Patta are without a doubt one of the strongest European presences in our industry today. Having a hand in so many great products over the years, they reach a milestone in 2009 as they celebrate their 5th Anniversary. However, beyond many of their awesome sneaker releases of the past, and upcoming, comes a more comprehensive story to the Amsterdam-based retailer. We recently had a chance to speak with Guillaume “Gee” Schmidt (pictured right), co-founder of Patta and Nathan Jobe of Converse regarding an upcoming project involving the two, as well as music group Le Le which features the likes of artist Parra (pictured left). The three-way capsule includes a Pro Leather, Chuck Taylor All-Star and varsity jacket. Beyond just this solitary collaboration, Patta shine through the bringing together of various acts beyond just apparel. The intersection of art, music and culture have inevitably created a rock-solid foundation for the Patta crew, which should yield many great years ahead of them.
Interview: Eugene Kan
Photography: Tim Pen
Interview with Guillaume “Gee” Schmidt
Congratulations on reaching the 5 year mark with Patta, take us back to the Dutch sneaker and streetwear scene 5 years ago, before Patta started. How does it look now?
Wherever there is street culture you will have street fashion. The Netherlands are no different, in this sense. Its always pretty basic, but the main focus locally was and still is on runners. We love them runners! The AM 1, Epics, AM 90s, Air Stabs, New Balance 1300s and so on. This was the norm 5 years ago and it still is today.
5 years ago you had shops like 90 Square Meters in Amsterdam and Concrete in The Hague that have all been around for a minute. Nowadays you would call those shops concept-shops. Seventy-Five in Amsterdam is one of the first sneaker boutiques. You also had guys selling sneakers out of the back of their car, guys like “Mikey Nike” and “Shoe Pirate Dennis”. So the concept of selling sneakers and the gear to go with it wasn’t a new thing when we started out 5 years ago. Our approach however was different. We have always seen Patta more as a cultural platform which combines a lot of our interests which are obviously fashion but also encompass film, art, books and ultimately music. Edson (my partner in business) and I both have a musical background, which integrates into Patta. Edson is a DJ and we both used to work for Fatbeats. Music is what connected a lot of the people we still work with now… MR Wix, Masta Lee, Vic, Tim, Benny from Ben G… they all came through those doors.
How did your relationship with Parra begin?
Piet, known as Parra to most of you, is a multi-talented cat. When we opened Patta we all came under one roof and so we mixed up all the disciplines. Piet was doing his art thing with his label Rockwell and worked with a lot of big brands. He helped us with logos, tees, design, everything… he was essential to us.
What sort of influences came together to create Patta and what effect has this had on the overall Dutch streetwear landscape?
Our ass was never about staying local! We always aimed for being known on an all-around level. A lot of our influences on that end and our mentality came from our direct surroundings with our friends and family… and on that note I can’t forget New York City. That city influenced us a lot; Jacky from The Bangers where we always stayed, people like Jamie Story, Gio Estevez, Neal Santos, Aaron Bondaroff, etc. A lot of the OG Supreme crew showed us the way of grinding it out… from there we made the connections with Treis from A.R.C. So these were the tools to start our first business deals with shoes, tees and the basics. Fast forward five years later to now and I think the landscape for street culture has became bigger and more well known. Shops I mentioned before are still around but you now have shops like Wo, Frisco, Dings, Re-Issue and brands like Ontour who are all doing their thing and are part of the scene as we know it now. I don’t think we created it but I think we definitely helped build and accelerate the process, so its on a pretty big scale in Holland now. All different shades are represented, street kids with AM1s, hipsters, skaters… a lot of vulcanized soles now too. Fashion and streetwear are coming closer together and it happens everywhere. The only way to get to the point we’re at now was through a lot of teamwork, so when we say Patta, we come out as a team. It doesn’t only involve me, Edson, Parra or Lee…it’s a true team.
What sort of things were you guys up to before taking the plunge into Patta?
