Friday, September 09, 2011

Lucky Gi "Rude Boy" (bamboo fabric) review

Finally, my review of the new Lucky Gi-- I was entranced by the concept of bamboo fabric for jiu jitsu gis. Entranced, but also nervous about the $289 price tag. Could a gi really be worth that much? I loved my old-version Lucky (the Lovato model) and still do. But I bought it used on ebay for $67! Still, I was pretty curious when I read what Lucky has to say about it:

"If you live anywhere in the world you can get your new Lucky Gi shipped to you for free. We really want everyone to see how great this new Bamboo Fabric is. It has some amazing properties. Your gi will always smell better, it will be cleaner and much softer too. Best of all you will always look great and feel great!"

Well hey, if I always look and feel great, that $300 would be worth it.

Lucky also says:

"The original Lucky Gis were redesigned starting from the cotton it is made from, to the weave of the fabric. The fit of the gi was very different and the styles are very unique. But I still wanted to do more. I could see where the problems with Pakistan were. The worst part was the blatant dishonesty.

After Pakistan I visited some very good factories in China. These factories have been making gis forever and that is where all the Japanese brands have been made for years. They have a strong background in Martial Arts in China over a very long time, so they are very very experienced.

Along with more knowledge they also have a much higher quality machines than in Pakistan. This improves the quality a lot.

China has also allowed us to create the first environmentally conscious designed Jiu Jitsu gi. The gi is using a new fabric for Jiu Jitsu gis. This fabric is new to us in BJJ, but in China it is an old fabric they know all about. It is Asia! The new Lucky Gis are made from Bamboo. Bamboo is much more environmentally friendly than cotton and even hemp.

Welcome to a new era in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gis."


Googling some info on bamboo fabric, I learned that "it is soft like silk. The fibers are naturally smoother and rounder with no sharp spurs to irritate the skin, making bamboo fabric cause fewer skins reactions than to other natural fibers such as wool or hemp. Bamboo is also antibacterial and antifungal."



"This is because bamboo possesses an anti-bacteria and bacteriostatic bio-agent called 'Bamboo Kun,' allowing it to naturally flourish and grow in the wild without the use of pesticides or fertilizers. This beneficial quality of the plant remains in its textile form, killing all bacteria keeping the wearer feeling fresher and odor free for longer, making the garment healthier and more hygienic."

"Unlike many of the other fabrics, bamboo is extremely breathable. The natural bamboo plant keeps itself cool in the heat and like its other properties, is also maintained in its fabric form. The cross-section of the bamboo fiber is covered with micro-gaps giving the fabric better moisture absorption and ventilation. As a result, it is able to keep the wearer almost two degrees cooler in the heat and noticeably warmer in the cold. Bamboo fabric is also anti-static and UV protective as it cuts out 98% of harmful UV rays, providing the wearer with another beneficial quality from bamboo made clothing."

This sounded even BETTER than my hemp gi.  Woot!

But then I also read some disturbing things about how some bamboo fabric is made. Delia Montgomery is a freelance journalist in Hawaii, writing about environmental design and fashion from both consumer and supplier perspectives. She wrote:

"The bamboo species for textile production is Phyllostachys heterocycla pubescens, commonly known as Moso bamboo. It is primarily grown in China where there are the most textile mills. Moso bamboo is the largest of the temperate zone bamboo species, is grown on family-owned farms, provides edible shoots, but is not what beloved panda bears eat. All sounds good until the manufacturing process is investigated.

Common production from plant to fabric is not as green as eco-minded people would like. Michael Lackman of LotusOrganics.com contributes to an impressive blog his family originated. He shares some interesting facts from extensive research.

. . .  [H]eavy and toxic chemicals are typically utilized to process bamboo into fabric. The alternative to chemical is mechanical processing. The mechanical method means crushing the woody parts of the bamboo plant followed by natural enzymes to break the walls into a mushy mass so that the natural fibers can be combed out and spun into yarn. This is essentially the same eco-friendly manufacturing method used to develop flax or hemp linen. . . .

In reality, bamboo fashions are mostly produced by concocting the bamboo leaves and woody shoots in strong chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH which is also known as caustic soda or lye), and carbon disulfide in a hydrolysis alkalization chemical mechanism combined with multi phase bleaching. Both sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide are linked to serious health problems. Because of the health risks and damage to the environment, the chemical method is not considered sustainable.

