Much like I respect those that came before me in Jiu Jitsu and the higher belts, I have great admiration for those that paved the way for Nine Lives and the history associated with the Jiu Jitsu uniform business. My belief is that no one should have just one brand of gi in their closet, especially in a day and age when there are so many options that can align with your personality and style. I of course hope that you some day one of the options in your closet is a Nine Lives gi. In the mean time below are a few 'competitors' that I am fond of for one reason or another, so I encourage you to support these brands. This is not a gi review but rather my take from a branding point of view. That said in my experience (some I have more than others) I don't think you can't go wrong with the product made by any of these companies either.
The term "Hyperfly" has always made me think of Nike's Quickstrike and Hyperstrike programs and as someone with an affinity for sneaker culture I think that has leaked into my psyche and built a positive association with these guys. The brand has backed up this bond through a strong tagline "You can't teach heart," great looking gis, strong graphic design on their tees, relevant looks for their occasional cut and sew items and a solid team of sponsored athletes.
HCK had to be first on the list because it was the first branded gi (one small embroidery on the arm) I ever owned at a time when that was a big deal. After a few years of training (Indiana University BJJ Club team) in an unbranded school issue blank kimono my instructor (Kedar, who I was always envious of his blue KF fighter gi) gifted to me a HCK gi as a going away present. I still have this gi and it has great sentimental value to me and so does the brand for that reason. I have always worn an HCK belt ever since as a reminder of sorts, although now I am working in the Nine Lives CYA belt into rotation.
In my mind the current market leader as they have paved the way for those that entered the marketplace since the days of the OG brands. I have always admired Shoyoroll for their branding choices and support of so many great athletes. Coming from my involvement in the streetwear market I see lots of inspiration from brands like Supreme, Stussy, 10 Deep and skate culture on this brand which I think has contributed to their fanatical supporters/collectors, something not uncommon in streetwear. Lucky Gi is also worth noting in regards to paving the way stylistically.
Fuji makes the list mainly for it's affordable price point. That said it was important to incorporate the roots of Jiu Jitsu in Japanese culture when starting the Nine Lives brand so the fact that Fuji did that as well with Mount Fuji logo solidifies them on our list. I have always had Fuji gis hold up very well.
The market differentiator that Origin has by creating their own fabric and making their gis in house in the US is admirable and enviable by any company in this space. They deserve to grow 10 fold from wherever they are today because they are creating jobs and have more control over their process than anyone out there. If you aren't familiar with how they are building their gis, go watch this now.
I have a forest green Koral gi that has seen a lot of mat time and been taken in for repairs multiple times, so you could say it is a tough gi for me to retire. The repairs have no bearing on the quality of this gi or production by Koral but rather the result of a heavy rotation of use and hard training. Sometimes you just have a gi that defines you or you build a bond with and this has been my Koral and that has in turn grown my affinity for the brand. I am not particularly fond of their logo but the love I had with the product has superseded that, so they make the list.
I can't preach clean minimalist design and not mention these guys. Their gi designs have been beautiful with just a simple AP logo and well designed pattern featured on the pants and jacket. Their attention to detail and admiration for good design shows through in their product and lookbook photos as well. Another brand that is high on my list to pick up a gi in the future.