17 Apr 2014
The Killer Bee Kimono custom gi offer is the rare chance for fussy gi addicts like me to customise their own gi with near-perfect jacket and trouser dimensions. It is a fantastic idea that is backed up by superb quality of construction and ace customer service. A few minor quibble aside, this is a gi that I will cherish and enjoy wearing for a long time to come.
Killer Bee website: http://www.killerbeegi.com/
See Part 1 of my Killer Bee Customer ordering process review.
I work with many different fightwear companies as a freelance designer. I have no business or personal connections with Killer Bee Kimonos. I bought this gi as a gift to myself with no expectation from the brand owner of a review. All views expressed are my own.
I previously wrote about the ordering process behind my custom gi design at Killer Bee Kimonos - see here for Part 1.
In summary, I ordered the gi in September 2013 and it arrived at my front door fully finished on Christmas Eve! I've been wearing it on and off since Xmas but due to a backlog of reviews, I have only recently been wearing it consistently enough to write this report.
I paid Killer Bee Kimonos $223.30 (including $63.30 for USPS Priority Mail International) I also paid UK customs and import VAT bill of £35. So for me, this gi cost a total of £165 - £175 depending on the exchange rates.
Size, Weight, Shrinkage and other Data
All sizes in centimetres, weights in kilos. I weigh 59Kg and am 170cm tall. I usually wear a regular A1 but my long arms can mean I am better off with an A1L.
Jacket weight: 1.3Kg
Trouser weight: 0.5Kg
Discussion: with a wingspan of 164 after washing, the Killer Bee custom ordering page seems to be spot on. I ordered the basic A1 but with a wingspan of 65 inches (165cm). The website stated that the Ligustica would shrink one inch from each sleeve - and actually based on my own stats, this is a worst case estimate. For my gi, the wingspan only shrank 3cm - that's only around half an inch each sleeve.
The jacket length from base of collar down to bottom of skirt was accurate too. On my order form, I stated I wanted the length to be 29 inches (73.7cm) and it barely shrunk at all. The same story with the pants too. The website states a shrinkage of around 2 inches post wasjing but my ripstop pants barely shrunk at all.
The only notable measurements are the cuff widths. At 13cm brand new I was thankful they did not shrink any further. Compare this size with a randomly picked A1 from my past reviews - the Estilo v4 for example (16cm), and you'll see that it's a big difference. Killer Bee Kimonos has since offered cuff width as an option - if I ordered another gi, I would order one with a 6 or 7 inch cuff.
Total weight was 1.8Kg which is not heavy for a pearlweave, but far from ultralight. The Scramble Athlete for example uses a much lower weight gi top, but the same kind of trousers. That gi in size A1 weighs only 1.4Kg
The Ligustica MKIII is a pearlweave cotton jacket. The weight of the fabric is unspecified but it sure feels densely woven and more 'solid' than lightweight gis like the Zero G or the Scramble Athlete so I would guess maybe at least a 550gsm fabric? As I already described in Part 1 the custom ordering form allows users to add embroidery to the front lower portion and the the back of the jacket. Users can also select the colour of the Killer Bee logo, taping and stitching. There is even an option to alter the colour of the entire collar/lapel. As you can see I opted for a largely yellow and black combination to keep with the bee theme. Note the multiple rows of stitching that mark out the yoke (the area that stretches from the shoulders and front chest to the back just below the neck.)
In the photo above the contrast stitching reveals the reinforced areas, which include the side vents and armpits. What isn't visible because I forgot to photograph it, is the considerable extra taping that lines along the inside bottom hem of the gi skirt.
The photo above, although taken at an oblique angle, hopefully still shows the insane quality of embroidery. Everything I included in my original artwork has been faithfully reproduced in embroidered form. It looks very impressive up close and from a distance.
Above, the colour of the sleeve logos can be chosen at the custom order form page. Below, the photo shows the collar detail. The impressively stiff and thick collar core is covered with ripstop cotton. The workmanship on this gi overall is very impressive, I could not see a stitch out of place.
The artwork on the front lower lapel is smaller than the version on the back, but the factory managed to maintain the line detail very accurately. It even showed up my minor drawing error - can you spot it?
The cuffs, like the jacket skirt hem, are double taped. That's TWO layers of seam tape. Hence, it feels very solid and sturdy. It's a shame the aperture of the cuff at the default size is much narrower than normal (again, do note, KBK have updated the order form page to include cuff size option).
The trousers I bought are made from ripstop cotton - the website also offers drill cotton as an option. They feel very light and comfortable, as would be expected from the lightweight 10oz material. For the rope drawstring I chose a zingy bright yellow. The ends are supplied unknotted - it's worth applying a knot yourself before using, in case they get lost within the trouser hem.
As with the jacket, the trousers come loaded with a ridiculous level of reinforcement. Check out the number of rows of stitching on the ankle opening in the photo below. I also give the trousers my nod of approval for placing the double knee layer all the way down to the ankles, thus ensuring that they cover the knees when the user is kneeling.
Apart from the rope and stitch colour options, there isn't much more to customise for the trousers apart from choosing the gusset panel material. When I ordered this gi, I am not sure it was an option but looking at the website, I can see that purchasers can now choose the same fabric as the main trousers or select gi material instead. I think if there was just one more option to add a small embroidered patch to the pants, it would be the icing on the cake for me and something I would personally definitely take advantage of. But it's not a deal breaker here.
At the rear of the trousers is a double layer that covers the bum! I must say this is a reinforcing zone that I have not observed on other gi models and yet if I think about it, it's actually a great idea to protect the material from wear and tear.
The Ligustica MKIII is awesome. I really love it, not just because it is 'my' customised gi, but mainly because it is made from such high quality materials and constructed with great attention to detail. Naturally, given the time I spent fine tuning the size requirements, this gi fitted me incredibly well in all areas except the sleeve cuffs. I love how the sleeves are quite narrow and it reminds me a lot of the Scramble Athlete in this regard.
The only other small quibble I would add is that it feels slightly heavier and warmer than the gis I normally like to roll in. In the hotter summer months I may keep this in the cupboard for use in the colder months. But there's no questioning the overall fit, comfort and performance during rolling. It felt perfect to use, durable against the rigors of friction on the mats and tension from grip heavy opponents.
Killer Bee Kimonos custom gi ordering facility is a rarity in the BJJ gi market. I am sure a couple of other companies do offer something similar but to my knowledge no one offers this level of amazing variety of options and outstanding product quality. Add to that the close attention that brand owner Jesse pays to each order and you have a bona fide success story right there for us gi addicts with funny shaped bodies and OCD fussiness over gi designs. At the time of ordering there was no option to alter the cuff width but this has been changed so new customers can now tweak this to their liking. My own custom gi would be absolutely perfect if I had a wider cuff. but it's not going to detract from my enjoyment in using the custom Ligustica, especially as my go to bling gi for the winter months.