Nike x Patta’s The Next Wave preaches Each One, Teach One

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As Nike and Patta join forces for The Next Wave, we meet the creatives involved, discussing the fruits of cultural exchange and Patta’s focus on community

Patta are used to going with the flow. “Normally we move fluidly, just like the waves,” Edson Sabajo – co-founder of the Amsterdam-based – poeticises over Zoom, sitting in front of a retro Ajax strip hanging on the wall. “We tried to capture the storytelling that we already have as Patta…then we came up with The Wave, to tell our story to the whole world,” he continues.

Powered by what Edson lovingly refers to as the Nike Machine, The Wave saw both brands collaborate on four films celebrating Black culture and the power of community. Directed by Mahaneela and featuring creative direction from Steve McQueen, the series heroed the journey of Abdul – an aspiring photographer – alongside appearances from Skepta, Lil Simz and Mo Farah.

For Gee Schmidt – Patta’s other co-founder and best friend of Edson – The Wave “was really about aspiration and motivation.” The lilting nature of waves and their eternal ebb and flow was a metaphor for Patta’s own patterns of celebration and reflection, never “speaking from a position of perfection” but always accepting that being a work-in-progress is what makes progress work.

Now, ever keen to push forward through the current, Patta and Nike have returned for The Next Wave, a new instalment combining photography, education and the sharing of knowledge. Where The Wave existed as an immersive digital experience, The Next Wave is also grounded in a physical space figuratively close to Edson and Gee: South Africa.

“The project is about empowering the next wave which is important for the next generations to come”

“We’re situated in Amsterdam and have a store in London and Milan [but we also] have a connection with South Africa,” Gee says. This energised a trip to Joburg to visit Nike SHAPA Soweto, a recently-relaunched training centre dedicated to nurturing and nourishing young athletes – from footballers to runners to skaters – to see if it could become the epicentre of The Next Wave.

As with anything Patta puts its name to, it had to feel like the real deal. “Obviously before we go into these types of things we need to look for ourselves,” Gee says, “[in this case] to see if the people of Soweto were actually involved.” It passed Patta’s test: “We felt right away that the team was very, very involved and the Soweto team has been one of the best teams I’ve ever worked with,” Gee says.

It was also a chance for Edson to reconnect with old friends, including local legend and entrepreneur Wireless G. “Wireless! We met the first time I went to Joburg, five or six years ago. First off his name is Wireless, so I was like OK – he drove me from Joburg and let me see the real Soweto.” Hitting it off, Edson asked him about his experience of apartheid (“back in the days we couldn’t mix so it was a real eye opener for us”) and Zulu culture, before being introduced to local store Thesis Lifestyle, which Nike and Patta ended up supporting.

This twinning to Soweto and Wireless G led to the main event of The Next Wave, a two-day workshop at Nike SHAPA that saw local creatives including Wireless exchange knowledge and inspired young members of the community, with a focus on interdisciplinary creativity.

One of the mentors was Kabelo Kungwane, founder of football-inspired fashion brand Kasi Flavour. “The project is about empowering the next wave which is important for the next generations to come,” Kabelo says. As a keen footballer himself, he’s a fan of the SHAPA centre: “It’s giving young athletes an opportunity to nurture their talent,” he says, noting that it provides options beyond football and netball, previously the only accessible sports in the area.

“I love how Patta runs their brand,” Kabelo continues. “It’s built on community, a global community that I’m part of; they connect with like-minded creatives and friends and give back which is inspiring to see.” This community-first ethos, of course, isn’t a new element of Patta. Seeing their Amsterdam consumers as collaborators rather than customers since day-dot, the workshop is an extension of their commitment to supporting neighbourhoods, cities and now townships across the globe through education, sport, music and grailed shoes, taking it from AMS to SA. “Wherever we do our things, we first try to start working with the people that we know and then connect with new people,” Gee says.

“The project is about empowering the next wave which is important for the next generations to come”

Fittingly, then, Wireless G and Kabelo both feature in a parallel pathway of The Next Wave, a new series of portraits shot by Shaniqwa Jarvis spotlighting Black creatives who have benefited from the exchange of ideas. All the artists were shot in their own creative spaces, representing the exact origins of their work.

Part of the roster of muses is Nuvany David, a young talent at the vanguard of image-making, galvanised by intergenerational storytelling and the power of family. Inspired by her stylist mother and musician father – ”I dabbled into so many areas of art and they always just encouraged me” – her insanely rapid progress was catalysed by mentoring. “I’ve had so many mentors in my life, I’ve been interning since I was 12 or 13,” she says. “They helped me when I knew absolutely nothing, I could barely even scan a sheet of paper on an Epson scanner.”

Now, she’s getting her own work in print, shooting for the likes of i-D, Burberry and her zine, Tomboy. For the former, she shot her grandfather – another family inspiration – representing his numerous interests as a polymath, from photography, to athletics to music. “I come from a lot of creativity so it’s really such a blessing to have that kind of support and like people who really understand us,” she says. Although she’s only 20, she’s already sharing her expertise with her younger brother: “I give my input but not obviously alter anything that he’s into… allowing him to have this whole world of interest is really beautiful.”

Being photographed by Shaniqwa was, for Nuvany, a full-circle experience. Growing up sending her “embarassing emails” while cutting her teeth, she met her through her mother, before being recommended by her to Nike for the project. Being in front of the camera was a new experience (“it was just surreal”) and saw her be photographed in her true creative space – her bedroom – stuffed animals included. She’s also learned a lot from the other creatives involved in The Next Wave, continuing the sharing of knowledge: “It’s really beautiful being able to see other people’s stories,” she says.

Both the workshops and this photo series interlace many of Patta’s offshoots. While not part of Patta Academy – the brand’s foray into education – the workshop shows a continued closeness to sharing knowledge, while the focus on music and sport echoes the Patta Soundsystem and the Patta Running Team. Central to The Next Wave is a simple maxim: “Each One, Teach One.”

An African-American adage used during the time of slavery to describe the exchange of different disciplines and skills while denied education, Each One Teach One is the motto at the crest of The Next Wave. It summarises Gee and Edson’s shared desire to simultaneously learn and teach, always keeping an open mind and eyes for new ideas.

“There’s really no limitation to what we want to put the Patta brand behind as long as we believe in it,” Gee says. “It can be a book, a photo, a sneaker, a school… that’s how we attacked this project as well.” While Patta’s generosity and commitment to give back could be seen as selfless altruism, it’s as rewarding to them as it is to others, always time well spent. “Remember that the amount of what you get back is incredible,” Gee says. “Not everything is about material things. It might not be that we immediately are the biggest or the richest, but we get so much in return and in social currency.” The wave never flows one-way, but oscillates back-and-forth, energy transferred.

This philosophy of Each One, Teach One is literally spelled out in an accompanying The Next Wave capsule, via a slogan Hooded Sweater, ready to layer with a collaborative tee and joggers. These feature alongside a new Patta x Nike Air Max 1, finished in a Dark Russet-Metallic Silver colourway and symbolising Nike’s own commitment to community and subcultures.

While many stop at a sequel, Gee is confident that The Next Wave isn’t the end of a series, but a second chapter in a narrative still being written. “I think it’s a longer story,” he says, “and it’s something that we are very proud of.” Tides turn, currents, strengthen and waters deepen – but the wave keeps flowing for those ready to ride it – creativity always prevails.

Speaking after the workshop, Gee’s words ring out: “The future is here. You know what I’m saying? Each One, Teach One: all we want to do is spread the love, spread the knowledge and [share that you’re] never too old to learn and never too young. That’s what we do.”