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Four Years and $8.5 Million Later, Ministry of Supply Launches Womenswear

And a new brand identity.
Ministry Easier Than Silk Nehru Blouse and Structure Your Day Classic Leg Pant. Photo: Ministry

Ministry Easier Than Silk Nehru Blouse and Structure Your Day Classic Leg Pant. Photo: Ministry

In 2012, Boston-based Ministry of Supply raised almost $430,000 on Kickstarter — a record-breaking $400,000 more than its original goal — to fund its line of sweat-resistant men's shirts. Now, four years (and $8.5 million in seed funding) later, the startup apparel brand is ready to offer its performance-driven workwear to women.

"We resisted the urge to just recut the men's stuff into women's stuff and launch it and move on," said co-founder Aman Advani. Instead the design team, led by Jarlath Mellett, who hails from Theory and Brooks Brothers, took nearly two years to execute the debut styles. The first year consisted of conversations, surveys and focus groups, which helped Ministry of Supply understand the "pain points" for women in the workplace. Interestingly enough, they were similar to the brand's male clientele: stiff fabric, wrinkles, sweat stains and the dreaded "dry-clean only" tag. The only difference, according to Advani and co-founder Gihan Amarasiriwardena, were the solutions, a.k.a. the clothes.

They developed a dress shirt and pants in two silhouettes, which were tested on real working professionals. "We went through about 20 different prototypes just to get the fit right," remembers Amarasiriwardena. "We had about 18 women try on the full product range, wear it for a week and give us feedback."

Ministry Easier Than Silk Shirt and Structure Your Day Slim Leg Pant. Photo: Ministry

Ministry Easier Than Silk Shirt and Structure Your Day Slim Leg Pant. Photo: Ministry

The women's shirts, which retail for $85, are an alternative to the silk tops that likely take up space in the back of your wardrobe because they're just too delicate to wear all day. Called "Easier Than Silk," the two styles (one with a collar, the other without) are made from a lightweight fabric with stretch that's meant to feel and drape like a silk blouse. It holds its shape for up to 16 hours, has moisture-wicking and wrinkle-resistant properties and is machine washable. 

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From Advani and Amarasiriwardena's findings, regular wool trousers tend to get baggy around the knees from sitting at a desk all day. So the "Structure Your Day" pant, which costs $140 and comes in classic and slim silhouettes, is made from a woven fabric that's sturdy enough to hold its flattering shape for as long as double the average workday. The same perks still apply: no wrinkles, moisture management and no need to dry-clean. Plus, the waistband has just enough stretch that it's as comfortable during your morning commute as it is when you end up having to order dinner to the office.

Ministry Easier Than Silk Nehru Blouse and Structure Your Day Slim Leg Pant. Photo: Ministry

Ministry Easier Than Silk Nehru Blouse and Structure Your Day Slim Leg Pant. Photo: Ministry

As Ministry of Supply's offerings for men have rapidly expanded to include suiting, outerwear, sweaters and even socks, the same is planned for its women's category. By 2017, expect to see skirts and dresses boasting the same performance-driven qualities. "A lot of times when brands cross the gender line, it's like dipping a toe in and saying, 'Does it make sense?' And it's kind of this 90-to-10 awkward split," explains Advani. "For us, we want to move to an even split as quickly as possible out of the gate. We've front-loaded everything to make sure we're building a product for a real need. There shouldn't be any surprises after the launch of 'this didn't work.'"

New Ministry retail concept. Photo: Ministry

New Ministry retail concept. Photo: Ministry

This exciting expansion comes with an even bigger announcement: Ministry of Supply's new brand identity, stripped from its high-tech bells and whistles. For starters, the label will now go by Ministry and its message will stick to why the brand was started in the first place. "A lot of it has been figuring out what's been working the past four years and really doubling down on that," recalls Amarasiriwardena. "We want to be the brand you want to wear to work to be productive and fulfilled."

The rebranding will be reflected in all consumer-facing materials, from its website and social media platforms to style names and retail spaces, which will expand to three new locations this fall: Atlanta, Chicago and Bethesda, MD. Each Ministry locale has traded out its super techy lab space for something more experiential. Think co-working tables, free Wi-Fi, beverages and a comfortable lounge area. You could put Ministry's apparel to the test before you make a purchase, or simply hang out at the shop for 30 minutes to catch up on emails — whichever helps make your work life more comfortable.

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