This is a story about the gi design process. This is also a story about an unusual relationship. Fenom Kimonos is a Dallas based company run by Triin, the designer who works for Fenom is Agnes. These two Estonians are childhood friends, one lives in Dallas, the other one in Pärnu, Estonia. A couple of years ago the ladies reconnected and a new professional relationship took off. Two friends living thousands of miles away and working on making classy women’s jiu-jitsu gear, how cool is that?
It all starts with a vague idea, and the most annoying request a designer can get: Make something pretty! Sometimes we know what we want to do, sometimes we know what we definitely do not want to do. This time it started with a desire to do a flower design that stays away from the widely used Asian and Hawaiian influence in BJJ designs. So instead of looking far, we looked at our beautiful Estonian cornflower (rukkilill) and decided to go with the nordic vibe.
The best way to showcase the national flower was to incorporate some folk patterns and our signature F. First it seemed like an impossible task. How can you mix a geometric shape with our curvy F and make it look like a cornflower?
Estonian folk patterns use a lot of geometric shapes and colors, each having a specific and mythological meaning. Even the tiniest islands and counties have their recognizable color scheme and preferred patterns. Mothers have taught their daughters for centuries how to knit, crochet and embroider these patterns, keeping the skills alive. We wanted to honor our mothers’ and grandmothers’ effort, and make something meaningful not just for us, but for all girls and women.
We decided to focus on the octagon (kaheksakand), also known as an eight-pointed star or cross, which is one the most significant and widely used shapes in our patterns. It represents dawn, and a new start, it brings good fortune and protects us, our souls, and our homes.
The designer went to the drawing board and came back with a few design concepts. Some were scrapped right away, couple of more tries and there was something that caught our eye. A few more tweaks and color changes, and three best ones emerged.
We were going back and forth, arguing if light blue or dark blue would look the best in real life on the gi. After we
finally picked the two favorites, the design got sent to the factory in Pakistan for the test embroidery. Sometimes the design looks awesome on paper but not so good when embroidered. This time we were pleased with the test and didn’t change anything about the F. The embroidery looked beautiful and delicate, crisp and cool, just like we had hoped for.
More back and forth discussions, since there was no clear winner. Eventually we picked our favorite, drew up the full gi design, added a few more design elements and sent it to the production. Now the waiting started. A few weeks of nail-biting and the prototype was ready! But oh no, something unexpected happened. Contrast stitching…. this was not in the specs! Somehow the factory decided to do blue stitching. After a
complete mild panick attack, the more we looked at it, the more we actually liked the contrast stitching. Some mistakes are not all that bad after all!
So there you have it. This is how the whole process works. It looks simple but it’s not easy. It takes between 3-6 months to bring out a new product. Delays are normal, some ideas never make it to the finish line and that is okay too. Over the years we have realized that this is part of the process, you just need to get used to it and not fight it.
Now we are anxiously waiting for the DHL truck to deliver the new gi shipment so we can take product shots, update the website, test the gi out on the mat, and see if it is going to be well received by the customers. We hope you like it. Thank you and stay Powered by She!