Patta Amsterdam's Red Light Sneakers

There’s a mathematical equation for fads: The enthusiasm with which you participate in one (x) is directly proportionate to the embarrassment experienced after it has passed (y). If fad in question was followed between the ages of 10 and 18, regret increases exponentially (y2).

Sneaker trends are no exception to this sartorial phenomenon. Over the years we’ve seen the good (white Adidas) and the great-except–for-nighttime-getaways-on-foot (light ups). Then there was/still is the bad (orthopedic shoes of the beige variety). And don’t forget about the deceivingly difficult to operate (wheelies).

But these days, if you’re not looking for running shoes or classic Chucks, then you can’t be shopping at any old Foot Locker. You have to know where to go. Or know someone who knows someone. And for twenty bucks, their buddy’s friend’s older brother’s cousin will take you to a Chinatown alleyway that leads to a cellar that turns into an apartment that opens into an abandoned subway platform that leads back to the street and a table displaying a variety of “Nikes.”

Or you could save yourself the trouble and shop at a sneaker boutique — a small niche of stores that don’t necessarily limit themselves just to shoes. They develop their own clothing lines and have pop-ups in Paris. They dabble in music, collaborate with other brands and partner with art museums. This is the ultimate era of cross-pollination, a time when music, high fashion, streetwear, performance art and a million other things collide harmoniously. These stores do it all.

I dropped by a couple of these Renaissance shops to browse their wares and chat with the owners. First I sat down with Guillaume Schmidt, known by friends as Gee, who helped start Dutch brand Patta. He invited me to his Red Light District office where we discussed his favorite Italian restaurant in Amsterdam, tracksuits and his love for Will Ferrell.

Milk Made: Give us a brief history of Patta.

Gee: We started as a small sneaker store – a sneaker boutique – in 2004. It was me and my friend Edson, we started it together. We just did some parallel import of sneakers, but basically our background was music. Edson is a DJ, and we used to work at a record shop, Fat Beats. And Fat Beats was also situated in Japan and New York and LA at that time, and we kind of got a lot of connections in the music world, but also something on the side of that, like sneaker culture and all that stuff. So we used those connections to start dealing with sneakers. And in the back of our heads, we used our connections in art and in music so we kind of more developed into a lifestyle brand / platform.

MM: And the name?

Gee: The name is Surinamese for “sneaker.” That’s our background; I was born in Suriname. Edson was born in Amsterdam, though. But that’s our roots and that’s the way in street language you call a sneaker; you call it “patta.”

MM: Describe Patta’s aesthetic…

Gee: I hope that by now we have our own aesthetic, that’s something you [hope for]. But I guess it’s pretty basic, and it’s logo driven. And we try to be positive in a way. So those elements are really important for us. Amsterdam is our home base, so you’ll also find references to that back in the stuff that we do. We are really picky. Every t-shirt we go, “What’s the message?” “How does it look?” “Are the letters alright?” It’s also Vincent’s [van de Waal] thing. We call him “the designer.” He’s been really substantial and very important in getting our aesthetic.

MM: So it’s just you, Vincent, and Edson making decisions?

Gee: For the line, most of it is me and Vincent (van de Waal) – Vincent does all the graphics. And I kind of oversee it and do creative direction together with him. And then we make it, and then we go over it with the whole team, so everybody who works for the store. We just go over it and [say], “this is what we made,” and some say, “it has a good message,” the other says, “it’s not going to sell,” the other one says, “this is fantastic.” And that’s what ends up being the collection.

It’s a small company, it’s family based so everybody has a say in the end. If 10 people in the team say it’s not going to work, [no matter] how much I like the product, it doesn’t really matter, we’re not going to make it.

MM: Who would you love to see rocking Patta?

Gee: Will Ferrell, for sure. I love him. That’s my man. Willem Dafoe, I really love him as an actor…I just recently saw Prince, that would be a good look.

MM: What were your favorite projects?

Gee: I really liked the Asics collaboration because that was our first collaboration with our name on it. That was a good shoe collaboration. I really liked the Converse collaboration that we did because there were all these multiple facets that were [involved]: we made a record with it, like a twelve range record. Peter [Parra] did some artwork for it, we did a jacket with it, then we did the shoes. And then we also did a party in Amsterdam for our 5 year anniversary, we did a party in Paris, and we did a party in Berlin. So that was all the extensions that you can have with what you’re doing…The Nike collaboration was really big, so that was a good one.

MM: Who/what/when influences your style the most?

GG: My background is hip hop, so for style I look to that a lot. [The nineties] are my background so I’m a guy who’s really into track suits. That aesthetic is something that I really, really like.

In the nineties – not now – Flava Flav. He was wearing a lot of stuff that [I liked]. With the ill clock and with the ill track suits. He was on some stuff. I really dig the way he looked. The first two albums of Public Enemy, what he was wearing then…that’s stuff I still want to wear.

Photos by Desiré van den Berg

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