A glimpse into the lives of Sid and Ann Mashburn is a glimpse into a sort of stylish utopia. Walk into one of the couple’s five US stores and it’s easy to get pulled into their world. Clothes form the backbone of the Mashburn universe, of course, with perfectly cut Oxford shirts sitting alongside other preppy staples like penny loafers, chinos and softly structured tailoring.
But there’s also good music (staff are encouraged to take turns playing their favourite albums, in full); inspiring photography lines the walls alongside buck’s head taxidermy; well worn leather sofas invite you to relax, and ping pong tables encourage friendly competition. Each space has its own distinct flavour, yet they’re tied together by a friendly warmth and helpful staff that care as much about service as they do the clothes they are selling. It’s an idea Sid and Ann have “been talking about for 30 years,” before they opened their first store in Atlanta in 2007. “We offered good prices and we really catered to the service part,” says Sid. “We all love product, but at the end of the day for real success, it’s about serving people.”
That care and attention to detail doesn’t stop with the customers. Indeed, treating its staff well seems to be a big part of the success of the Mashburn brand. And that’s important, with over 150 staff spanning retail, online, warehouse, tech and creative roles, this is no longer the personal project it once was. “You’re not going to get super rich here, but you get paid pretty well to work with us. That means that our staff don’t have to sacrifice relationships because they don’t have enough money. We’re trying to build people up so that they really can feel like it’s an honourable role, because taking care of people is honourable, whether you’re in car service or food service, or whatever.”
Of course, talk of honour and service doesn’t mean much if the clothes can’t back it up. And thankfully they more than do. Both the Sid Mashburn and Ann Mashburn (the womenswear half of the business) offerings are a sort of capsule wardrobe of elevated essentials. You can walk into the original Atlanta store for example, close your eyes, pick out the nearest three garments and guarantee you’ll look good. “I want to serve a guy from Sunday through Saturday for all of his needs”, Sid continues, “to make it as close to a one-stop shop as possible. If you want to go backstage with a pair of black jeans, black Chelseas and black cashmere sweater, we have that look. If you work in an accounting office and need a blue suit, white shirt and red tie, we have that look too.”
Speaking of tailoring, the brand has built up something of a cult following, favoured for its Italian-inspired lightweight construction and pleasingly nerdy attention to detail. The Ghost blazer for example is cut from a 2-ply high-twist wool and comes with pick-stitched ‘spalla camicia’ shirt sleeve shoulders, the kind of which are usually reserved for bespoke Neapolitan creations. The shirting meanwhile is vast, with everything from staple cotton poplin business shirts through to lightweight denim work shirts, all with flattering tailored fits and refreshingly approachable price points. “Our shirts all have 22 stitches per inch. They have German inner linings and three-and-a-half millimetre pearl buttons, all for a pretty nice price. Our collars have been eight centimetres from day one. Put on the shirt, we have the same fit that we started with 15 years ago.”
This almost fetishisation of detail extends to the fabric, too. Both Sid and Ann Mashburn only work with the very best mills around the world, including Thomas Mason. “The truth of it is the Thomas Masons of the world, those to us are really the catalyst to building a great apparel line. You must have great fabric. It’s just a little bit like a chef with the right tomatoes or the right fish, or knowing where the right beef comes from.” Is there a favourite fabric? “The Gatsby cloth. This is a two-ply in the warp, and a two-ply in the weft. It’s 122 ply, so the integrity of the weave is fantastic. Also, the finishing is spectacular. The other thing is it’s not a light cloth – it’s 126 grams per square metre. You can feel the pop in it. What’s nice about that is it really holds up through the day, and it doesn’t show wrinkles.”
In a world of fast fashion and ever changing trends, it’s reassuring to know that the Mashburns value consistency as much as quality. While they both had backgrounds in fashion, Sid and Ann didn’t meet through the industry. Rather, a chance encounter on a beach in Long Island. “I plucked him from the beach,” Ann fondly reminisces. A former fashion editor at Vogue, Ann’s astute eye clearly wasn’t lost on Sid. She made the introduction to a friend that got him his big break – the first menswear designer position at what was then a start up called J.Crew, and things snowballed from there. Ann moved up through the magazine world in parallel to Sid, who later got design gigs at Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. It seemed only natural for the couple to start their own thing, with Ann’s editorial nous and Sid’s vision for how men should dress. In 2007 they moved to Atlanta, opened the first Mashburn store and the rest was history.
Four stores later and with an international brand that simultaneously combines classic Americana with laid back, continental charm, it’s fair to say the couple have done more than a few things right. Has it always been plain sailing, as effortless as the brand’s signature Oxford shirts? “Nobody who’s really in love with someone likes it when they disagree with them,” says Ann. “I think the amount of extra opportunity for disagreement is very challenging. Somebody’s gotta win and it can be a bit of a fist fight sometimes. But ultimately, we really can say we’ve created something. People who are couples create many things – they create homes, sometimes they create a family together. To me, it was incredibly satisfying to help Sid scratch this itch of his. To feel like I was a hugely integral part of not only just helping him, but actually creating him. I feel like I was the only person suited to tell this story.” And what a story it is.
Thomas Mason is a brand of cotonificio albini s.p.a.
Cotonificio Albini S.p.A. - Via Dr. Silvio Albini 1, 24021 Albino (BG) – Italy Società con unico socio - diretta e coordinata da Albini Group S.p.A. P.I. 01884530161 - C.F. 08743540158 - Iscritta al Registro Imprese di Bergamo - REA 244649 Capitale sociale sottoscritto e versato € 11.170.960