Bamboo garments are praised for design characteristics similar to lyocell. The lyocell process is used to manufacture the Tencel® brand which is considered eco-friendly because their formulations used are supposedly nontoxic to humans. Lyocell processes are closed-loop so that 99.5% of the chemicals are captured and recycled to be used again. In comparison to chemical bamboo fiber production, it’s greener.

A new technology worthy of mention is from Greenyarn where they make fabric made from nano particles of bamboo charcoal. They deny use of harmful chemicals, but the actual process is vague. Stay tuned.

Conscious fabric retailers need to look for certification from an independent and reliable certification company. Currently, Oeko-Tex is the most comprehensive label for insuring that the garment is healthy for consumers. Other certification bodies are Soil Association, SKAL, or KRAV. Bamboo fabric buyers are wise to ask specific questions about textile development in addition to a label demand."

Well, I had previously had excellent communications with Scott, owner of Lucky Gis and a super-helpful guy, so I sent him questions about the fabric certification. He was awesome to work with on my purchase of the gi, and as always, his response was friendly and lightning quick.

"No they are not certified in any way.  I didn’t know about these certifications till after I already had the gis made.  This is my first time working in bamboo and I learned  a lot.  So I am going to go back to the fabric manufacturer and see if they can certify it or not. "


At least Scott is aware and on top of his game.  Great customer service, for sure.  Double plus good.

So.... here it is-- the "Rude Boy" or rasta version of the new Lucky Gi.    This is the embroidery on the back of the gi jacket, across your shoulderblade area.  It's attractive in its own way, very bright and blingy, and the embroidery is tight and smooth.  The fabric is ridiculously silky soft, almost velvety, and very "fluid" under your fingers.


I don't like the font as much as the old Lucky, seen here, but what the hey:



It comes with a gi bag.  (Sorry the picture is a little blurry, I wasn't being careful.)


Lots of cute touches like this interior label reveal the personality of the gi (if gis have personalities.)


I liked the nice thin line of color around the lapel and contrast stitching.  Also there is a regular stripe of sparkly thread running throughout the fabric.  You can see it horizontally under the words here on the chest area.


Closeup of pants cuffs and embroidery.  The cuffs of sleeves and pants are all triple-seamed.



Here's a glimpse of the interior lining of gi jacket -- it's not separate fabric, just dyed designs on the inside side of the fabric.  Plus you can also see the interior taping of the sleeve cuff.  The taping is smooth, but the edges of the tape were scratchy.  Not my fave.


For comparison on lapel thickness-- Vulkan Ultralight (blue), Lucky Gi (black), and Atama Mundial #9 (white). The shadow between the pieces makes it a little tricky to tell which is thickest, but in person, the Lucky is as thick as the Atama. Atama covers its lapels in ripstop; Lucky, in the same twill as the pants. I don't know that it makes much difference.


As far as texture goes, the Lucky lapel is just how I like it-- a little softer and more flexible, because I like to play games with my lapels and theirs, and I figure if it comes down to being harder to choke because the lapel is really thick and stout, I'm already screwed.  But if you like a HCK-like (or old Atama-like) monster lapel, you won't really care for this, imho.

Here's the back of the gi jacket, showing the repeat of the lion emblem.


Each sleeve cuff is in a different color from the trim on the bottom of the jacket. You can see that the vent is double seamed and reinforced well at the point where it would be most strained.


But some of the "cutesy" things didn't make so much sense to me. This interior label states "The harder they come the harder they fall" -- either I didn't get it, or it wasn't funny. [edit:  Marie helpfully explains the origin and reference of this statement, below in the comments.  Yay!]  But whatever, it shows some attention to detail.  And, sadly, some lack thereof-- look at the knot of threads bound together in the seam to the right. It doesn't really matter, as that triple-seam is on the edge of the jacket where it won't really get much action, but I looked at it and thought "I paid $300 for this and the guy who sewed it made $.30."


Here's another nice touch. They put a satiny tape over the triple-seamed interior of the armpit area, presumably to protect your skin from scratching. I like that kind of consideration.


But the armpit tape wasn't fully sewn down. I didn't pick at it or even wear it at this point.


The way the armpit tape is sticking up, for sure it will get more and more unsewn as you wear it. And the satiny material is likely to "run" or disintegrate, fray, whatever you want to call it.


