Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Meet Our Friends: Rappahannock River Oysters

When we first moved back from London to start Ledbury we spent the better part of two months working from my family farm in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Bordering the bay, at the mouth of the Great Wicomico River, the farm was where I spent most of my summers growing up. Some of my greatest memories as a kid are pulling crab pots with local waterman in Reedville and learning how to fish along t
he oyster beds of Mill Creek.

So we have a special connection to the Bay and about a year ago I ran across a local company called Rappahannock River Oysters ( that shares that connection and takes it a step further by contributing to the Bay’s revival.

Travis and Ryan Croxton’s great grandfather started the family oyster business in 1899 on the banks of the Rappahannock River. Over generations the business died out (as did much of the Virginia Oyster industry), but in 2002 the brothers reinstated the family oysterbed lease and decided to give the business a shot.

Today, Rappahannock River Oysters (located just miles from the farm) is helping to lead the revival of the Virginia Oyster and contributing to the rejuvenation of the Bay. Their Irvington based aquiculture operation is putting Rappahannock oysters on the tables of some of the finest restaurants in the world and breathing new life into the local seafood industry.

We could not be more pleased to have Rappahannock River Oysters as our partner in our upcoming Oysters and Oxfords event this Saturday in Richmond. They’re two good guys, who have a great business and love what they do.

Not to mention, they’re responsible for some of the world’s best oysters.

So come see us on Saturday afternoon for some local seafood and some great bluegrass ( If you can’t make to Richmond, pick up some oysters online today.

Open a beer or a bottle of white and enjoy...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Premiere Vision

Outstanding fabric is not the only perk to exclusively using European fabric mills. There are also the obligatory trips to Italy and France that are difficult requirements of the job.

So last month it was back to London and then Paris for Premiere Vision and three days, 10,000 fabric swatches and some late nights with good friends.

Notes of Mention:

A Liverpool win/Curry on Brick Lane/Late night at La Palette with Robert and Mitchell/ Two days at PV/ Another Late Night at La Palette with Robert and Mitchell/Albini Spring 2012/Tess Spring 2012/Saying no to crinkle/the Stanstead Acrobat/Ryan Airs flexible check-in policy/Supply Chain Management/A Eastern European Dancefloor…

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thoughts From a Year

Believe it or not there were a few people out there who thought starting a luxury clothing business in worst economic climate since the great depression was a bad idea. Perhaps it had something to do with the market hovering around 7,000 or that it looked like burlap would be the dominant fashion trend for 2009. But, luckily there were a few believers and to those we will be forever grateful.

So I am happy to report that last month was our one-year anniversary. There have been some ups and downs, but mostly a lot of good times. We are pleased of where we are (in business and growing), but realize that there is still a long way to go.

So for those select few who read this blog I it would pass on some thoughts/experiences from our first 365 days. Nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary, but than again, business rarely is.

Being popular in Eastern Europe is not always a good thing.

72 hours into the launch of our business we had 40 Facebook friends from Poland. We of course attributed to the excitement of the Eastern European Fashion Community over the launch of our business, but then our website disappeared. Over the next three days we pieced back together what had taken us three months to build. We latter found out latter that the outage was not the result of Brook Brothers corporate sabotage (as we first suspected), but rather a team of eastern european hackers that turned our server into spamming equivalent of Chernobyl. A humbling lesson in internet security for a man who still has an AOL e-mail address.

The key to success is the right people/ensuring they all have the same name.

Ledbury would not be around if it was not for the small, but dedicated team, 75% of which have the name Paul. The Founders names are both Paul and for a short period in 2009 both their girlfriends/wives shared the same name (which was not Paul) and this made it nearly impossible to hold a dinner conversation. The second hire was also named Paul and we very nearly had a summer intern by the same name. Our European suppliers think Paul is the most efficient person in the world.

If we are popular in Portland, Maine, we just might make it.

Customer E-mails. A couple of favorites

“I have an interesting story for you. I am a consultant with a Big 4 accounting firm and travel a lot. I am sitting in the very tiny Portland Maine airport and a guy walks by with the Pink and Blue Starks shirt on. I call out as he passes by, “Don’t you love Ledbury’s shirts”. He immediately stops and asks how did I know. We chat awhile about the value and quality and whished your small company much success. “

“I am pleased with everything about your product! I wear the finest hand made clothing in the world . Kiton Brioni, Fraye Isaia and Loro Piana to name a few . The opening price on shirts is $225 and the quality does not even come close to Ledbury”

Passion and fear are incredibly motivating factors.

Anyone who has started a small business can appreciate the personal financial realities that come along with it. In our early 30s, we hopefully can take that risk without life altering negative implications, but that does not make the end of each month any less real.

Weeks after the financial collapse I decided I wanted to go into shirtmaking and to fund this new adventure I cashed in my merger stock portfolio (i.e. life savings) and 401K. In retrospect, doing this one-week from the bottom of the market may not have been the best move, but timing has never been my strength and I had to take a shot.

And in my opinion, the risk has paid off. We love what we do, the business is growing and we now even pay ourselves a small salary. (Slightly above the mean poverty level)

But, the financial realities are still real. Perhaps the greatest illustration of this came in September, when we were featured in The Financial Times. The FT blew us away by featuring us in their Business Diary column. Each week, Business Diary focuses on the day in a life of a CEO. The week prior to Ledbury, the column featured the CEO of the largest private company in China and the following week Chairman of the U.K.’s largest bank. So obviously a no name shirtmaker from Virginia was an appropriate inclusion.