We all came from pretty different backgrounds, Edson was a store manager at Fatbeats Amsterdam and DJing. He was the main inspiration for most of us concerning the sneaker game/buying.
Parra was already making a name for himself doing a lot of flyers and promo for the better parties in town. And of course doing designs for Rockwell Clothing and getting his first big commercial work with Big Active from London. Aside from doing that, he was also doing a little bit of DJing and beatmaking, and of course a lot of skating, haha. Multi-talented or what?
Lee was doing beats and DJing, but mostly outside of the country in Asia, to be more specific; all the while hanging out.
Max “Milanello”, is an important element of Patta and also a co-owner. We met after we opened up. He was still living in Italy back then and was heavily into the vintage sneaker game. He has a great collection and knowledge of the game.
I myself worked at Fatbeats, then moved over to the marketing department of Sony Music (Epic and Columbia), handling R&B, Hip-Hop, Soul, Jazz, Reggae and what not, all the while doing some hosting, bar tending, and organizing parties.
With such a diverse team of individuals, it comes as no surprise why the whole lifestyle initiative that represents Patta made sense. Seems as though everybody brings their specific skill set to the table to make things run smoothly.
We have a big team, the hardest part was getting everybody in the right place and doing what he or she excels in. We work as a team, so each individual is necessary to make things run smoothly. Obviously it takes time and trying stuff out to find what you like to do. We are now at the point where everybody does his thing and plays his position. Most of the stuff we do comes from the heart but there also comes a lot of politics around the corner. That’s a game you need to learn to play. We try to do that without losing our identity or our integrity as individuals but also for Patta. This is sacred to us.
What have been some of the hardest obstacles you’ve faced in the past five years? What has been the most rewarding aspect?
The most rewarding has been seeing people around us getting successful and doing their thing. Parra with his art, Benny with Ben G, the people that work at Patta doing there own thing. Ultimately seeing Patta grow like your own baby. Other than that mostly traveling, getting to know new people, working with different brands like Nike, Kangol, adidas, ASICS, Stussy and Converse, among others. We’ve had the chance to meet great people that inspire us to do our thing or work harder, such as Eric Elms, James Jebbia, Giovanni Estevez, Neal Santos, Jamie Story, Dash Snow, Angelo Baque, Aaron Bondaroff, Fraser Cook… all people I wouldn’t have met if we weren’t doing what we are doing.
What do you think has made Patta so successful all these years? Would you equate it to timing or something innate, like a talent from within and an eye for cool stuff?
A combination of things, timing and the mix of different disciplines. Parra has been a big part of our success. Sticking close to where we’re from (Amsterdam/Netherlands), ultimately if it weren’t for the support of the people we wouldn’t be anything without them. Last but not least, hard work… very hard work, which is still the case. An eye for cool shit doesn’t mean that much to me. That’s different for everybody, it’s very individualistic, we are a team and that’s what forms our individuality.
Good call on Parra, he’s become sort of the poster-child for Dutch street art. It’s always so important to never forget your roots and help develop the local scene to establish a solid foundation before you go bigger. Could you speak a little about your huge collaboration collection for your fifth anniversary? Who exactly is involved and how did you approach each specific project?
Saying Parra or Piet is the poster boy for Dutch street art would do him short. He is a poster boy for Dutch art or better yet creativity in the whole art spectrum period, no boxes or pigeon-holing for him, he’s a far dude.
No one works specifically on one project exclusively, we all put in our 2 cents. A lot of projects are made up from sketch to concept by Lee and I. Lee does a lot of the sketches and I do a lot of the concepts, but that’s only half the story. Afterward, Edson, Tim, Max and the rest of the team go over it and say whether it’s either a good idea or straight crap. So no one specifically does a project for us, however we all work together to make sure the end result is on point. The main perpetrators for our projects have included Walid and Gary from Patta distribution who did the Pro-Keds and Kangol projects. Lee and Tim worked on stuff with Reebok and Eke/Coco worked on a project with girl shoes. We also work with people close to our family, we are currently working on some stuff with graphic designer Vinz and with Edgar, from Paris, who is in charge of all our clothing output. We worked on the Keeps project with designer Raymond “Rebel Ray” Lemstra. With the Asics project, from a little while ago, we used earlier work from inspiring artists Delta, Eric Elms and Parra.
