So here we are with the Brand Spotlight once again and we are really starting to pick up pace as we have locked in the next few months and reviews. We have been chatting with some amazing guys and girls behind the brands that we are starting to see more and more of on the Aussie BJJ circuit and I am stoked to have the team from Cartel here with us for the month of May. We aim to have a brand a month, and so far we are booked forward to July so if you are or know someone running a BJJ brand that you think deserves some recognition then get at us Luke@openguard.com.au
Cartel have been on the scene a little while now but are still relatively small in comparison to some of the brands, but with the gear that I have seen and have spent time training in they are up there in quality and it won’t be long before they really take off.
Welcome to Open Guard Luke hope you’re doing well mate and your boys didn’t give you too much of a hard time on the mats over the weekend.
As always mate would you mind starting by telling our readers a little bit about your personal BJJ journey and the Cartel came to be?
L– Hey Mate, thanks for having me. My boys always bash me hahaha. Well my BJJ Journey began about 7 years ago when my eldest son Cooper started training and then it went from there. After a few years I started rolling with Coop at home until I opened our own gym. I’m a Blue Belt, I absolutely love this art, I have been to the Worlds both Gi & No Gi multiple times with Cooper and Naga Worlds also, Fair to say our Family revolves around Jiu Jitsu hahaha.
Cartel is a cool story, the very first time we went to the States for the Worlds we went and trained at a Clark Gracie gym in Irvine – O.C Jiu Jitsu. It came off the back of recommendation from Clark himself. The owner Cedric and I hit it off instantly, he loved Coop and a great friendship started. We have trained there every time since, a lot of people go to gyms with the big names where they are just another number, we went the opposite and found a Gym where the head instructor wanted to invest in Coop and see him win. 2 years ago, on one of our trips Ced had these wicked Gi’s hanging in his gym, he gave me one and said would you like to be my distributer in Australia? I said hell yeah, and the rest is history really. It’s a great relationship we have built over the years, Ced mentors me not only in Cartel designs etc, but our gym etc.
That’s a cool story mate, and I will have to check out the gym the next time I am in the US, One of the things I have noticed with the brand here in Australia is that it is closely tied in with the urban lifestyles of both LA and Melbourne what drew you to this style and why did you feel that it would suit the BJJ community when 95% of brands are heavily based on the Surf/BJJ lifestyle?
L – Yeah 100%, that is one of the things that stood out to me. What we do is different from others out there. Ced has a pretty fixed mindset on what he wants the Brand to follow, but he also gives me license to design as well and put ideas forward etc. it’s not like your regular distributer set up, Ced treats me more as a partner which is fantastic. Our style is heavily influenced by Ced, he is a Surfer, Skate boarder and loves the Cali lifestyle, but loves that urban almost gangster look which really appeals to me. We class ourselves as Boutique, we will never have 50 different Gi’s available but what we will have is some slick design Gi’s that will lead the way in style.
That’s awesome man! So having first come across your brand on social media and correct me if I am wrong but I don’t see a whole lot of promotion across these mediums is this intentional or is it laying a little low until you drop you next big release?
L – Ahh probably a bit of both. It’s not easy breaking into this market, soooo many people say Man your gear looks sick…. but about 2% of them actually buy a Gi lol. It’s been a hard slog, I have given away more gear than I have sold. I sponsor 6 athletes, which is probably 4 too many haha, but I love this sport and I know how hard the grind is for athletes, so I like to give back. And look its not cheap to be honest but I’m so confident in the product that I know it will pay off in the long run. We have been a little quiet this year but that is about to change.
On the next big release is, we were speaking earlier about the new Gi you guys are dropping soon, care to tell the readers a little bit about it and the story behind the design?
