Speaking with Patta About Retail Domination
When Patta first opened in 2004, little did the globe know what was in-store. Now mention Amsterdam to any sneakerhead and one name immediately comes to mind: Patta.
Established ‘out of love and necessity rather than profit and novelty,’ as they like to say, Patta masterminds Edson Sabajo, Tim Sabajo and Guillaume ‘Gee’ Schmidt all sought to bring their shared love of kicks to the masses of the eight districts. They scoured the globe, visiting obscure stores and locations to bring back footwear – either via post or duffle bag – that was generally unavailable in Amsterdam at the time. This DIY and 'putting in your all' mentality is what helped build the foundations of Patta.
In the 15 years since, Patta have expanded to both London and Milan, and evolved into a world-renowned juggernaut, favourite collaborator, and Amsterdam’s undisputed go-to for the latest and greatest.
The crew have come so far, in fact, that this year saw the release of their most high-profile collaborative endeavour yet: their own distinct take on the Air Jordan 7, as well as a corresponding collection of apparel – the lookbook for which starred none other than footballing superstar Neymar.According to the trio, the AJ7 was ‘the only logical starting point for our collaboration with Jordan Brand’.
In honour of the colab, we caught up with the trio for a chat about the Dutch streetwear scene of old, the Jordan colab, and what’s next for the Amsterdam favourites.
Let’s start from the very beginning. Talk us through the beginning of the Patta business. What drove the idea to have a boutique store, such as this, in Amsterdam?
Edson: It was just one of our hobbies that expanded towards a business, and then more. We always wanted to have other shoes that nobody else had, so this was a good excuse for us to travel the world and get fly ass shit for ourselves and the store. Back then, there were no crazy websites telling everyone what’s hot and what’s not. Everything was just our taste, and we were the go-to guys. Just like Slammin Kicks in London.
Those days were fun and wild, but we always knew that we would get somewhere. As we moved on, the concept of the store became clearer and clearer. For us, Patta was a jumpstart, a platform from which to learn to fall and get up to get where we are now. And we are still learning. We’re students of the game. We can connect heavily with the customers because we are customers too.
What do you want Patta to be known for?
Gee: To be a company that cares…. Period.
Tim: ‘Patta got love for all.’
How does the Dutch streetwear and sneaker scene compare to the rest of Europe?
Edson: I would say that Holland, and Amsterdam in particular, was one of the first places in Europe to adopt hip hop, after England did. Way back in 1981 and 1982. The shoe game came in with that scene, because that was part of it. Also, we developed our own style because of our environment: mostly football and looters, and a bit of the grimey Amsterdam scene. The 80s were no joke over here: drug dealers, addicts, pimps, prostitutes, homelessness, etc. But we also had the mom and pop stores like Smit-Cruyff.
We also had the store called Roots, in de Damstraat, where you actually had the brand Roots, but they had a side hustle – they would sell sneakers out of America, which is basically what we also did later with Patta. They sold Nike lady Epics, the Epic itself, NB1300s, the Nike Odyssey, etc. All for pretty high prices, because they just bought it in-store in NY and had to make money on top of that. So shoes would be 300 to 400 Guilders back then. That was a lot of money.
We were always on the sneaker thing, since way back. I guess that’s what separates us from countries like Germany, France and Italy. The French came quick though, but England and Holland were earlier.
How has the sneaker scene, both in Amsterdam and across the world, changed since Patta’s inception in 2004?
Edson: Do the math. We’ve started a goddamn sneaker revolution with a couple of friends that we’ve met on our path to becoming successful. If you just look at our colab list. That’s unheard of!
The market has also changed. When we started there were still the three markets: Asia, North America, and Europe. Now you can get the same things everywhere.
Back then, in some clubs, you weren’t allowed in if you were wearing kicks. Now everybody wears sneakers. Your uncle, dentist, lawyer, accountant, street soccer player, your mama. They all wear sneakers. Which is a great thing for me personally, because more sneakers will release, and more sneakers will be in sale.
To this day, I still buy sneakers, even though I’m a sample size. I’ll still be hunting and get excited when I see and feel certain pairs.
How do you feel about the notion of ‘luxury’ streetwear? Is it important for Patta to steer clear of labels like this?
Edson: I’m from an era where there were no terms for certain stuff. To me all of this is just hip hop – the fashion that the street dictates. Plus our Caribbean heritage, where we were brought up by our parents, where you had different shoes or different clothing for different occasions. You don’t wear the same clothes playing in the streets to go to church, but you always stay crisp and fresh. Different details will change a whole outfit and, if we put a nice Fendi scarf with it, it would be the highlight of the outfit.
Nowadays, people use these labels to make it more sellable, or to make different segments, actually watering it down for other people to buy or tap into the culture or movement. To me it comes down to just taste and what you like, and it’s not about boxes or labels. That’s just a wrong approach to a culture that is so beautiful. Use these terms often enough, and people start to believe in them too. That’s crazy.
Tim: There’s always been more cheaper stuff and more expensive stuff. New Balance 1300s used to be 600 Guilders, and Australian tracksuits were mad expensive. We just didn’t label it ‘luxury’.
Patta seems to have formed an ongoing partnership with Nike. How did that relationship come about? Why do you think the Swoosh are so keen to collaborate so often?
Gee: We recently started working with Nike again after some years. I think consistency is something you can rate over years, and we have been consistent. It’s great that we can push each other to do things that are a challenge for both companies. We both bring something to the table. That said, let’s not forget that this is a Jordan project, which is a whole different ball game in itself.
Why the Air Jordan 7? What was it about the silhouette that impelled Patta to remix?
Gee: There is the sense of nostalgia, both to me and our Creative Director Vincent, because this has always been one of our favourite Jordan models. The original just stands out in the colours, the sleeker design, not having the visible Air unit, and the African influence. I could go on...
Take us through the design process of the colab. How much influence did Patta have?
Gee: It’s 100 per cent our idea. However, to get the execution to match your initial idea requires total teamwork. As always, we have been hyper-focused on colour scheme, materialisation, and details. The branding just gives it its own signature, literally within the Jordan space.
Stylistically, where did you turn for design cues?
Gee: As we love the original so much, we made sure it’s related to it, but relevant in this time. It’s also the total package with the apparel that makes this excel. Same as us: more collective than individual.
What’s on the horizon for Patta? New colabs? Expansion?
Tim: Italy. We’ve opened in Milan, have released another colab with Mephisto, and have other colabs coming up with Vans and Karhu. And some secret stuff obviously.