Pet peeve: there're only two belt loops.


The drawstring works well, sliding smoothly through an adequately-sized "channel", so even those of us who prefer ropes should be happy. However, again, loose threads (though I doubt they'll impair the lifespan or the resilience of the gi, again it's a dang $300 gi!)


More flawed sewing in the inside of the pants crotch.  Probably no big deal. 


More irritating-- the vent on the side of the pants by the drawstring was sewn together. Yeah, you could probably cut it with scissors and be fine, but then you would have to get a needle and thread to lock the seam shut, so to speak. And what if you didn't notice this and it tore while rolling-- I'd worry the seam might ravel.


The knees are padded with a second layer of fabric, but the stitching holding those two layers together was missing about an inch of one of the seams (above the lion's cross).  No big deal, but (broken record) this is a $300 gi. It should do more than just "make it through training"-- it should make me breakfast on the way out the door at this price. It should at the very least be perfect or only have one flaw.


I could live with all the missed stitches, dropped seams, loose tape etc. But I can't live with the fit. Unfortunately I lost my pre-wash measurements so I don't have actual numbers, but I can tell you after two HOT hot washes, and two HOT dries in the machine, it didn't shrink more than 1/4" of an inch in any direction. And that might have been my error of measurement. Seriously, the BIGGEST size A1 gi I have ever worn. I put on my husband's A2 and this Lucky was bigger. Look!

I'm 5'2" and in these photos, weighed 145. Super long sleeves-- fingertips barely peek out when arms down at my sides.


Super big jacket-- seen from back.





Arms from side, arms up


Whole gi from side, arms down.


I was swimming in this jacket!


Pants from rear-- not excessively large, given my fat a$$, but definitely long on me. And if you don't have junk in the trunk they'll be longer.



I'm truly sorry to seem to bash on this gi.  If it were a $150 gi, I'd take it to the seamstress and have the jacket shortened and the sleeves shortened, and I'd be rolling around in luxury with a $200 (total) gi that felt like sinful heaven on my skin.

When I emailed Scott about this, his reply was a paragon of customer service:

"Georgette,

Thank you for your feed back. Yes the bamboo doesn’t shrink like the cotton does.

What were the quality issues.  Please let me know so I can fix them. Thank you!

Yes you can return or exchange the gi just let me know.

Hope you feel better!

Scott"


If the gi had fit, I would have delightedly taken him up on his willingness to make it all good.  I just think I have too big a bum for the size A0, and I have enough gis already.  If you have long arms in comparison to your torso/legs, or if you have problems at IBJJF events with gi sleeves not reaching to your wrists and being rejected... or if you dig their aesthetics ---




here's the old-style font with the new bamboo:



-- and you don't mind spending another chunk of change to have alterations made.... pull the trigger and buy this gi.  Tell Scott I sent you.  I think their customer service is among the best and I love to reward ingenuity and risk-taking in the business world.  To my knowledge they're the ONLY bamboo gi out there.  The fabric really does feel amazingly good, too.

But otherwise... buy a lesser gi and donate the savings to charity, like Give a Gi.

18 comments:

Marie said...

"The Harder They Come" is probably a reference to Jimmy Cliff who did a lot to help mainstream ska/reggae - he was in a movie of that name and had an album too (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Cliff). I guess the "Harder They Fall" bit was a play on that.

I liked the idea of an alternative fabric, but as you said, for $300, I want the craftsmanship to be perfect at least. Barring that, me and my $100 Padilla and Sons will be over here.

Georgette said...

Marie, thank you so much. I learn something new every day! I knew I just wasn't getting something here!

:)

Marie said...

Heh, to be fair, I only know that because my roommates took a class on "The History of the Dancehall" in college where the course materials consisted of the soundtrack from that movie. (And it looks like when they reissued the soundtrack in 2003, Cliff added a song titled "The Bigger They Come The Harder They Fall" so now we both have learned something today!) :)

Ryan said...

I had been wondering a lot about this Gi since I first heard about it. You did a great job with the review, fair and impartial, just the way I like it. Great Job!

Meerkatsu said...

Great post G. As a botany grad I was immediately suspicious of the pro bamboo fibre blurb, but you nailed with a little investigative research. That a1 is huge! But then I do have long arms lol so it might fit me. Hefty price tag for an 'experimental' gi tho.

slideyfoot said...

