Ledbury vs. Brooks Brothers
Ledbury vs. Brooks Brothers
The challenge: Beat the big clothing chains by becoming a shirt cult.

What they did: Oxford grads Paul Trible, 31, and Paul Watson, 32, didn't see much hope for employment after the great financial crash. What to do? Well, Oxford students know good clothes, for sure, so the American expats became apprentices to a London tailor. They returned home to Richmond in 2009 and launched the Ledbury shirt brand. The team has built a cult following and will see some $3.1 million in annual sales this year, they say, by using Italian fabrics and peddling online. (Price: $115 to $165 a shirt.) Buzz builder: They opened a pop-up store in Washington, D.C. Another crowd pleaser: letting customers vote on new shirt designs. The winners? They go into the company's "core collection."

By Elaine Pofeldt, contributor @FortuneMagazine - Last updated July 20 2012: 5:53 AM ET
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