The day it came out, I raced to the corner store and grabbed a paper and there we were, page 14 right next to a story about the collapse of the Euro. I poured a cup of coffee and went to the cashier pretty pleased with myself and with the exposure for our young business. With a smile I handed over my debit card, which was then declined. Another swipe yielded the same result and with a maxed out credit card I was forced to put back the coffee and take only the paper.

A humbling and comical experience. I can imagine there are very few Financial Times Business Dairy CEO’s that have had less than $3.75 total net worth at the time of publication…. So real.

So there we go, a few random thoughts from a great year. Hopefully there will be many more (thoughts/years) and thank you all for your support and making this all possible.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fall/Winter Collection

Fall is almost behind us so it seemed as good a time as any to introduce a fall collection of shirts. It’s a small collection, but a diverse mix of shirts that are part England/part Virginia.

The Starks Gingham

First off, the Starks Gingham. We took the popular summer Starks Gingham and added two new patterns for the fall colors. We love this shirt and have trouble keeping it on the shelves. The fabric is Italian woven 100s poplin that’s heavier in weight and smooth in texture. It’s a tight weave, which makes it naturally wrinkle resistant. As an added bonus, like most poplins, it gets softer and softer after each wash.

Perhaps my favorite detail of the Starks is the collar. We have introduced the Ledbury Spread on a handful of shirts this fall. It’s a true spread collar, which I think makes it great for wear casual. And if you are going to wear it with a tie (make it a solid), the bolder spread compliments the bolder pattern.

(And this is a little neurotic so skip ahead if you have more pressing demands on your time, but we designed the collar with the intention of having a nice little roll to it. The roll is dictated by the height of the collar band, the length of the points, fusing, the placement of the collar stays, etc. Long story short, when the collar breaks in there should be a roll to it that somewhat resembles the roll of button collar. Sort of a cursive L shape. You can help the process along (and this is certainly over the top) by putting pressure outward and up on the base of the color points when you first put it on in the morning.

The Gentry Check

Next is the Gentry Check. A great casual shirt made with a lightweight Zephir fabric from Thomas Mason. The shirt’s weight makes it a good one to be worn under a sweater or blazer in the winter. Deep fall colors are accented by small white checks and from a distance give the shirt an appearance of a solid. Great all around casual winter shirts.

The Huntsman

The last shirt, and probably my favorite, is The Huntsman. It’s a limited edition, patterned off of an old work shirt that I inherited from my grandfather’s closet. Moleskin is an incredibly comfortable cotton fabric, woven from fine threads of long staple cotton and then sheared to create a short soft texture on one side. Most mills make moleskin for pants and jackets, which can be bulky and consequently, we had to do searching to find just the right stuff. We finally tracked down a perfect roll from a small Italian mill near Como. Dark blue, mid-weight and incredibly soft, it’s a perfect shirting fabric. Constructed with double breast pockets, a mid-spread collar and finished with mother of pearl buttons. It’s the most comfortable thing we have ever done.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Around the house

So I thought that I would take a little tour around the house and see if I could find anything of interest. The interest level is certainly debatable, but I thought a few were worth a mention.


I have always thought that a watch has a certain heirloom quality to it. I am attracted to the idea of wearing something that my father/grandfather wore while he was building a career, raising his family, etc. I think a good watch is one of those few pieces that can connect generations of men and consequently, a nice one justified.

Waltman Pocket watch: 1886

Omega Seamaster: 1967

Citizen Chronograph: 2003


I started carrying around a pen after college. I found that it accomplished two things: First, if it held a little value, I wouldn’t loose it. I’ve left hundreds of Bics on countertops and dashboards, but the financial incentive has kept these in my pocket for years. Secondly, It gave people the impression that I was more put together than actually is the case…I found, at times, this can be helpful…

Cartier Pen

Hand written notes

Very few people take the time to write handwritten notes anymore, consequently I'm always surprised/impressed when I receive one. I have a wall in my house dedicated to framed notes like the one below from one of Ledbury’s first investors.


Appreciate the opportunity to participate in the Ledbury experience. Super 120s will no longer be an exotic menthol, but rather a fine Ledbury garment.


The Record Collection

I got my hands first turntable when I was 12, which came with a box full of my parents Motown records. Ever since then a record player been a fixture in my house/apartment . Why the records that have been played on have ranged from Motown to 90s Hip Hop to Techno (blame the late 90s). Today it’s mostly a mixture of 40-60s Jazz and early blues.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

4 Ties

I consider myself lucky that a tie has never been a demand of my professional wardrobe. More often then not, I have been able to get away a button down shirt and a blazer or a suit if the occasion demands it. And it's not that I do not like ties. Some men turn them into a great compliment. I have just found that a tie makes me look like a waiter or in the case of a bowtie, a ventriloquist’s dummy. At a wedding I recently attended (black tie), two people at my table gave me their drink orders before I was able to take my seat.

But, on occasion a tie is a great and necessary addition. So in a closet of dozens of shirts I have four. Two are Hermes (navy blue and maroon) and between them I feel like I have almost every occasion covered. The other two are 80s classics that I took out on long-term loan from my father’s closet years ago. The first comes out only in November and says “Democracy is not a spectator sport” the second is from Ronald Regan’s 84” campaign and say REAGAN. The latter is a classic, but now wears a little far to the right. I have been hoping that a few years in the closet it will straighten it back down the center…

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The New Addition

The Brother-in-law, the newest addition to the family and Ledbury. Loving everything about this photo….