I am Downtown Boston: Kit Hickey, co-founder Ministry of Supply
She boasts self-proclaimed simple and easy personal style, but Kit Hickey’s clothing line is anything but simple. As a founder of local “performance professional” menswear e-commerce Ministry of Supply, she and her partners infuse technology into business wear. Read: it’s professional attire crafted with outdoor apparel performance savvy (think fabrics that bend, breathe, wick moisture and are anti-odor). At the heart of this fashion-meets-function are signature dress shirts, the Apollo and the Archive, along with chinos, socks and crew necks that follow the motto “life moves fast – get clothes that can keep up.”
A South Street corporate office in downtown Boston is where Hickey hangs her hat, when she’s not hiking a mountain or chilling with her dog. We met up with her to discover more about the two-year-old e-commerce line, its new pop up store and how technology can indeed be fashionable.
TheVoiceofDowntownBoston.com: You have a background in investment banking and entrepreneurial study at MIT. Tell us how it translated to MoS.
Kit Hickey: I met my co-founder Aman [Advani] one of the first days of MIT Sloan business school. We realized we both had the same idea for improving professional clothing. A few days later, we were talking to the head of the Entrepreneurship Center at MIT. He suggested we talk to Gihan [Amarasiriwardena], a chemical engineer who was interested in solving the same problem. We came together because of our shared vision for integrating technology into business clothing, but more importantly stayed together because of shared values.
VoDB: How does MoS weave technology in with fashion?
KH: As engineers out of MIT, we take an engineering approach to creating clothing. This typically means we identify a problem and use technology to solve it. All of our garments use technology to make them more functional. It’s in our DNA, and it’s something we pride ourselves on!
VoDB: The name “Ministry of Supply” sounds like serious business.
KH: In the James Bond films, the character “Q” outfits Bond for anything. “Q” was based on a real person, Charles Fraser-Smith. His cover? The Ministry of Supply. Similar to Q, we think of ourselves as “empathetic inventors,” preparing our customers for their adventures, whatever those may be.
VoDB: You had a crazy first month in business. MoS sold more than 6,000 shirts and gained 4,000 customers. How did you cope with the immediate success?
KH: That was definitely an adventure! We were thrown into a position where we had to fulfill over 4,000 orders. We learned a ton about scaling our business. We were humbled by how many people were passionate about what we were doing and we were beyond excited to continue to develop products.
VoDB: Your corporate offices are in the Leather District. What drew you there?
KH: We love being downtown. The excitement and energy is great. We chose the location because we love the area. It’s close to some great startup resources, such as MassChallenge. Our whole team works out of our office – design, tech, marketing, customer experience, operations. The Leather District energy is great for the business and personally! There’s so much going on, and we have such great neighbors. It’s a busy place with a neighborhood feel.
VoDB: You entered the pop-up retail world in June.
KH: We love the pop-up. It allows us to engage with our Boston customers in person! It’s been great to come offline a little and get to know our customers on a more personal level. We’ve also hosted fun events at the store, including an Entrepreneurship Panel and a Women in Tech Meet up.
The Ministry of Supply pop-up location is at 299 Newbury St. Check it out before it goes away in December.