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Founded in Aotearoa- New Zealand, SOHEI is an apparel company producing training garments and lifestyle gear from the land of the long white cloud. We’re dedicated to the athletes and adventurers both professional and personal. Attention to detail, durability, exceptional construction and innovative minimalist aesthetics are our hallmarks.
Sohei is really a story of a company being born from rebellion. Rebellion against substandard gear, what we perceived as lack of originality, tired catchphrases,over-the-counter counterculture and profit as the end all be all. To us sincerity is a rapidly dying art. We decided to embrace it as an ethos, a way of being and doing business.
The company got its roots in the fight game. We’ve all come to jiujitsu from different paths and for different reasons. Ours came via wrestling, judo, and childhoods raised on Bruce Lee and Kurosawa flicks. For others it was self-defence. Some of us are out of shape. Some want to be champions. Some of us wanted diversity and camaraderie. Some of us had difficult personal struggles or jobs that training helped us cope with. Whatever the reason, we all find a shared experience and grew both together and individuals. The real beauty in jiujitsu was in the way it taught us to be in the present moment, and dealing with adversity. That and the comfort that everyone knew your struggles, because everyone had the same struggle. Back in 2015, after spending our hard earned money from our day jobs on gear, only to have it fall apart in training, we decided we’d had enough. We were all creative individuals, disciplined, passionate about jiu jitsu and how it could change lives. Due to countless hours training together and against one another, we had those two intangibles in working together that even money can’t buy: trust and belief. One day while doing some research on Japanese martial history, we came across the term Sohei, and who they were, and that was it.
We read up on everything we could find about the original sohei; Enlightened ruffians who saw a need for self-awareness, knowledge, and community empowerment, but who weren’t afraid to be gritty? That was us. So we knew what we wanted, we knew what we were about, but what were we going to make? Our time in jiujitsu and a host of athletic activities led to a lot of discussion of what to create, and more importantly how we’d improve on it and make it better. The more we talked, the more we saw a real opportunity. Every training session became a case study, every moment after training over shared meals became a chance to plan and prepare. We knew there was a need for better quality gear. By the end we had an idea for a line of athletic apparel. We set our minds to making the best gear we could. It was going to be durable and it was going to handle the toughest training sessions we doled out to it. It was going to be reinforced in the points that tended to wear out the fastest, be fast drying, comfortable, and mositure wicking. On top of that, we knew in a world of over the top and busy designs, we were going to be minimalist in design, art, and concept. The best things are often simply stated.
We knew squat about garment manufacturing at the time. We just wanted to make stuff. But we learned. We approached a gifted pattern maker who was skeptical at best. We’re pretty sure she just saw dudes who fight in pyjamas, talking about what we wanted to make, and what the hell was jiujitsu? She taught us the ins and outs of garment construction. Not only did we learn about sublimation, we went to differing companies to studying the intricate differences in their respective processes. We researched textiles fabrics, had samples and rolls that were used for printing sent to us, decided they weren’t up to par and worked to improve upon what we knew. We studied fabric composites, blends. Eventually we built a relationship with an overseas manufacturer who walked us through the process, and believed in us enough to make us some samples. Then we put those samples through the wringer in training again and again. When we say we’ve tested our products, we mean we’ve worn them personally in training countless times in sessions where we were both the hammer and the nail. From there we had our first run made which we put across our social media, and through a small distributor here in New Zealand, and we were off.
That process and steep learning curve had a lot of unexpected benefits.
Friends got behind us. Well known people in both local and international athletic communities got behind what we were doing and where we wanted to go. They say starting your own business has a lot of unforeseen benefits, and it’s true. There were the obvious benefits -like actually making a profit-, but even greater ones we didn’t see coming: namely people supporting the idea of a company trying to give, rather just take from their wallets and lives.
People ask us all the time why? The Why is the opportunity to do better. To place compassion and awareness on the same value margin as profit. To dispel the notion of the ‘brand’ as the end all be all, and to rebel against the over-the-counter counterculture pumped out to us on a daily basis without thought or care. The why is to put more GOOD back into the world.
‘Social imperatives are a merciless bitch. Everyone is attempting to buy what no one can sell.’- The Minimalists
Discovery that work you’re passionate about isn’t really work. It’s possible to build ethical business practices, and to connect creativity with profit in a way that is beneficial on a personal level as well as a benefit to ones community. We are ethical, transparent and positive. SOHEI is our opportunity to give back to the sport, the community, support the athletes involved. Empower potential and embrace diversity. It is also our opportunity to spread the word about the benefits of jiujitsu to us as human beings. It gives us the chance to connect and make friends literally all over the world, which has been one of the biggest bonuses of all.
Who can say? Don’t think about it too much. Instead, go train. We’ve got you covered in the meantime. Oss.