With the upcoming release of the Killer Bee Build Your Own GI Winter Edition, I wanted to know a bit more about it considering this is their second go round of a custom gi after last year’s Fall Edition . The owner of Killer Bee Gi’s, Jesse Bellavance, was nice enough to sit a spell and answer some questions for us regarding the upcoming edition and how it’s changed this time and what he learned from the first one.
Was the Fall Edition release a busy time for you?
It was a little chaotic as I did not know exactly what to expect. I had a plan in place but knew I would likely have to change it on the fly. For example, I began the process by first having people fill out a PDF form. It was too slow. I then used an online form generator to create what I have right now. It allows the user to easily check off what they want or enter in details using text boxes or drop down menus. From that I would take all of their information and then enter it into a layout I had made to list all of their requirements. such as text choices, colors, and other details. I also generated their text as an image so they could see what it would basically look like when placed on the gi’s color choice. They would then verify the information on the form and approve the graphics.
Do you feel like it was success on your part? By that I mean getting the gi’s ordered, made, and shipped to the customers in the time frame you gave?
I would say mostly successful. I was off on the timeline for completion by about 30 days. Next time I will buffer more time into the process but I feel with the Winter Edition it will go much more smoothly as both I and my manufacturer have figured out the process for the most part. To compensate for the delay in shipping I offered a 10% rebate on the order paid via check, paypal, or gift certificate. I really want this process to work as it offers the customer the gi design they truly want.
Obviously you can’t control the factory or customs, did you run into any problems while they were in production?
I had one issue in regards to customs.
The customs service in Pakistan made my manufacturer fill out affidavits for each of the gi’s to state we were not violating any trademarks. I can understand this as there are several manufacturers that make fakes out there of the larger companies. Other than that I think the Christmas holiday may have lengthened the shipping process a bit. Although it is painful to have to let your customers know of a delay I always let them know what the status of things were as I learned of it.
Lets talk about the options for ordering the Winter Edition Custom gi.
I am pretty excited to start working on these I have expanded the number of options to give a gi your own look. They include.
1. Choice of Gi top Fabric (Ligustica vs. Scutellata) in blue, white, or black.
2. Choice of Gi pants Fabric (Cotton vs. RipStop) in blue, white, or black.
3. Gusseted crotch fabric option choice (Normal Cotton/RipStop vs Ligustica weave material)
4. Trim color options for Gi Top/Pants. (inside sleeves, inside pants, belt loops, bottom of jacket.)
5. Option to order and additional duplicate pair of pants instead of only 1.
6. Option to order belt with your own embroidery placed on it.
7. Two embroidery locations available using either text or your own custom image.
8. Almost unlimited font choices using www.dafont.com.
9. Choice of color for rope style draw string.
10. Choice of color for contrasting stitching.
11. Hands on assistance with building your gi.
12. Improved final confirmation form.
13. Improved placement and sizing of fonts on your gi.
When you say that you have a Hands on Assistance with building your gi option, what exactly does that mean?
I will first process the orders in the order they arrive. The process is fairly straight forward.
1. I receive a message from my shopping cart software that an order has arrived.
2. The customer will then need to fill out the online form to build their gi.
3. Once I get notice of that the form has been submitted. I will begin filling out the new verification form to show the details of their order.
4. I will generate the graphics for each customer based on the text they have sent me. If they have sent me actual image graphics I will manipulate them in Illustrator/Photoshop to be used for placement on the gi.
5. I will also make suggestions based on my experience with fonts/colors, etc.
6. In the end they will have a final form to verify the details of their order. If needed they can change details once processed by me but not after it has been submitted to the manufacturer.
Where can we put our fonts at on the gi? Do you have a picture of placement?
The online form has numbered zones for placement of the gi. There are over 20 location choices to choose from. The locations come from the official IBJFF website.
And we can use almost any font on dafont.com?
Most fonts will work out well. If I feel it will not I will make a recommendation for the customer to choose something else.
The embroidery locations is what’s intriguing me the most, what are the locations and how big of an image can we use?
They are the same locations as for where the lettering cam go. I give the customer the option to place two graphics anywhere on their gi. The zones are only suggested. I am limiting the size of the each graphic to be about 50 square inches. Such as 5 by 10 inch graphic. There also can only be up to 3 colors in the graphic.
Obviously there’s a limit on what kind of image, not content per say but more of a limit on what you can do with an embroidery machine.
Correct. To keep the pricing down I am limiting the size and number of colors for each embroidery.
I’m not much for trim on the inside of the sleeves etc, but I do like the belt loops the same color as my stitching. Can we get just that? And do we have an option of how many belt loops we can have?
That is actually a good idea about the belt loops. Maybe in the next run. My manufacturer though said he has had issues with non-standard colored belt loops fading rather quickly compared to the rest of the gi.
When we have the option of ordering pants, can one be rip stop and the other cotton?
Yes that is an option but they will need to otherwise be a duplicate.
The belt, I’ve heard great things about your belts. When we get the choice to have one embroidered, will it show through on both sides or will it be hand made and only show up on one side?
It will be only on one side.
Some people prefer flat draw strings, is that available as well?
No. Not in this run but possibly in the future.
What have you learned about the Fall Edition that has helped you out with the Winter Edition?
I needed to devote more time to the planning process. Each one of these custom gi’s is a hands on process in its planning. There will be a fair amount of back and forth for each one until the customer is happy with their layout.
What’s the time frame you’re looking to hit for this edition?
All of the orders will be sent to the manufacturer in PAK on Feb 15. From that time on I suspect it will take about 60 days or less depending on the number of orders.
So many good looking gi’s were made, it looks to me like the Fall Edition was a great success. I hope the winter one turns out as good as the Falls looks. Any parting words?
With each new season, I plan to offer more refinements to each custom gi. My next goal is to allow for longer/shorter sleeve lengths for the pants and jacket. Also jacket height and waist. This will allow people with unusual body dimensions to more easily craft a gi that fits them perfectly.
I myself have ordered a Winter Edition gi from Mr. Bellavance and I have to say it was super easy. My order was a fairly simple one, but I imagine that even if I had a super custom design with names and images all over the place it would still have been as easy for me. Hopefully this helps you out a bit – GR