After unfortunately being dropped from the gi survey rankings, Elmer Santelices of X-Guard Fight Wear was still nice enough to do an interview about how his company got off the ground and their efforts to get a BJJ kimono made in the Philippines. You can check out their products at xguardbrand.com.
Q: Tell me who you are and where you train.
A: I’m Elmer Santelices. I started training in jiu-jitsu with Tinguinha in 2002 and got my purple through him. Then I started with GB Chino where I got my brown last year.
Q: When was your company founded? Where are you located?
A: We are located in So Cal. Our branch that handles all our international customers is in Quezon City, Philippines.
We started first making shirts back in summer of 2010 and caught on well with friends and grapplers in the Philippines. Our first gi debuted in November, 2010. It was only given to our athletes, like Charuto, Vinny Magalhaes, Rodrigo Teixeira, Romie Aram, Betiss Monsourri and Tex Johnson and many others. Our last series were limited to only 500 kimonos and they sold out in only a couple weeks.
We will have a full line of IBJJF approved apparel, including all color gis, rashguards, shorts, and belts, by this January! We’re the only jiu-jitsu brand that is offering IBJJF custom rashguards to all our customers.
Q: How many employees do you have?
A: We have 20 employees to run the day to day ops. This includes our web designers, graphic artists, advertisers, networking personnels, videographer, photographer. This does not include laborers in the factories.
Q: What kind of R&D did you do?
I have been grappling for a long time. My brother, cousins and other staff members also have trained for many years. We wanted to make gis that are strong, light, durable and stylish.
We went out to gather many samples of fabrics. So far we have agreed on a 550 GSM (grams per square meter) pearl weave top with 10 oz. trousers. We were not content with the popular rip-stop so we opted to stay away from it.
We are currently experimenting with a “crystal weave” jacket and may come out with a prototype really soon.
Q: Where are your gis manufactured?
A: Our gis are currently manufactured in Pakistan, although we are in the process of transitioning to a factory in the Philippines.
Q: Why are you trying to move production to the Philippines?
A: Because we are Filipinos, we travel to the Philippines many times a year. With a factory based in the Philippines, we would have complete control with quality assurance of all products.
Q: Have you been to the factories in Pakistan? People often worry about the working conditions (sweat shops, child labor, etc.)
Honestly, because of the current political situations, neither I nor any of my staff have been to Pakistan to check the facilities. That is why we want to eventually transfer to the Philippines, where we can have full and legal control.
Q: What have you done to make your product unique? The public often assumes companies are just working with the same 3-4 Pakistani manufacturers, and that they just copy each other (like making Shoyoroll clones with different logos and colors.)
A: We introduced a connected 8-point loop trousers that’s stronger than the traditional 4 on most gi pants. We are also working on our new “tunnel” loop system which will be on our XG5 prototype.
Q: Have you made any changes to your line based on customer feedback?
A: Based on customer feedback, we have added sizes A2T (tall) and A2S (stocky) and we’ve eliminated inner woven linings for better comfort.
We will never do any silly pre-orders. We will never take customers’ money before any kimonos are in our possession. Customers should invest their money their way instead of waiting 4-5 months for a gi like many other gi brands.
Q: Do you offer a warranty or guarantee on your gis?
A: We offer a 30 day no-worry money-back guarantee on our kimonos and fightwear.