Only together we are strong –
An aspirational story about Patta
The power of the community
Words: Moubarak Assima
If you think that hip-hop culture is only celebrated in a big way in the States, you’re wrong. Hip-hop is celebrated all over the world. The power of the subculture has ignited a fire in some people that they wanted to express.
The fire also reached as far as Amsterdam. That’s where Patta founders Gee Schmidt and Edson Sabajo met. They were both active in the Dutch hip-hop and nightlife scene. The first contact between the two came from a conversation in the Fatbeats store, where Edson Sabajo worked in the late 90s, they were discussing a song by the Arsonists.
Blaze is the name of the song. There was a discussion about which sample was used. Gee overheard the conversation and said that the sample was from the musical “War of the Worlds”. Edson was not happy with his answer, but when they checked the facts, it was clear that Gee was right.
Back then, the Fatbeats Store was the place to go for hip-hop nerds. Everyone came together and had a relaxed time. Not only Edson worked in the shop, but also talented DJs from the scene at the time like Masta Lee and Mr.Wix. They recorded mixtapes, did radio shows and DJ’d all over the city. The power of creativity began to leave its mark on Gee.
When the turn of the century hit in the 00s, hip-hop became more and more mainstream. CD’s slowly made their way and the MP3 player came along. As a result, the vinyl industry suffered. The Fatbeats store was not doing well. One by one, the employees quit. Gee started working behind the bar at de Duivel.
One day in 2003, Gee and Edson met for a drink at Bar de Duivel. Gee told Edson his sorrow and said that he wanted to quit Sony because it was making him unhappy. And that he wanted to start his own business. Edson felt his grief as he felt the same way. Edson told Gee about his time when he was in China, he saw a mountain of shoe boxes and the image was burnt into his mind forever. Edson suggested doing something with sneakers as they both loved and understood trainers.
When Edson suggested Gee the idea of doing this on a large scale, it all made sense. The environment in which they operate was also into limited sneakers.
The business plan was written. They now needed some start-up capital. Rabobank saw great potential in the idea and provided them with the start-up capital. Edson and Gee were so happy that they then started looking for premises. They found a three-storey building on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal and signed the contract. The day after the signing, the bank contacted them to say that the loan had not been approved after all.
They drank their sorrows away at the de Duivel. When their good friend Dirk noticed that something was wrong with them, he asked them what was going on. Dirk listened to the story and thought about it. He said that he might be able to help the two of them because his father works in the pharmaceutical industry.
In the early years, the team travelled 4 to 5 times a year to places like New York Philadelphia, LA, Paris and Tokyo. Through the conversations and contacts they made with their suppliers all over the world, their contact book kept expanding. By being part of the culture, Gee and Edson knew exactly what shoes to bring home.
The first brand Patta added to their catalogue was ASICS. The account managers at the time were already friends with the team. ASICS offered a sneaker project. They could choose a silhouette of their choice and redesign it. They chose the ASICS Gel Lyte III, a model from the 90s that had fallen into oblivion.
The Patta x ASICS Gel-Lyte III was launched in 2007, three years after the company was founded. In 2009, on the fifth anniversary, Patta launched five Air Max 1s in collaboration with Nike, creating further buzz in the sneaker world. Patta is soaring and the potential seems limitless. So expansion plans were quickly made and the new Precinct 5 store opened in 2010.
Located on the top floor of an old police station, Precinct 5 was a concept store that carried high-end streetwear labels like Neighbourhood, Nike NSW and Stussy. It made sense to introduce these brands to the Amsterdam market, but the combination of the hard-to-find location and the high prices made the business complicated. On top of that, there were internal problems running two businesses at the same time. In 2012, as a last resort, it was decided to merge the two companies and run the Patta business at Precinct 5’s location. Unfortunately, when Precinct 5 filed for bankruptcy a few months later, the Patta shop also had too close.
The Patta team made another important investment. Namely, the foundation of their own clothing line. This is how the Patta Original Clothing label was founded. Starting with a small collection for spring/summer 2011, the Patta clothing line has become an integral part of the collection, with two seasonal collections and small drops released every third month.
Patta became known over time for more than just sneakers. They were able to establish themselves as their own brand and became more independent than ever. When the Zeedijk shop reopened at the end of 2012, the clothing line was already on its way into the future and was able to establish itself. In 2014 came the first collaboration with Carhartt WIP. Streetwear fans can certainly still remember the “Wild at Hartt” collection.
In 2015, Patta crossed swords with streetwear pioneer Stüssy and released a capsule collection. The releases with Carhartt and Stüssy went so well that Patta revived the collaboration between them for their 15th anniversary. The production, as well as the logistics and distribution, proved to be a new challenge, but in the long run, it was the right decision.
We can now proudly announce that the latest Patta collection is available in the HHV store and online.
Photos by Tiana Lenz