Within the sport and leisure clothing industry, you’ll often find that designers have paid particular attention to problems regarding sweat, odour control and ventilation. But take a look at office wear or high-end tailoring, and these areas are simply not addressed. One clothing company that decided to tackle this issue is Ministry of Supply, and they turned to the same materials that NASA uses for their astronaut’s spacesuits to help them.
The Boston-based brand was co-founded by Gihan Amarasiriwardena, who studied chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and having spent two summers at the Sports Technology Institute, he learned how to combine the technological aspects engineering into product design.
His partner Kit Hickey was inspired to develop a collection of working clothes with sweat busting technology after her own experiences. Hickey was used to early 4am starts that ended with hot, sunny afternoons and as such, she had to have a wardrobe to match these extreme conditions. When she was weekending and wearing her sports clothes this was possible, but when she worked in the office things were completely different.
The final team member, consultant Aman Advani was used to extensive traveling in suits that did not match his needs. So he set out to change his wardrobe to suit his day, whether he was boarding a plane or attending meetings in the boardroom.
The company researched different fabrics and learned about phase-change materials (PCMs) whilst they were studying at MIT. Researchers were exploring PCM’s for a new spacesuit design to be used for the next Mars trip. PCM’s are particularly useful in space travel as they regulate temperature. A bit like a battery, they store heat away from the body when you are too hot, but release it back to you when you are cooling down. This allows you to stay at your ideal body temperature.
“When we became aware of PCMs to regulate body temperature,” Amarasiriwardena told NASA, “we saw it as an amazing opportunity.”
The team incorporated PCM’s into their new clothing range by using thermal imaging to determine where heat is generated in the body. They also added two types of moisture wicking fabrics to ensure that any sweat is pulled away immediately from the body to store it away from the skin and coffee infused materials to eliminate odours.
“We wanted material that could help your body stay in that comfortable band—stay warmer or cooler—as well as be styled as a dress shirt,” says Amarasiriwardena.
Ministry of Supply launched a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter to get enough funds for the release of a new dress shirt – the $98 Apollo, and have since raised over $4 million. This isn’t their first successful Kickstarter campaign either, back in July 2013, they used the coffee infused material technology for a pair of odour busting Atlas socks.
So will this success go to the founder’s heads? CEO Gihan Amarasiriwardena says not: “We are different from the rest of the fashion industry because we are not about releasing new products every season.”
The range of clothing has now expanded to include dress shirts, tee shirts, polo shirts, chinos and socks, with prices ranging from $18 for a base layer tee, to $118 to a dress shirt.
You can check out the collection by visiting Ministry of Supply.