Last but not least I share office space with Parra. He does his art, listens to his music, we barely speak during the day but we always check in. He asks me my opinion about certain projects he works on and I get inspired by his work and ask him about certain color combinations.
The last project we worked on, which really captures the way we work, is our 5th Anniversary Converse collection. This capsule went all the way from a concept of an aesthetic that fits to a brand into everything we like. We translated the varsity jacket into the shoes, branded them with the names Patta and Le Le. Le Le made some exclusive music with a record, organized some events and bam! there you have it. Music, art, fashion, party, people, family… all the good stuff.
Speaking of the Converse project, could you offer some background into this part of Patta’s 5 Year Anniversary? Throughout sneaker history,perhaps no model has become as popular and well-known as the Chuck Taylor All-Star. Was it a difficult feat when working with a shoe that has seen so many different versions and styles throughout its history and what’s the design all about?
We have been working on this project for a long time and it just happened to come out during our 5th Anniversary, which is a perfect match because we love Converse and we wanted to give it our best when working with them. When we heard from Nathan Jobe (Converse) that things were looked good, we immediately said we would do it as long as we could work on the Chuck Taylor, an all time favorite for us. It was definitely a challenge because of the good stuff that comes out from their inline collection including their first string projects like the SOPHNET. Chucks, Wood Wood (PRODUCT) RED joints and definitely the Hiroshi Fujiwara fragment Chucks. They are all straight classics. All we knew is that we wanted it to be simple, as soon as we had the concept it developed really quick. It didn’t take us that long and we were pretty happy with the result which includes a Pro Leather, Chuck Taylor All-Star and varsity jacket. Overall, it’s a pack with nice details and good materials. The whole collection is inspired by the iconic Letterman aesthetic. The varsity jacket comes in a burgundy corduroy and has a reversible gray lining in quilted fleece. Between the Pro Leather and the Chuck Taylor, they have an opposite approach. The Pro Leather comes with a deep burgundy corduroy upper with quilted grey lining while the Chuck is the polar opposite with a quilted suede upper and burgundy corduroy lining. We also got the chance to use a lesser seen Chuck from the 60s, that has higher rands and a cleaner midsole. The stuff really works when you put the shoes and the jacket together, it makes the cycle complete.
The Pro Leather is a shoe that has been seen a few times in the last little while but few have had the chance to put their own collaborative touch on it. Since it (the Pro Leather) has seen fewer versions release compared to the Chuck Taylor, did you have to restrain from putting out something a bit crazier?
Not really, as we worked within the concept. Our first idea for both shoes was to keep it simple. The material use and the colorway are that extra touch in our own respective opinion. I think the Pro Leather hasn’t been worked on that much simply because it’s a little underrated… but that’s just a thought. In the end, its a killer silhouette period ’nuff said! Lets wait until Hiroshi touches it or Stussy… haha, you’ll see!
I see a lot of potential in the Pro Leather, just a nice and timeless aesthetic with a clean profile. As I understand there was the involvement of Le Le in this project as well. What exactly is Le Le and what involvement did they have?
Le Le is a band from Amsterdam, consisting of Rimeroni, Parra and Faberyayo. Parra brings in a lot of ideas and sketches for songs. He also takes care of the visual and graphic identity for the band obviously. During live shows he does live drawings which are beamed onto a screen. Rimer is a crazy talented producer and a sound wizard, a proper musician and a great guy. Last but not least you got Faberyayo, the frontman/singer/rapper. I think he is one of the sharpest and talented lyricist from the Netherlands… fuck it… in the world. He’s also part of a pretty revolutionary group, Jeugd van Tegenwoordig. They actually partnered electronic music with Hip-Hop before it got hip. It’s pretty hard to pinpoint or put their music in a box, which is their strength. It’s a blend of their musical tastes, Italian, New Wave, Disco, Techno, Dirty South Hip-Hop, bass and so on. Their taste and the natural chemistry between the three guys, with a big dose of humor, makes Le Le such an unreal group.
