Three separate people messaged me within the last two days about a gi company and what my thoughts were on them. Warning: this post contains feminism, NSFW pictures, and excessive smiley faces. Please remember, it’s okay to disagree, but you must do it nicely.

My review of the site:

The gi company in question is Tukano Kimonos (there is automatic music, so make sure your volume is turned down). From their ABOUT US page, emphasis mine:

Tukano Kimonos is a Martial Arts clothing line targeted at male and Females between all ages. The brand came to make an overwhelming impact on the fight fashion industry and create a large consumer demand for the product.

Okay, excellent. They target both men and women AND children. On to the website, and more specifically the photo shoot section, which is what everyone kept linking to.

This is “a Martial Arts clothing line targeted at male and Females between all ages.” Unfortunately, looking at their ads, it appears their true demographic are male grapplers. To be very honest, if they did sell gis for young boys or girls, as OK Kimonos do, I would feel incredibly uncomfortable sending parents or their children to that website.

Let’s go beyond the knee jerk reaction, though. First, the photography is striking. Kudos to them for making visually pleasing photos. The pictures are dynamic, interesting, and beautiful. The men in the ads look powerful and knowledgeable, they are grappling, posing in appropriate jiu jitsu fashion. The men are showing off the gis in dynamic ways.

The women are standing in the middle looking straight at the camera. In general they are in static poses. They are naked with body paint covering less area than most bikinis. Unfortunately, they are little more than art or arm candy.These photos remind me of the women at car shows, wearing bikinis and leaning on the cars. There are two photos where the women are interacting with the men. In one, the woman is holding the man’s hand up in victory, and the second one, below, it’s  clearly sexual – his gi is open, she’s pulling him toward her with their eyes locked.

The text is referring to this

The text is referring to this

At first I thought: it would be interesting to photoshop the woman out of the photos. Then I realized they’d essentially done it in one of their pictures – the stances on the beach are nearly identical, the only difference is the woman. The bottom one looks much more professional and like they’re trying to sell a gi. The woman is a set piece. She’s an object in the background. She does nothing except be a naked, painted woman in the background.

I think the Grappler's Goddess makes a better addition. But she didn't approve of her face being used in this photo.

The Grappler’s Goddess didn’t approve of her face being used in this photo.

Two of the photos showed a woman wearing their gi. Unfortunately, it was not to sell the fit or the design, but rather she is used as a prop on which to hang their gi. She wears it as a small WAG (Wife and Girlfriend) would wear her larger boyfriend’s gi. These photos do little to demonstrate the gi company’s mission statement: to target both men and women of all ages.

This is why a sizing chart is important

This is why a sizing chart is important

Their website is incomplete and unprofessional. When you go on the site, music starts playing, and I was unable to find how to turn it off – I ended up turning off my speakers. Clicking on their blog, it uses the default “Blog – Just another WordPress Site” and only contains the “sample posts.” Each picture is captioned with “Your product information goes here.” You can, however, buy gis and view their photos, and there is a “Model of the Month” with photos of the same model without the men.

tukanos blog

In response to an email query about their company, they responded with:

Our brand name and theme comes from a Brazilian indigenous tribe, where body paint have many strong meanings.

The tribe in question is the Tucano (or Tukano) people, who live along the Amazon. They are a fascinating group! I found out that “The Tucano are a multilingual people because men must marry outside their lan­guage group; that is, no man may have a wife who speaks his language, for that kind of marriage relationship is not permitted and would be viewed as a kind of incest.”

I’m waiting on permission to use pictures of a Tukano woman. I came across this, and it is remarkable: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexrobinsonphotography/524824703/ PLEASE take a moment to view it. Then go back up and view the pictures from the gi company.

That strong Tukano woman was inspiration for the woman in the beach photos?? That’s hard to believe. I feel incredibly conflicted about it. I don’t know enough about the company, so let me air several thoughts: are the guys in the gi company part of that tribe? Are they giving proceeds to that group? Are they actually helping them? Did they simply think “cool idea”? Did they see it as an excuse to have naked women in their photos? I don’t have any answers to that. Indigenous people have a history of being exploited, even by the fashion industry, without ever benefiting from it. If that is the case, it’s really gross that this company is doing it.

But okay, let’s set that issue aside. Remember, this company is marketing toward both men and women and are trying to make an “overwhelming impact.”

Imagine this ad: two powerful women grapplers with naked, painted men in the background acting as props and art. The women are engaged in super interesting poses, while the man just stands in the background looking windswept and fancy, abs glistening with a “come hither” smouldering look in his eyes. Unrealistic? why not? They want to make an overwhelming impact, and that would certainly make an impact. If they truly are targeting both men and women (let’s drop the pretense that they’re marketing toward folks of all ages), wouldn’t that fit? Tukano culture, after all, includes men wearing body paint that has great significance.

This is not an article about these photos. It is about a gi company using these photos to try to sell a product. These are not from a private collection, nor a photographer’s website- these are being used to try to sell jiu jitsu gear “targeted at male and Females between all ages.”

What are your thoughts or reactions on Tukano Kimonos choosing to use these photos? Positive, negative, neutral, or conflicted? Why? Would you consider buying a gi from them? Did the ads help inform your opinion? Please add your thoughts, and remember to play nice!

NOTE: Regardless of how you feel, positive or negative, PLEASE consider contacting Tukano Kimonos via message on Facebook. They’re a new company and could use the feedback. Please remember that HOW you say the message is just as important as WHAT you say, and an intellectual response often trumps an emotional one.