Interesting. This gi was made in China, like the Datsusara, and both of them have issues regarding an overly baggy jacket and subpar stitching.

I wonder if that is due to dodgy factory practices in China, the fact that hemp and bamboo are both new fabrics for BJJ and therefore you'd expect teething problems, or just a coincidence.

Kudos to both companies for responding quickly and honestly to complaints, though.

Anonymous said...

As a raging free marketer and capitalist pig I still find myself stunned over a $300 gi. Unnecessary in my humble opinion. I'll stick with my $80 fuji (hey it helped me win absolute gold:)

Give a gi is a worthwhile endeavor and the smile on the students faces when they get your equipment is priceless.

Marvin said...

Nice review. I think the best fitting Gis are made by Fushida. Before you order you have to submit no less than 26 measurements of your body and your current Gi. Christo, the owner, then makes a recommendation as to which size will fit you best.

This was the only way I was able to find a Gi that fit me well. I'm very tall but skinny, so finding Gis that fit is a challenge. My Fushida fits me very well.

Tony said...

Awesome review. Thank you for going the extra miles and not only detailing the counter points of bamboo fabric, but finding certifications and following up with the Lucky Gi guy too. Fantastic work!

On a side note Datsusara mentioned on their FB page that they're ditching the current Chinese mfg for the hemp gi and in search of another. I believe this is due to quality issues with the fabric and stitching.

slideyfoot said...

That reminds me: you can get a custom fitted gi from Killer Bee for $175, which is what I'd do if I had a $300 gi budget (especially as it looks like you can get them beautifully plain.)

Georgette said...

FYI-- I edited the post with the latest excellent communication with Scott. If you have any doubts about whether this is the right gi for you, don't hesitate to give it a try-- if it doesn't work you can always send it back.

leslie said...

One of my teammates wore his brand new black Fleur-de-Lis to class tonight. It was really soft to roll against and looked super snazzy.

But, just by the end of the night, the collar was already fraying around his neck. Maybe the fabric is too soft? Hm.

Anonymous said...

Interesting readin´!

I´m from sweden, planning on purchasing a new gi and bamboo alternative came up. Now i know alot more!

Best wishes

Andreas

Meg Smitley said...

Superb, Georgette! Love the intro research into the merits, or otherwise, of the bamboo fabric and it is very cool that Lucky is trying something new with this gi. I like all the little touches, but I agree that with that price tag the construction needs to be a lot closer to flawless - and the fit, good grief!

Megan said...

Totally thinking of putting down some cash on this one. I've got the long arms, but I know the fit is going to be a pain. Great review!

Anonymous said...

I have 3 bamboo series lucky gis, and they are my favorite. My friends wear syr's, and just about every other top dollar gi out there. I own a gracie barra gi and a soul kimono, and the lucky gi is the softest and most comfortable thing i have ever worn to train in. I have two fleur de lis and the rude boy gi, and am thinking of ordering a diaz gi (even though its not bamboo) because I am so happy with my gis. The gis do not shrink all at once - after about a month of hot washes and hot drys, my gis started to shrink again. They are now perfect size, I just wash them on low heat and they havent gotten any smaller. My instructor dried his gi on hot every cycle and his gi after about 3 or 4 months of owning it ended up shrinking to like an a1.5, so once you get it to the right size, just dry it on low heat. The rude boy gets compliments at every gym I drop in to. BUT, I am close friends with a distributor for the lucky gis, so I got them all at a significant discount which made them cost as much as any other decent gi out there. 300 is steep for any gi, but if you have the money, it is well worth the price.

Christian Graham said...

Georgette, any word on the lucky gis and bamboo front? I never quite learned if the bamboo gis are actually anti microbial or not.

The lucky gi that I just bought came with a tag that said it was (a) anti microbial (b) environmentally friendly (c) and lighter weight than any other gi out there.

You thoughts on this?

Are the lucky gis made of Rayon? if so, do they still have anti-microbial benefits?

Georgette said...

Hey there... I don't know whether they are technically anti microbial or not. But in my opinion, based on the fabric science research I did for other posts, it really doesn't matter as long as you wash and dry your gi promptly after every wearing.

I don't know if they're made of rayon, which is different from bamboo. Did you ask the manufacturer? Let me know please! :)