Nobody likes to admit it, but if you’re a working professional, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with sweat stains. The commute to work, the stress of meeting a deadline, the faulty air conditioning in the boardroom, cotton weaves — all of these things and many more have been known to conspire against you, the working professional. Luckily, Ministry of Supply feels your stinky, stinky pain.
While athletes have Under Armour, business attire has more or less remained the same for the last century. So, armed with some of the same technology NASA uses in its space suits, Ministry of Supply has developed a line of dress shirts — called “Apollo” — that adapt to your body to control perspiration, reduce odor, and make you feel like a million bucks.
Founded in 2010 by MIT grads, Gihan Amarasiriwardena and Kevin Rustagi, (with Kit Hickey and Aman Advani joining in early 2012), Ministry of Supply launched three limited lines of premium dress shirts back in October. Of course, they quickly found that, in order to continue iterating and sell at scale, they would need funding. They went to venture capitalists for backing, and while there was interest, most wanted to see more proof of concept. So, like many before them, they took to Kickstarter to raise money for their hi-tech dress shirts.
And the working professionals of the world responded. The team set out to raise $30K and within 5 days of launching the campaign, they met their goal. Today, that total is at $123,386, and the excitement continues. The Ministry of Supply founders tell us that, over the last week, they’ve been averaging $8K in donations per day.
But what is it about these dress shirts that has people so excited? The team’s line of dress shirts, called “Apollo” use a knit, synthetic (and proprietary) blend of fibers that use “Phase Change Materials” to control your body temperature by pulling heat away from your body and storing it in the shirt. Find yourself back in air conditioning and the shirt releases the stored heat to keep you feeling warm — and like a million bucks.
The shirts, like Under Armour, also wick sweat and moisture away from your body and, by using an anti-microbial coating, get rid of that pesky bacteria that makes you smell like a barnyard. Not only that, but having done strain analysis and designing the shirt with motion in mind, the Apollo line adapts to your movements and stays tucked in and wrinkle free all the live long day.
In essence, it’s a magic shirt.
Ministry of Supply also wants to keep jobs in the U.S., so the whole production process — packaging to fabric — is done at home. The funds the startup has raised from Kickstarter will be put towards managing these costs and paying for the production of the proprietary raw materials that go into the Apollo line.
Not every Kickstarter project is lucky enough to reach its initial goal — let alone exceed that by tens of thousands of dollars — so, to keep people engaged, the team has been updating its page with video and has been setting new milestones in addition to the ones put in place at the outset.
At $75K, the team pledged to switch from XS to XXL to standard collar-sleeve length sizing; at $125K, they pledged to add two new colors to the mix, and if they reach $200K, they’ll add patterns, either a thin stripe or a plaid, the founders tell us.
And, if they reach $291,494 and become the highest-funded fashion-related Kickstarter project, the founders tell us that they plan to launch their backers’ names into space on a “ridiculous weather balloon.” To that end, they assured us that they have two aerospace members of the team, one of whom works for SpaceX, who will help make that happen.
When I asked what contributed to their success thus far, the founders said that it’s been important to them to bring the same intense iterative process to the development of their dess shirts that one sees when designing products for consumer electronics or for the consumer Web. They’ve done dozens of iterations of Apollo, A/B testing, you name it.
As the founders themselves boast experience working for IDEO, Apple, Lululemon, and more, the focus on design and iteration isn’t surprising.
As to what’s next? The team is working on finishing a showroom in Boston, which should be completed in the next couple of months, as well as a dedicated eCommerce site. The founders have been inspired by the work of Warby Parker and Indochino, and plan to initially do most of their selling online — and through their showroom in Boston. Just like their shirts — it’s a blended approach.
But with so much interest both at home and abroad, it won’t be long before the team begins to work with retailers to distribute their dress shirts. Right now they’re planning on selling them for about $130 a pop, so their Kickstarter campaign provides a good opportunity to get in early before prices start rising.
For more, find Ministry of Supply at home here. Kickstarter video below: