Upgrading the Present: Future Fibers
December 14th, 2014
Preserving tradition while pursuing innovation is a tricky balancing act, especially when it comes to designing menswear. Ministry of Supply co-founder and CEO Gihan Amarasiriwardena walks us through the processes he's undergone in bringing cutting-edge garments like Mercury and Gemini to life without sacrificing their timeless character.
We love the “worn & weathered” element in classic garments, be it an old cotton oxford or your grandfather’s soft sweater.
And in reinventing this category of clothing, we wanted to preserve the very nature of a classic - that soft touch and matte aesthetic that blends into any environment - while reinventing its core functions to perform as an extension of the body. For us, it’s about paying homage to the present while continuing to look forward.
So we started with wool. It’s always fascinated us, the way its soft handfeel and beautiful heathers come together for an aesthetic that works in any situation. Thanks to millenia of evolution, Merino wool is nature’s performance fiber. Acting as a next-to-skin layer for sheep, it boasts many of the environment-transcending properties we’ve come to expect from our own layers.
In making the Mercury sweater, we called upon extra-fine merino wool coming in at 18 microns: it’s an ultra soft, fine fiber that inherently wicks moisture and, thanks to its micro-scale structure, boasts a natural loft for added warmth.
But we wanted to update the classics. Reimagine them, with a twist. Whereas most other fibers, including wool, require you to start sweating before they aid you through evaporative cooling, we wanted something that would anticipate this rather than reacting after the fact. So we turned to Phase Change Materials, one of our favorite technologies since we incorporated them into our first Apollo dress shirt. PCMs represent the promise of many next-generation, man-made materials, proactively responding to your body temperature and environment by cooling and heating as you need it.
We’ve infused PCMs into acrylic, which has a complementary structure to wool fibers and blended the two in our Mercury series, and polyester-PCM blends with our Gemini products. Preserving that same smooth handfeel, we’ve been able to create fiber blends are truly compatible and complementary.
Merging time-honored fabrics with new-age fibers allows us to make sense of magnitude changes in performance, while maintaining a classic aesthetic. In the past, natural and synthetic fibers were at ends with each other, whereas now they can enhance and enable each other. It’s a totally new approach to developing fibers.