepreneurs with intriguing and strategic business plans for a consumer goods company. Selected entrepreneurs are provided with seed money as well as regular mentoring with Trible and Watson through the first year of their business.
“We can sell hundreds of thousands of shirts, but if we can make a brand that has a little bit more of an emotional connection with our customers, we can do some good along the way,” Trible said. “That’s going to be a real success for us.”
The launch fund was precipitated by years of success from the co-founders and three major lessons, Trible said, with the first being focus. This focus is not just on the creation of the product itself, but how the product is distributed.
Finally, Trible says that using his customers and people who love the brand as a sounding board for new ideas and decisions have promoted the growth of the brand.
For entrepreneurs in Richmond, Trible gives three points of advice: learn from experts early on, master your product, and watch out for “shiny new thing”-isms.
“You learn from surrounding yourself with people who are experts in what they do,” Trible said. “[For] anyone starting out, really taking that time to learn and be humbled by that experience is very important.”
After learning from the experts in his field, Trible and his team mastered their own craft, also acquiring Creery Custom Shirts to become not only the best marketer of their product, but the best maker of their product. With all of the new opportunities that have presented themselves to Ledbury over the years, Trible has been focused and selective about what to take on.
When asked what he hoped to see during Ledbury’s next decade, Diggs spoke as a customer who has seen the brand develop over the years.
“Always remembering where you came from, remembering the mission statement you had, what you started out with, where you find yourself today, what has gotten you to this point successfully – stay true to that,” Diggs said. “Ten years can bring a lot of change and a lot of demand in many ways. I think you pivot with the market, but you also don’t rise above what made you special to begin with.”
Top Photo: Paul Trible (left) and Paul Watson standing in Ledbury’s Richmond flagship store in the Arts District. All photos via Ledbury