Make it perform!

By Lavinia Calvert | January 2011

Way before we wrote a business plan, we wrote a design brief.  In it, we said: 'The concept is to design a new judo gi that brings the uniform of the 200+ year old martial arts into the 21st century!

Pretty lofty words for a not-yet business.

In defining the product requirements, we referred to International Judo Federation (IJF) guidelines regarding jacket and lapel design, sleeve and pant lengths etc. But our main focus was on the choice of fabric.

While our terminology may not have been very technical back then, we said our new gi needed to be made from a fabric that had the following qualities:

  • lightweight

  • durable

  • strong (allowing for continuous pulling)

  • good absorption

  • evaporation of perspiration

  • machine washable and spin or line dribble

  • non-matting/fluffing/pulling

  • wrinkle-free (no need for ironing)

  • no shrinkage

  • fadeless

  • odorless

  • smooth/comfortable wearing next to skin

This became the wish list against which we evaluated fabric samples from all over the world. We literally thought it would be a simple case of finding a suitable material off-the-shelf and making our version of a performance gi. But we had a tough time finding a fabric that ticked all the boxes. Sure, there were plenty of lightweight, breathable sportswear fabrics to choose from but none that offered anywhere near the strength or durability that we knew was essential for martial arts uniforms.

So we decided to design and develop our own fit-for-purpose textile.

We took our wish list and set about benchmarking everything we could to establish the technical criteria for our fabric: weight, burst strength, tear strength, shrinkage, washability, moisture-vapour-transfer. You name it, we tested it. We knew exactly how our fabric needed to perform. We set targets and tolerance levels for every single attribute and systematically worked our way through an iterative development process until we were able to tick every box.

The result is Fortitude® – a world first textile that does everything you'd want and expect of a high-tech material designed for martial arts uniforms. It's strong and durable and yet it isn't heavy and thick like double-weave cotton. It breathes which means it wicks moisture away from your skin to its outer surface where it evaporates keeping you and the garment dryer for longer. And because it has a very fine layer of merino wool on the next-to-skin surface it's not only incredibly comfortable, it also has built-in thermoregulation and anti-odor properties to boot.

What more could you want in a high performance gi?