Heat mapping and moisture management long have been technologies used in the outdoor industry’s active garments, but a new company called Ministry of Supply is bringing them to the business apparel world.
SNEWS recently posed some questions to Gihan Amarasiriwardena, co-founder and CEO of Ministry of Supply, who told us about the company’s cutting-edge technologies and how it’s planning to reach out to specialty retailers.
The company’s three founders have always been athletes and, “We wanted to bring the same performance and confidence we get from our outdoor gear into our professional lives,” Amarasiriwardena said.
So the company became a Kickstarter success story — setting out to raise $30,000 to launch its first shirt and raising $430,000 instead.
What were you doing before you launched your company?
I was a student in chemical engineering at MIT, but I’d always had an interest in fashion. I focused my studies on merging technology and style, developing footwear at the Sports Technology Institute in the United Kingdom and experimenting with a line of outdoor sportswear.
How has your background prepared you for this venture?
Coming from a scientific background gives a unique perspective on product design, customer experience and what you’re looking for in a shirt. Looking at the staples in a professional guy’s wardrobe, your mind starts to think about how better materials, science-based design and controlled testing can literally engineer a better product. Our company really values the creativity that comes from diverse approaches, so we’ve built a team whose background spans product design, engineering, customer experience and more.
Who is the target end-user for your products?
Our target end-user is the active guy who is trying to integrate work and life. He feels comfortable and confident in sports and outdoor pursuits when his gear works well, and the same is true in the other areas daily life. Unfortunately, he can’t get away with wearing running shorts and Gore-Tex all the time. We’ve found that our customers are used to the concept of performance technologies and fabrics in their active wear, and they love the idea of incorporating these elements in their professional clothing, too.
How are you connecting with specialty outdoor retailers?
Right now, Ministry of Supply is direct-to-consumer via our website, but we’re excited by the growing interest in the outdoors community in high-performance, stylish clothes for everyday wear in the office. In fact, a number of the customers wearing our clothes work in the outdoor retail space themselves.
What makes your products more technical than other apparel out there?
The athletic and outdoor clothing industries have long embraced novel materials and design, but business wear has remained fairly unchanged since the advent of the non-iron dress shirt. Ministry of Supply is unique in our approach to incorporating high-tech fabrics into dress shirts, socks, slacks and more. For example, our Apollo dress shirt is made from the same phase-change materials NASA uses, a fabric we developed that actually helps regulate heat.
Tell us about your fabrics.
We create our own, proprietary fabrics. We use technology and scientific testing like strain analysis and heat mapping to design for comfort. We also use a labs process to allow our customers to test small-run batches and help us take products to the next level based on their experience and feedback. We use advanced manufacturing techniques like 3D robotic knitting to create our clothes. This is all very new to everyday wear for men.