Meet the College Student Who Is Working to Create ‘the Next Toms’

For 20-year-old Fernando Rojo, PATOS is much more than a sneaker brand.

The University of Pennsylvania student, who is taking a semester off to work full-time on the company’s launch, is on a mission to lift up impoverished communities throughout Peru by bringing much-needed jobs to the country’s many skilled artisans.

Rojo was inspired to launch PATOS after a visit to a local arts fair in Argentina, where he came across a colorful spread of traditional handwoven textiles. “Growing up between Argentina and the U.S., I realized the sneaker industry was dominated by European inspiration. Mainstream fashion neglected Latin America’s beautiful textiles,” he explained. “So I thought, ‘Why not team up with locals to create sneakers accented with these textiles and have an economic impact in the communities [in which] we work?’ ”

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PATOS’ sneakers combine modern design with old-world craftsmanship.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

Rojo designed a collection that combines today’s modern, minimalist sneaker silhouettes with traditional textiles sourced exclusively from Peru. The inaugural offering includes two lace-up styles: El Primero, an everyday canvas look ($65); and El PrimeroQ, a more premium leather version ($95), detailed with hand-stitched textile accents on the heel. Both are available in three colorways. The brand also has a reversible drawstring backpack, priced at $20, made using leftover textile and canvas materials from the sneakers.

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The El Primero style in black canvas, $65.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.
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The El PrimeroQ style in white leather, $95.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.
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Handcrafted textile accents are the centerpiece of PATOS’ designs.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

PATOS recently launched preorders for the items on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. The social-impact brand has already surpassed its goal of raising $45,000, with two more days still to go in the campaign. Clearly, consumers are bullish on the product and, more importantly, the compelling story behind it. “These are sneakers that have traveled to different corners of the globe before you’ve even stepped foot in them for the first time,” Rojo said.

PATOS’ ultimate aim is to empower Latin American artisans by providing them with long-term jobs and allowing them to preserve their centuries-old handcrafting techniques, while giving them a platform to showcase their products to an international audience.

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Inside the PATOS sewing room, staffed by local skilled artisans.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brands.

“As our business grows, we also will invest in improving the efficiency of our operations in Peru. This will help us stay true to our mission to handcraft products while bringing new technology to the impoverished villages we work in,” Rojo noted.

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