Fashtech, or Fashion Technology, is a reality. Businesses, enabled by technology, have changed the way fashion retailers design, source, move, stock, deliver and service products. Today, every Business is a Digital Business. Niche brands are joining the long tail of specialization under a clear objective: Stretch, breathability, comfort, sustainability… in short, customer-centricity. It´s not only about Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality, 3D Printing, Blockchain and Internet of Things, but also about fabrics, materials innovation. Ministry of Supply (MOS) is a fashion company that follows this trend, with a different approach to clothing: Technology apparel.
Ministry of Supply´s goal is to use new materials, aerospace, robotic engineering, and thermal analysis to create a new category in the design of better-fitting men’s business attire. The company seeks limited beta testing through customer input and feedback with when designing their clothing. Early customers are integrated into the development and design process by inviting them to be part of the research into the final product (2014. Sara Castellanos, Boston Business Journal).
Ministry of Supply was founded in 2012 by Aman Advani, Kit Hickey, Kevin Rustagi, and Gihan Amarasiriwardena, students from MIT. The company is named after Charles Fraser-Smith, who inspired Q in James Bond, and workied in the Ministry of Supply, a British government department that was formed in 1939 to coordinate the supply of equipment to all three branches of the armed forces during World War II.
The intention of the founders was creating technologically advanced office apparel. The company used Kickstarter platform twice, in 2012 and 2014, to fund the creation of their first high-performance clothes.
What “Technology clothing” stands for? How MOS is working with it?
Innovation, Fabrics and Construction at Ministry of Supply (source: MOS site)
- 3D Print-Knit: Designed digitally and “printed,” 3D Print-Knit garments feature body-mapped fit and ventilation. The 3D Print-Knit process also reduces waste by 40%.
Apollo: 19x more breathable than cotton, Apollo uses NASA-developed Phase Change Materials regulate temperature, storing and releasing heat based on your surroundings.
Atlas: Seamless Variable Knitting allows us to create knits that conform to your body without cutting and sewing.
- Kinetic: Formal looks meet sporting performance in this innovative fabric. Warp-knitting unlocks structural stretch that doesn’t rely on materials that break down over time.
Momentum: Incredibly soft spun polyester fibers are enhanced by a hollow core, which helps regulate your body temperature for unparalleled comfort.
Responsive: Recycled coffee grounds are molecularly bonded to the yarn’s surface, resulting in a fabric that naturally absorbs odors and dries 200% faster than cotton.
As a pure-player, MOS started selling online and then opened pop-up stores. Today, MOS has direct-owned stores in Washington, Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Santa Monica. Nowadays, having stores is more important than ever in terms of brand story telling, not just traffic = direct $$$. In fact, many companies are struggling when they analyse traditional KPIs. The KPI “Sales by foot or square meter” is dead with omnichannel. But, still, companies will have to close stores, and invest in a better experience for the ones they keep opened. In my opinion, only temples/ flagships from premium or high-end brands will remain, and middle/low-end brands will have many problems to compete to Amazon.
Ministry of Supply is betting for innovation and comfort, more than fashionability. Its core attributes, within their assortment, are flexible, wrinkle free (no need to iron), sweatproof tested, breathable, resilient collar design, mobility clothing… I dont´feel customer loyalty is based on attributes and this is why it´s key to invest in brand values, stories, in-store experience…
Source: Ministry of Supply
Sustainability is an example of brand value/ trend, also part of the value proposition. MOS manufactures reducing waste, thru 3D Print-knit, for example, or created the “1 in, 1 out” program that takes your donated clothing and gives it directly to those in need of professional wear.
MOS seems to be the perfect brand for practical men and women that need comfortable clothing for work. Their assortment is based on basics or “Never Out of Stock” items, less impacted by trends, so with less uncertainty when planning or forecasting demand. A key lever here is also pricing. A MOS shirt is $85-145, compared to $35-30 at Zara or around $90 at Bonobos. Time will tell if Ministry of Supply is moving to a high-end customer segment, where surviving is “easier”.