At Ministry of Supply we strive to create innovative products that solve everyday problems through elegant design decisions. Our Labs program is a chance for us to test “blue sky” concepts and get real-world feedback. The LABS_0617 Dress Shirt was developed to combine the best attributes of our two most popular shirts, Apollo and Aero. Apollo’s knit fabric offers 19x more breathability than cotton, more drape, and solid colors. Aero aims for classic looks, with a woven fabric for crisp structure, patterns, and 10x performance.
We wondered if it would be possible to borrow the core traits from each in order to synthesize an even better shirt. Specifically, could we develop a fabric with a more organic hand feel than Apollo without sacrificing performance?
An Ultra-high gauge Jacquard knit fabric could combine the advantages of both knit and woven fabrics—with a more natural handfeel than Apollo—as well as excellent stretch and breathability. Jacquard knit fabric could also be made with the high resolution patterns and structure of a woven.
1. Jacquard Knit: The Jacquard knit allows us to create a variety of patterns both with vertical, horizontal and diagonal designs not possible with simple weft knitting. Additionally the use of ultra-high 36-gauge knitting (the number of needles per inch on the machine bed) allows for very high-resolution and smooth surface structure similar to wovens, but with the stretch of a knit. For comparison, our Apollo fabric is made on a 28-gauge circular knitting machine - the Labs Jacquard knit has a 65% higher knit density per unit area, resulting in sharper patterns and smoother texture.
2. Materials: Another issue we needed to address was handfeel. While many people enjoy the distinct next-to-skin sensations of Aero and Apollo 3, some people are simply looking for a more traditional “cotton” feel. We tested different blends of cotton and synthetic fibers, to achieve the ideal balance of performance and feel. Synthetic fibers imbue the garment with many of the performance qualities we love such as moisture-wicking, while cotton provides a soft touch. We worked directly with a Japanese mill to find the optimal balance.
We landed on a 65/35 cotton/polyester blend, similar to the fiber we use in our T-shirts. It has the luxuriously soft handfeel we were after, while still retaining the performance features we demand.
3. Construction: We used a pre-existing platform for the body shape of the garment, and tweaked the fit for the new fabric composition because every fabric drapes differently.
4. Testing: We do a range of in-house testing for all of our products to make sure that the fabric meets our standards. We wanted to ensure that the level of stretch, breathability, and moisture management were equal to or better than those qualities in the Apollo.
In June 2017 we launched the LABS_0617 to great success. The limited run of dress shirts sold out within a month, and we began gathering feedback one month after the shirts were delivered, so customers had the chance to wear them on several occasions. The results are now in for the LABS_0617 and they couldn’t be more informative in evaluating our hypotheses about handfeel, structure, moisture-management, and overall quality.
The results were overly positive, showing a positive outlook for both the warp knit structure and the blended fiber composition. Here are a few pieces of feedback:
“Best shirt I’ve ever bought….I love MoS shirts, and have tried them all. This one is the best one.” - Timothy
“It's amazingly light and the texture is fantastically soft. It's the most comfortable fabric I’ve ever worn.” - Alex
“I routinely go through 100-degree days and manage to stay comfortable all day.” - Agbrik
We also learned that we may have used too much cotton, based on feedback from Nathan:
“I am a heavy sweat-er, and this does a good job, but not as good as the aero or Apollo that I have - my sweat spends more time on my skin before the shirt takes it on.” - Nathan
LABS_0617 represents a nearly ideal marriage of comfort and style. With the feedback we’ve received we’re now able to go back to the drawing board and perfect the concept. We will need to combat the lower degree of wrinkle resistance and increase the moisture management capabilities by increasing the polyester content to 40 percent. Stay tuned for a production version of the LABS_0617 within the next year.