“People are excited about this because in the United States we’re basically printing T-shirts for everything — sororities, fraternities, family reunions. Pretty much anything.” Rothstein says. “People collect them, and then they just sit in closets.”
The fronts and backs of the shirts are cut, stitched together, and then sewn together into a T-shirt quilt. Prices range from $75 to $150. They also make tote bags, ties, and scarves out of the shirts. So far their idea seems to be working. Since they began their business at the end of 2011, they’ve pulled in revenues of $140,000.
“It’s something that people are interested in because it lets them preserve their memories,” Lohr says. “It’s a cool way to recycle.”
Ministry of Supply
Location: Leather District
Partners: Kit Hickey, 28, Aman Advani, 28, Gihan Amarasiriwardena, 24
Amount raised on Kickstarter: $429, 276 ($399,276 over goal)
‘The last innovation in men’s dress shirts was 30 years ago,” explains Kit Hickey, one of the founders of Ministry of Supply. “I think the last was the Brooks Brothers no-iron shirt. But in general it’s an area where no innovation exists.”
The three MIT graduate students involved in Ministry of Supply also found that gents wearing dress shirts were none-too-pleased with this lack of evolution. Before heading into the process of designing their Apollo shirt, which begins shipping this week, the entrepreneurs talked to nearly 200 men about dress shirts — and these men did not give the wardrobe staple high marks for comfort.
Which could explain why the Kickstarter campaign for Ministry of Supply raised more than 12 times its goal of $30,000. In the process, Ministry of Supply broke the record for most money raised by a fashion-start-up on Kickstarter.
MIT may not be regarded as a hotbed of fashion design, but it’s the combination of technology and design that sets these shirts apart from the standard dress shirt. Selling for $105, the shirts are designed from a proprietary fabric — the same that NASA uses in space suits — to control heat absorption and heat loss to make the wearer more comfortable. Hickey says the technology acts a bit like a battery, storing and releasing heat as the body needs it.
“On a hot day it will take the heat away from you,” she says. “And on a cool day it will release the heat back to you. We really thought it would be great to have a shirt that changes with you.”
Hickey says the high-tech fabric also has an anti-microbial coating that diminishes odor and sweat stains.
The additional money raised through Kickstarter will help the company accelerate research and development and add new color selections to the current lineup of white and blue.
“It’s something that really resonates with people,” Hickey says. “So they started sharing it with friends. And then we were hearing from people who were saying ‘I’ve been waiting for something like this.’ ”
On top of regulating temperature, the fabric (which currently has six patents pending) is designed to fit better. It has stretch so it can fit closer to the body. Or, as Hickey says, it helps eliminate fabric muffin tops.
The shirts have earned a significant amount of national and international press. But for all the high-tech advancements of the shirt, Hickey says there’s one reason why the shirt is getting so much buzz.
“A lot of guys say they can’t wait to get out of their work shirt by 6 p.m.,” she says. “But we hear that this is a shirt they don’t mind wearing the rest of the day.”