BOSTON (CBS) – The air conditioner on his crowded Red Line train car wasn’t working and Eric Khatchadourian, had sweat puddling through his button-down shirt. Countless uncomfortable train rides to work led the MIT alumnus to tap his friend and former MIT track teammate Gihan Amarasiriwardena for a solution. The result could become the next big thing in business fashion; a venture that’s already making waves in its first full year of business.
A team of great minds came together around a singular idea: use the technology of performance fabrics to create a business shirt that looks good, keeps you cool, actively fights odors, and never wrinkles. No small task.
The company now known as The Ministry of Supply was born. The local start-up is one of 125 finalists in this year’s MassChallenge, a competition that awards promising entrepreneurs world-class mentorship, free office space, access to funding, media and more.
Amarasiriwardena and fellow engineer Kevin Rustagi had just launched their first shirt when MIT Venture Mentoring Service put them in touch with Sloan MBA students Aman Advani and Kit Hickey, who had experience in athletic wear design and were working on a similar project.
“It’s really a story of MIT bringing people together,” Hickey said.
Their first collaboration, The Agent Shirt, debuted in October 2011 and was an immediate success. It’s a dress shirt engineered to wick moisture away from your body and keep you dry. The shirt also uses an anti-microbial coating to absorb odor. And thanks to something called a “strain analysis,” which measures a stretch factor, the wrinkle-free Agent Shirt actually stays tucked in all day.
“Under Armor meets Calvin Klein” is how Rustagi, the “Business Development Minister” describes the idea.
The Ministry appears to have outdone itself with the recent creation of The Apollo Shirt, adding space suit technology that actually controls body temperature. The fabric pulls heat away from your body and stores it in the shirt – like a battery.
Ministry is catching the attention of professionals who bike to work; athletes and weekend warriors who like the comfort and fit of performance gear; and traveling executives who are tired of worrying about sweat-inducing airplane cabins and suitcases full of wrinkled clothes.
“People are excited about the idea of what happens when you bring in engineer and design in to the business apparel market,” Rustagi told CBS Boston. “Like a BMW, they’re sleek and professional on the outside, with a ton of engineering and science under the hood.”
The Agent Shirt and The Apollo are both available on Kickstarter right now starting at $80. They come in white, blue and black.
Ministry plans to expand its color selection and is hoping to eventually introduce a women’s clothing line. The company also plans to open a retail showroom in the summer of 2012 in the same building as their Fort Point, South Boston offices.