In November 2019, we invited the co-founder of the Amsterdam based fashion, hip-hop and lifestyle brand Patta*, Edson Sabajo to give a talk as part of our ongoing (and recently revamped since moving to our new building: Amsteldok) C-Word talk series. This is where we invite creatives not directly related to our everyday business, to come and give an informal talk about what they do.
Edson was our third C-Word talk at Amsteldok and before him was hospitality mogul Casper Reinders and street-artist Frank de Ruwe aka Streetart Frankey. I was fortunate enough to be part of the team organising this talk by Edson, which all started from me DM’ing him casually on Instagram as I thought he would be great for our series. I was right.
*The name Patta comes from the word ‘shoe’ in the founders’ native language of Surinamese.
I have been aware of Patta since 2014, not long after moving to University in Leeds which at the time had one of the few (five across Europe) shops outside of Amsterdam selling Patta clothing: The Hip Store. My first purchase was from the 2014 Patta collaboration with Carhartt dubbed Wild at Hartt. Soon after that, it was possible to order Patta online direct from Amsterdam, and I regularly did as well as visiting the city and store for the first time in 2015.
Later I moved here in late 2016, and almost every month I would spend some of my intern paychecks at Patta buying t-shirts and accessories. It was in about 2017 when I did some late-night Instagram scrolling when I found Edson’s page and realised who he was (also his fellow co-founder Guillaume ‘Gee’ Schmidt). I remember seeing a great photograph of his hands, adorned with an impressive collection of gold rings and more: Patta on the rings and Patta inked on his hands.
In 2019 I stopped buying so much Patta stuff (purely as a way to save money). However, I was still paying attention to the brand, especially so when I saw the Patta pair curate the opening exhibition — CHAPTER 1NE — at Het HEM in Zaandam and Edson’s further involvement in the Street Dreams hip-hop exhibition at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam.
CHAPTER 1NE: ‘Can’t be greedy… You gotta take some, and leave some.’
Het HEM’s inaugural exhibition curated by Patta’s Edson Sabajo & Guillaume Schmidt.
Edson’s talk with us was over an hour of stories, anecdotes, facts, titbits and insights into the Patta brand including how they started by travelling to the US and buying pairs of trainers/sneakers and either sending them back home to Amsterdam in boxes or their bags. Both Edson and Gee were prominent figures in the Dutch Hip-Hop scene in the ’90s and early 2000s, Edson as a DJ and Gee as host/MC which gave them great connections to succeed. Patta as a company was founded in 2004, and the city-centre store “became the centre of attention by bringing new excitement to the Dutch streetwear scene.”
In their own words, it started as “a means to provide for themselves, as well as their friends and family with a steady supply of footwear and gear, that which has started as a hobby, has now flourished into a thriving business and recognisable brand.”
From a creative perspective, it was interesting to hear how Edson and Patta work on collaborations. When starting, he said that they were on one side of the table and the big brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma etc. were on the other; calling the shots and saying what can and can’t be done. It was Asics who came to Patta first–in 2007– thanks to the brand being spoken about online through streetwear forums and communities. Asics was impressed with their growing reputation, and Edson said how the tables turned; now they were on the other side of the table, and they were calling the shots. “We started with the Gel Lyte 3, then everyone followed.”
“This was our first official partnership with our Patta brand on a product; Asics was the first model where we could use our name, colour-ways and inspiration. See it as our first ‘ album’. The colours of Amsterdam (red and white) and Patta (black and green) on the outside, Andreas Crosses from the coat of arms on the inside and the speckles on the sole for a unique feeling. The beautiful thing about this collaboration is that at that time there was not much happening around the world, but when we saw this shoe it stood out, people came from far and wide to buy it.”
Later collaborations include Nike, Adidas, Puma, KangaROOS, Vans, Diadora, New Balance, Pro Keds, Mizuno, Warrior, Converse, Jordan, Clarks, Mephisto, Asics again and Reebok and that’s just footwear. Streetwear and workwear giants Stussy and Carhartt WIP have worked with Patta to create full collaboration capsules; each with a great look-book; either in video or photograph form and often created by local creatives.
They have also worked with other Amsterdam brands, showcasing the broad creative output of the city. Such as with the Dekmantel record label and festival, Bonne Reijn’s Bonne Suits and the illustrator who created Patta’s logo Piet Parra. As well as brands like these, they have chosen to work with local Amsterdam artists, providing a platform for them, the likes of including Dana Lixenberg, Elisa van Joolen and the estate of Ed van der Elsken.
It’s fair to say that collaborations are an essential part of the Patta story. One thing that can be said is that they are never what you expect; they create the things that they like, and it sells. They sell it all.
Another great insight was how Edson described why they do what they do. Their brand motto is “Out of love and necessity rather than profit and novelty.” They’re not in the streetwear and fashion game to make a quick buck; they’re in it because they love it and it’s clear to see. When answering questions, he explained that he is proud of how Patta has shown other people that it is possible to succeed and that you should follow your dreams. Here referencing the likes of fellow Amsterdam brands Daily Paper, Filling Pieces, The New Originals, SMIB and Bonne Suits who have become staples in the Amsterdam fashion scene.
What started with just a small group of people has grown into a large team: the Patta family. And they are not only in Amsterdam anymore, but recently opened stores in London and Milan with the vision to open more in the future, but as Edson said himself: “you never know what’s gonna happen next.”
It was a great experience for me to help to arrange and make this talk happen, it was our most attended one so far and for sure my favourite. We look to continue our C-Word talk series to this level for the future.