Ministry of Supply is taking its first step towards being a multi-brand company with today’s launch of Great Auk Outfitters.
Named for an extinct bird native to the north Atlantic, Great Auk Outfitters is launching with a single product: a parka made completely without any animal products, including the oft-used goose down. Great Auk’s target audience of ethical luxury shoppers overlaps somewhat with Ministry of Supply’s young entrepreneurs, but is separate enough to warrant its own brand. The secondary line was created internally and led by Ministry of Supply’s vp of operations Brian Kennedy, who is Great Auk Outfitters’ cofounder.
“For years now we’ve focused on micro-initiatives, like 3D-printing and build-to-order, to unite form and function in a responsible way,” said Aman Advani, CEO of Ministry of Supply, which has raised more than $9 million in funding. “It was a couple of years ago that we started to explore more ambitious ways we could do that. We talked about investing in an outside brand, but this idea came up with Brian [Kennedy] and it took off.”
More fashion brands are introducing sub-brands, like Lululemon’s &go or Express’ UpWest, as a way to broaden their base. However, moving into new categories without diluting the core brand experience or cheapening the original company and its product is difficult. Ministry of Supply is guarding against that by selling Great Auk Outfitters product that is more expensive than anything its core brand sells.
Great Auk’s coat retails for $795 to put it firmly in competition with high-end brands such as Canada Goose, whose coats tend to go for about $1,000 (Ministry of Supply’s own coats are around $400). This price point will help Great Auk reach its target audience, distinct from the type of existing customers that are served by Ministry of Supply.
The hero product is meant to serve as a brand identity builder and offer a competitive point of differentiation from a product perspective, too. Whereas other parkas from Canada Goose or the “Amazon Coat” use down taken from birds, Great Auk parkas use a double layer of insulation including the NASA-developed aerogel. The Great Auk aerogel parka will insulate to temperatures as low as -10° Fahrenheit, comparable to options available from Canada Goose or North Face.
Kennedy said that the team on Great Auk right is lean. Since the company has no profits just yet, they’ve had to scrape by with employees from Ministry of Supply chipping in when they can and taking alternative compensation. For example, a model for Great Auk’s initial photoshoot in Iceland waived most of his pay in exchange for bringing his girlfriend on the trip so he could propose to her.
On the marketing side, Kennedy and fellow co-founder Geraldo Aldarondo are focusing on a combination of social media and digital advertising, leveraging Ministry of Supply’s social audience (more than 50,000 followers on Instagram) and experiential marketing. Through the ultimate effect that Great Auk Outfitters will have on Ministry of Supply is yet to be determined, Advani is not ruling out future sub-brands.
“The premise of Ministry of Supply has always been about iteration,” Advani said. “We’re always looking for the best way to grow and the best way to improve. Incubation of an entirely new brand is a big swing, for sure, and we have to see how it pans out first before we make any decisions to determine if we’re good at this. As long as we stay true to our roots, we’re interested in expanding outside of our brand’s four walls.”