We wanted to involve music in this project and with Parra part of Le Le it’s an extension of our Patta family tree, so it was a natural choice. Music has always been a important element for Patta and so we are proud and honored to do this project with Le Le. They made two exclusive new songs for this project and we are making 12” inch records that will be coming with the shoes during the Paris and Berlin releases. In both cities we will also be hosting parties with Parra Soundsystem and a live Le Le performance to bring things full circle.
That’s some pretty comprehensive stuff being all tied together. Did you guys have any creative input on the musical tracks that accompany the project?
No, not at all, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. These guys know what they are doing. All I want is a genuine, sincere Le Le product, with no frills. That’s the only way to keep that integrity, by letting people do what they do and that’s the case with Le Le. The end result… certified dope!
Rounding things out, when can we expect a release of the Converse collection and what other products can we look forward to seeing as we round out the Patta 5th Year Anniversary?
The Converse capsule will be released during the following dates…
Amsterdam – September 5th
Paris – September 9th @ colette and Pigalle, with exclusive Parra Soundsystem & Le Le performances.
Berlin – September 10th @ Wood Wood Berlin with exclusive Parra Soundsystem & Le Le performances.
Europe/Pacific – September 19th
USA – October
In terms of other products, we still have stuff with Kangol, HUF, New Era and a few more surprises up our sleeve. Thanks for this opportunity Eugene, we’re proud to be involved with
Thanks a lot Gee, the feeling is mutual and best of luck with the release.
Interview with Nathan Jobe
Hey Nathan, hope things are well and great to speak with you. For those unaware, what’s your role at Converse?
Things are good. I just recently had a baby girl, what a trip. A good friend of mine in the industry recently commented “that this is the greatest collaboration you’ve ever been apart of”, I agree she is a cutie. I am the Design Director of Converse – First String (select collaborations and special projects).
How long ago were the wheels set in motion for this Converse Project?
Last March I was over in the Dam for some meetings at our Converse European HQ and I met up with the Patta crew to show them some new kicks coming out. The meeting led to working together and coming up with a unique offering with clothing and a record. Because of our long standing connection to music, LeLe was the perfect addition to the collab. Plus the song “Breakfast” is one of my all time new favorites. Long story short we ended up hanging out that night and partying together, planning out the offering. I knew the night was going well when Gee and Parra and I caught ourselves signing along to the Smiths one song and then again to the next with Biggie. The Patta crew was extremely excited to work with us and to say the least it was a very organic experience.
What’s the general consensus regarding Patta around Converse?
Converse holds Patta in high regards as a key partner in our European market. Not only for their relevance in the Streetwear/Sneaker world but also that they’re mad gang related to a lot of our personal homies.
With the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star, is it a hard model to give out for collaborations, given how special and popular a shoe it is? And I know Gee mentioned something about a special 60’s style Chuck Taylor silhouette being used?
For all special project/First String collabs we use a special version of the Chuck Taylor that is based off of a 60’s model, where the sidewalls are higher and a original license plate from that era is used. This version of the Chuck Taylor gives a point of difference to the classic Chuck Taylor shoe. Going forward we plan to use the 60’s Chuck Taylor for all collabs and our own First String Standards collection.
Any upcoming projects with the Pro Leather?
We have a few things lined up to drop next year but nothing we can talk about yet. This silhouette is a staple in Converse’s long history of basketball shoes and we plan to continue to use it.
Thanks for your time Nathan, any last words?
Look out for our product launch the Patta/LeLe project with colette/Pigalle in Paris and in Berlin at Wood Wood. There will be live performances by LeLe and Ian Ginoza will be representing and holding it down for the the Converse First String crew at both locations.