The Perils of Gi Manufacturing

Where the large players in BJJ (Tatami, Scramble, Shoyoroll, Progress, Kingz) get their Jiu Jitsu Gi’s made is a closely guarded secret. With a touch of light googling you’ll find that 99% of them are made in factories in Pakistan, but which factories is nowhere to be found on the internet. The large brands won’t tell you, because they’re scare of companies like us coming and taking their piece of the pie.

That means that we must go through a long, drawn-out process of speaking to factories through websites like Ali Baba, getting samples sent out, paying for small runs, burning cash in the process, because they had to do it. Which is the antithesis to progress (not the brand, the word).

In a past life I managed a large tattoo studio and watched how the ‘old school’ artists brought up apprentices. Back in the day tattoo apprenticeships used to be brutal, boring and slow. They were unpaid, you were treat like shit, you had the pleasure of mopping the floors and basically doing everything to run the studio so the artist didn’t have to, for no money. In return, perhaps once a week or a month you had the pleasure of sitting next to a tattoo artist and watching them work and were able to ask them questions about the process, and you could draw in your spare time. That’s not a very productive way to do things. What became obvious (and inevitable) over time was that just because that’s how things were done, doesn’t mean that’s how they should be done. Many apprentices that go through this system are so sick by the time they’re tattooing they up sticks and go and work somewhere else, or open their own shop. Making it a pointless exercise to nurture the talent. Whereas many artists and shops realised that if they treat their apprentices well, open the door to all of their ‘secrets’ and let them breathe they stick around and it works out better for everyone.

In the bigger picture, the tattoo analogy works because a rising tide raises all ships. The better the standard of tattooing (and jiu jitsu gi's) on a whole, the better it is for everyone. Prices can remain good, as nobody wants to rip anybody off (constantly undercutting leads to no profit for anybody) and you develop a healthier scene.

This applies to all businesses, including mine. The more time I spend searching endlessy for good quality product manufacturers, the less time I have to make cool shit. The more cool shit I make, the more other brands and businesses have to up their game, and so on and so on. Who wins? The customer, you get awesome gear, that looks good and is high quality. Businesses also win, because they can charge for that quality, an also develop long standing healthy relationships with their customers. Everyone wins when doors are opened. When they are closed through fear, everybody, including the customer, loses.

Now the business lesson is over, you’re probably dying to know where we’re at with our gi’s. Well, the good news is, we have some! Now they need to be rigorously tested. We have a few shapes and sizes (as we all know, gi sizing can differ wildly from one brand to the next) and I need to make sure that they are of decent standard before we go live with any orders. I have yet to try mine out on the mats, but they seem a little on the short side, unless I’ve grown. The stitching and printing is fantastic but they got a couple of things slightly wrong through the design docs, which is probably just down to communication. I’m also getting some samples from other places before I make my final decision and put some on sale. It’s a long process, made longer by gatekeepers, but we’ll get there.

In the interest of transparency, these Gi’s were manufactured in Pakistan, by a company found on Ali Baba called Fight Sports. Judging by their profile, they make a whole host of other stuff too, which I haven’t ordered so I can’t vouch for. They don’t make our rash guards though, they’re made in Thailand. If you want to know who I use for rashguards, please DM or email me. A great friend (who I won’t name here, in case he doesn’t want to be outed) sent me a message letting me know he’s used a great rashguard and shorts manufacturer if I ever wanted to get into that side of things and I’ve used them ever since. Thanks to him, you get to wear all the very cool (if I may say so myself) stuff we get to make.

Speaking of rashguards, new designs are being printed as we speak. How exciting!

More news as soon as I have it.

Rick / / Reap

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