In the past few years, a number of men’s clothiers have emerged in the District. Billy Reid and Rag & Bone, high profile designer lifestyle shops opened in Georgetown. Both are prestigious CFDA* Menswear Designer of the Year winners. Men can also choose from casual outfitters as J. Crew Men, Vineyards Vines and Lost Boys. This phenomenon includes bespoke suits and custom shirts such as Michael Andrews Bespoke for affluent young men.
What are the forces driving growth in fashion and sales in menswear [in DC]?
- For one, the challenging job market has made personal presentation more important.
- Next is the dominating influence of technology in today’s society.
- Last, but not least, D.C. is a geographic area with a large concentration of young professional men. Here, men of style with sartorial tastes embody the spirit of the times.
Let’s briefly explore the masculine mystique and address how men shop for their wardrobe. My question for the male consumer is: “Would you give the shirt off your back” for the perfectly fitted shirt? Two local shirt makers and e-commerce ventures answer “yes” by catering to legions of shirt fanatics demanding style, fit, quality and value.
Based in D.C., on-line startup Hugh & Crye began with the goal of providing the best men’s shirt for athletic bodies. After all, a good shirt is a wardrobe anchor and is man’s second skin. Founder and CEO, Pranav Vora studied in the U.S. and the U.K. with a specialty in business marketing and strategy. He saw a consumer need for a classic dress shirt that stands out in a field of ill-fitting shirts for young professionals like him. Stats from research and a survey of 400 men provided the critical measurements for customizing shirts aimed at the short and stout as well as tall and skinny. Hue & Crye created a new sizing approach (12-size matrix) for men’s shirts based on the body types of lean and athletically built men.
With business partner, Philip Soriano, Vora launched Hugh & Crye in December 2009. The name Hugh & Crye is a play on the term “hue and cry” when medieval English citizens clamored for a criminal to be brought to justice. Since its inception, the brand has promoted responsible sourcing and work with manufacturers who meet with ethical certification. By working with family run businesses, they have maintained high standards. Sales mushroomed for Hue & Crye shirts sold exclusively on their website. They invite you to stop by their retail shop in Georgetown to check out their latest shirts, blazers, ties and pocket squares collection.
Richmond, Virginia based founders Paul Trible and Paul Watson at Ledbury, a luxury shirt line, entered the e-commerce market with similar timing and concept in 2009. As graduate students in business school in London, they faced bleak job prospects as the global economy went into a downturn in 2008. Undaunted, the two abandoned career plans in finance and brainstormed selling the idea of a great fitting shirt. Trible and Watson were inspired by Great Britain’s established culture and commerce dedicated to custom shirts and tailored clothing. Trible apprenticed with a London tailor to learn the craft. Both saw an opportunity to fill a void in the U.S. shirt market and wrote their business plan at a pub on Ledbury Road. The partners coined a name and set out to be an American shirt company offering European quality, English fit and American style at an attainable price.
Ledbury sources high quality Italian mills for their shirts, feature inverse collar fusing as well as mother of pearl buttons. Their brand manufactures in Poland, with design and tailoring at their Shockoe Slip headquarters in Richmond. They held wildly successful “pop-up” stores in major cities. Their Washington D.C. pop-up store in 2010 drew over 400 people to its opening night party. Their achievement led to blazers, belts, ties and pocket squares to their offerings. In March, Ledbury opened its new retail space in Shockoe Slip Richmond to add to the Ledbury customer’s shopping experience.
Each shirt wear brand grew exponentially and has its share of devotees and a following across the U.S and abroad. Clients praise the quality of their products and customer service as important, but they are sold on the way their shirts fit. I can say that Hugh & Crye and Ledbury fans will “keep your shirt(s) on” for a very, very long time.
*CFDA is Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. is a not-for-profit trade association whose membership consists of more than 400 of America’s foremost womenswear, menswear, jewelry and accessory designers.
Linda Lee, author, taught patternmaking in the Menswear Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC.