Like it or loathe it, athleisure has worked its way into the office. But that doesn’t mean traditional dress codes are dead. They just have to adapt to this less restrictive era.
Take Ministry of Supply, for instance. The Boston-based menswear label makes clothing for a customer it calls “the performance professional.” That means the brand’s tailored shirts and suits are made using moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating, stretch fabrics—similar to what its customers wear when they work out.
“We’re creating the future of men’s apparel,” asserted Gihan Amarasiriwardena, an MIT engineering graduate who co-founded Ministry of Supply in 2011, speaking last week at Product Innovation Apparel in New York City.
Since launching with the Apollo dress shirt—features include heat and moisture management and odor control—on Kickstarter in 2012, Ministry of Supply has grown into a full-fledged line of men’s apparel. And performance is at the center of every style.
That’s why Amarasiriwardena was able to run a half-marathon wearing the brand’s Aviator II suit last December—and break a Guinness World Record while doing so. (Sadly, his time was topped in April.)
“Our lives have changed. We need our clothing to help us get through our day, not hold us back,” Amarasiriwardena said. “Have no fear, technology will save us.”
Here’s how Ministry of Supply is using technology to change the way men wear clothing every day.
First, the brand uses thermal imaging technology to create a map of the body in order to better understand how skin generates heat in response to different environments. Strain analysis is also used to see how bodies move throughout the day.
“This is where we start a lot of our design process,” Amarasiriwardena explained. “It’s not in a sketch, not on a drawing board. It’s by understanding the human body.”
This allows the brand to create a garment that conforms to the body, based on what it needs and how it moves.
Then Ministry of Supply adds technical fabrics to the mix. The aforementioned Apollo dress shirt is made using a moisture-wicking knit (a blend of polyester and Outlast polyester) that’s integrated with a NASA-engineered temperature-regulating technology called Phase Change Material (PCM) and four-way stretch. Not to mention, the breathable knit wicks sweat at the source.
Meanwhile, the brand’s everyday style—dubbed Archive—features a moisture-wicking stretch-woven fabric (polyester-elastane blend), as well as laser-cut underarm ventilation that keeps airflow constant. And Gemini, a warm-weather button-down, has a more complex makeup: 43 percent cotton, 33 percent PCM-infused polyester, 18 percent moisture-wicking polyester, 6 percent Spandex.
“What PCM does is it absorbs heat, stores it in the material and then releases it back to you,” Amarasiriwardena explained. “It helps us maintain homeostasis, which is the goal of the human skin.”
A different design mindset
“When we think about apparel, it’s one of life’s essentials” he said. “It merges form and function. It’s an expression of identity. But it’s also an extension of our body. How do we design with both of these things in mind?”
Instead of asking focus groups what they should create, Ministry of Supply asks men about their lifestyles. Specifically, what problems arise and when, so the brand can create a solution.
“The number one thing we heard was people wanted a jacket that moved with them. That’s the number one issue with jackets today,” Amarasiriwardena shared. “We set out on this mission to really solve that. We went through a couple iterations and we ended up with [the Seamless jacket], which looks like a woven but it’s made out of a warp-knit fabric that has four-way stretch.”
Using digitized modeling, the brand was able to make a jacket that mirrors the body in motion. Engineered at Shima Seiki in New Jersey using Wholegarment knitting, the fully seamless jacket is made from an ultra-stretchy, moisture-wicking blend of viscose and PBT. Other features include ventilation patterns “programmed” into the underarms for constant airflow and “articulated joints.”
“You don’t see it, but it’s there when you need it,” Amarasiriwardena said, noting that the jacket is an example of a garment where the technology disappears.
He added, “Technology is a tool. It’s a chisel for us. It’s not about pushing tech for tech’s sake. It’s about unlocking a better garment for us all.”