L – Yeah super excited about this next Gi, its going to be a limited-edition order only Gi. We will limit the amount, just haven’t worked out a Number yet. Basically, its to celebrate and welcome Cooper to the brand. Coop was a sponsored athlete by Braus, he was looked after extremely well by Braus and Alex, and me and Ced worked on getting Coop over to the Dark side hahaha. So as a way to Celebrate Ced designed the CBM-101 Gi. It’s a wicked design, I think people will love it and I’ll Let you guys be the first to release the Design to the public.
Well with out delay lets drop it right now! Tell us all about it brother!
L – So this will be a limited edition pre-order only Gi, it is called the CBM-101
It was designed to celebrate my son Cooper Burnham coming on board as an official Sponsored athlete. Coopers nickname from his Professor Thiago Stefanutti has been the Terminator for many years, so when he came on board Ced and Myself discussed doing a limited edition Gi to celebrate it. Ceds design is sic in my opinion, very military style with different patches to what we normally use, I think he has captured the theme perfectly. This is an exclusive drop to you guys as we haven’t even received a sample or discussed price point yet hahaha. But we will try and get orders happening by Mid June and work out the limited numbers we will offer.
That’s amazing mate thank you for sharing that with us exclusively! Put me down for one! What has been one of your biggest challenges in establishing yourself introducing Cartel to the Australian Market? How have you been received by your local BJJ Community there in Victoria and the national scene, with new brands popping up almost daily how do you try to stand out in a crowd?
L – Like I say we get lots of positive feedback, and the people that have brought our gear absolutely love it, but it’s a hard market. There are so many Brands these days, and they all have a million different gis etc. But more doesn’t mean better, we pride ourselves on having a great product. For example, our fight shorts, we wanted ours to be different to what is on the market, we haven’t sold many, but we have 2 Black Belts and a world Class purple tell me they are the best fight shorts they have ever worn. I love that feedback, but its hard to promote that. I have no doubt our designs will always be slick, we just need to keep working hard and getting the name out there.
We are also about to launch Cartels Kids Brand Rascal, so that’s exciting.
Tell us about your small team of sponsored athletes, who excites you the most to be a part of the team, do you look for personalities, competitors, active social media personalities or a combination of all?
L – We have so many different personalities on our team. The person who excites me the most to have in our Brand is Cooper. He a regular competitor both local and international and I have no doubt he will be a World Champion one day. Our newest addition Angus Tonkin is a Juvenile Blue from Dominance in Melbourne, the future is super bright for him also. Bodey Burnham is my youngest, still in kids divisions but he is getting the bug and he could be the surprise package. But to be honest I love all the guys on our team, people like Jordy McKenzie, she’s been injured but plays a big role in her Gym Skamma MMA in Melbourne and generates a lot of business for us. Our Black Belt Antonio Martins has helped me a lot and supports me, Vince Rogarto Is a beast and he has generated a lot of business for us this year. We have another youngster Seth, he needed some time off Jits but when he’s ready he’ll be back on board. I don’t do contracts like most people, I like old fashioned loyalty. I say to our guys the bigger we get the better for them. I look for different things in different people, I wanted teachers, competitors and regular Jits lovers. One main reason I wanted Cooper with us is to lead the way in promoting the Brand with the other athletes, he’s been sponsored for a few years now and knows what sponsors need going forward.
Well Luke the future looks bright for the team at Cartel and I want to say thank you very much for your time and sharing some insight to the brand! I am super excited to finalise the review and get that live so if our readers want to take I will put a link up on socials as soon as it`s finished. If there is anything else, you would like to add before we finish up please do.
L – Thank you for reaching out, I love Jiu Jitsu and that’s why I’m involved in this brand. Hopefully some of what I have said resonates with someone reading this and they decide to purchase a new Gi. #jiujitsusmostwanted
Well there you have it ladies and gentlemen if you want to follow Cartel – Australian Division be sure to head to their social media accounts and give them a like I will link them below to make it a hell of a lot easier for you.
Website – CartelOZ
Facebook – Cartel – Los Angeles – Asustralian Outlet
IG – CartelOZLA