Thursday, November 1, 2012

Matt Benyon and the New Scramble Wave Gi

Scramble as a fight wear company has been around. You have seen their gear. You have seen their blog posts. They push to create truly unique jiu-jitsu products, and their creative flair caught my eye. I wanted to know more, so I got in touch with Matt Benyon, Scramble's founder, and talked to him about his company.

Marshal Carper: Tell me about Scramble. Where did the idea to start a gi company come from and how did you decide the direction of the company?

Matt Benyon: We started out as a t-shirt company. I'd been making t-shirts here and there for my BJJ team when I was in Japan. When I came back to the UK, the economy was in tatters and I couldn't get the career I wanted. It became the perfect catalyst for striking out on my own. My school friend Ben soon came on board and between us we steer the Scramble ship. (That's not prison lingo by the way.)

Marshal: Scramble has a unique personality in terms of design aesthetics. What took you in that direction? Has the vision evolved over time?

Matt: I was inspired by the design ethic that I had seen in Japan - a lot of bold colours, typography, traditional images and things like that. And martial arts brands with the vision and scope of real designer labels. The vision has definitely evolved. I took a break from designing and got some other designers to help us out while I refined my style a little, and I am right back into it now. I also get a great joy from finding talented artists and working with them. 

Marshal: Tell me about the development of the Wave gi. How did it come about? How did you decide upon the design and art direction?

Matt: It was the follow up to our Ichiban kimono, which sold out pretty quick. We wanted to do a white gi, and I remember trying out a few ideas before settling on this. We wanted the outside to be simple and understated, and just have that flash of colour and visuals when you opened the gi. I was skeptical at first about a rash guard lining but when I got one as a sample and rolled in it I absolutely loved it. 

Marshal: A few gi companies are experimenting with more vivid graphics inside of the lapels, much like the Wave gi. What do you think is causing this shift? On that same note, what do you see as the general direction of gi design and how does Scramble fit or not fit with that trend?

Matt: At first some companies were doing repeated screen printed patterns, which are by their nature restricted in terms of colour and detail. They were then transferring that mindset to a rashguard lining. Our first sample, too, was a simple repeating logo. But I realized what a waste it was - when you sublimate print on a rash guard you can have all the colours you want. So I decided to use the whole space and fill it up with colour. I used the Hokusai print because it fits in with our whole philosophy, and it's an incredible piece of art that I could not modify or improve upon. 

I think a shift is happening because naturally forward thinking companies will always be trying to push the boundaries of what they can do with the limitations put in front of them. Most gis are about the same shape and made from the same material. Plus, there are rules you have to stick to (IBJJF for example) to keep them competition legal. It's all about finding ways to differentiate yourselves from the rest of the brands out there. 

I'd like to think that we have positioned ourselves differently. I think I have fairly legit credentials in terms of the Japanese background and that will always run through all of our products. We take our inspiration from many sources, not just martial arts, and I think that will help keep us near the front of the pack. I hope!

Marshal: Is it difficult to compete with the major influx of new apparel companies in the market? What sort of challenges does that present?

Matt: In the same way that competition separates the wheat from the chaff in BJJ, competition in the marketplace will ensure only the best brands succeed. We are not threatened, even though the amount of BJJ / MMA brands seems to be increasing at an exponential rate. The internet makes it easy for people to start a business, but it certainly isn't easy to maintain one. Aside from keeping the brand fresh, you've also got a mountain of logistical problems to deal with from product sourcing to quality control to distribution, accounting, taxes, and all that stuff. A lot of the brands that are popping up here and there just won't be around in a few years' time. 

The other thing we need to do is just keep trying to improve our products, our aesthetic, and our service, and the rest should fall into place. 

Marshal: How do you see the BJJ apparel market changing over the next 5 years?

Matt: Hard to say! I don't think things will change that drastically as there are only so many ways you can innovate. I can see it growing much larger as the sport grows. There may be some fabric advances during that time but who can say? 

 Marshal: What's next for Scramble?

Matt: We're working on new gis - one set will be more affordable and ideal for competition. The other is going to be something extra extra special, but it is still in the early stages. We're also developing SCR Brand, which comprises casual wear to wear outside the dojo that is made with the same level of detail and quality as the big retail brands like Superdry or Stussy or something like that .We want Scramble / SCR Brand to become not only a leading fightwear maker but the go-to brand for the casual martial arts fan. In the same way that Vans sells to non-skaters, Quicksilver sells to non-surfers—we will be the combat sports brand for the everyday person. 

 For more information about Scramble or to purchase Scramble products, visit

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