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Loud and Clear: Mahaneela, Steve McQueen, and Gee talk The Wave

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Making Waves: To mark their reimagining of the iconic Air Max 1, Nike and Patta present
The Wave: a four-part film journey through Black culture and its many intersections.

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Long-time collaborators Nike and Patta once again unite to launch the Air Max 1 Wave and tell essential tales of Black culture, manifested through film by visionaries Steve McQueen and Mahaneela. 

The Nike x Patta Air Max 1 is inspired by the authentic connection between the Amsterdam-based brand and the Air Max community.

From communities through to their people and their creative expressions, from music and style to sport and education, scroll to immerse yourself in The Wave. This is an evolving experience and page.

Chapter 1:
Waves Not Cycles

“Waves Not Cycles” is the first chapter in the The Wave film series. Directed by London-born Mahaneela and produced by Steve McQueen, the short film follows Abdul, an amateur photographer eager to live out his dreams.

Centering on a London laundrette, “Waves Not Cycles” explores the Black British experience, poetically dissecting the power of connection and chance encounters. The film calls upon capital royalty Little Simz, Skepta, and Ozwald Boateng for cameos, with an original score from London producer and NTS resident Steven Julien.

Chapter 2:
Loud + Clear

“When I connect with my fellow dreamers, that I can share pieces of this dream with – they seem to understand.” The second film in The Wave series tells a tale of connection via the sharing of music and sound. 

Scored by Steven Julien, poet Suli Breaks narrates this visual and aural search for collective and individual voice. Starring Carista, Animistic Beliefs, Tirino Yspol, Martine Rose, Actress, Lil-C, George Riley, Savannah Stacey Keenan, and more, chapter two celebrates Black voices and their ability to carve out unique paths to higher places.

Diving deep into the vision and creative process beneath The Wave and its chapters, writer and filmmaker Rashida Seriki talks to Steve McQueen, Mahaneela, and Gee Schmidt of Patta.

Steve and Mahaneela discuss their respective roles of mentor and mentee during the project, while Gee narrates Nike and Patta’s cultural role in Black communities and how The Wave cements this standing.

An interview With Steve McQueen, Mahaneela, and Gee From Patta. 

What sparks creativity? Whether it’s meeting a new person, travelling to  corners of the world, or reminiscing with an old friend, inspiration can be found everywhere. The Wave is a four-part series of films by Nike and Patta exploring this idea of cycles of innovation, as well as foregrounding aspects of Black culture: sport, style, music, and education. 

Making cameos in the series are a wealth of Black British talent, from Skepta to Little Simz, and Mo Farah. It was directed by Mahaneela, a multi-disciplinary who has worked with names including FKA twigs and NAO. Creative director and formidable figure in the art and film world Steve McQueen (whose Llamas Park production house was responsible for production) describes their collaboration as “authentic”, telling Dazed that, while he hates that word, he finds it perfect to summarise how natural and enjoyable the process was. Similarly, the partnership between Patta and Nike can be seen as a prime example of how mutual respect, trust, and passion for more than just the product creates opportunities for emerging talent, with Patta’s ethos that streetwear is “synonymous with community”.

With all involved sharing the same mindset of wanting to elevate Black creatives, The Wave represents their shared mission, allowing for a diverse roster of British and European talent of colour to contribute to the vision. For too long, many people of colour have not had the opportunity to access, or the resources to make commercial films of this scale.

Dazed hosted a roundtable with the key players behind the project: Steve McQueen, Mahaneela, and Patta’s Gee Schmidt, about the creative process of the collaboration. With great energy, a genuine feeling of Black camaraderie, and an infectious, inspirational tone, they shared insight and the meaning behind the artistry.

Gee, can you tell me how the Nike and Patta partnership came to be and how this project with Steve and Mahaneela came about?

Gee Schmidt: The relationship we have with Nike goes really far back. We started out independent – we are still independent – but with independence I mean that what a normal store would do is open up a shop, see what accounts you can get, and start ordering shoes. But for me, that’s a different kind of mindset. We wanted to do our own thing, so we basically bought shoes everywhere we could get our hands on, stuff that we thought was very cool. With that, we were bypassing all the regular channels. A popular term right now is ‘grey market’ or ‘parallel selling’, so to speak. In 2004, when we did that in Amsterdam, even Europe – it wasn’t that common.

We did that for two or three years and because of our relationship with our community, we started making a name for ourselves. It’s about more than products, which has always been a part of what me and Edson (Sabajo) have been doing. By making a name for yourselves you become interesting to partners that make money, so they start looking for you. We started building a relationship with brands that we thought were important, and that as fans ourselves we felt connected to, and Nike was one of them. 

Steve McQueen: I met Gee standing outside a school. We were both waiting for our sons – our sons were friends; I had no idea who Gee was. We saw each other at birthday parties, we just hung out and got on. I had no idea until way down the line that he was involved in this company called Patta and I saw people wearing this stuff all over the place and was like, ‘Oh, that’s you. OK!’ So it was a very organic relationship. Even today, our kids are doing some dry-slope skiing somewhere in Amsterdam. It was very organic, beautiful really, how these things just happen. He wasn’t chasing me and I wasn’t chasing him. And as for Mahaneela, she’s an extraordinary talent.

Do you feel that your mutual respect for community and the richness of Black culture has made for a successful partnership and collaboration between all of you?

Mahaneela: For sure. I think that’s what really drew me to this project. It felt like Gee, Steve – everyone – we were all speaking the same language. It was more than just like, ‘Oh this is like, this brand, and this is cool,’ it was more than that.

GS: What we also have in common between our personalities is that we want the best. And we strive for that. In that sense I think that’s our bottom line, and that’s definitely something that always clicks. And that goes beyond colour or anything like that, but of course it is pivotal and great that we are people of colour and that this is our rightful place and stage.

“There’s a lot of debate, a lot of discussion, and at the end of the day, the best idea wins. I’m very proud of that. And the fact that we’re all Black people doing it, what can I tell ya…”

Steve McQueen

SM: I think also the crux of myself and Gee’s relationship and in extension through this project, is this friendship through our children and just pure hanging out. The relationship’s fundamental is friendship. We can be very direct and honest with each other about what we like or don’t like, what we think should happen. There’s a lot of debate, a lot of discussion, and at the end of the day, the best idea wins. I’m proud of that. The fact that we’re all Black people doing it, what can I tell ya… 

M: I think that’s another thing, the natural flow of it. There’s been all of the collaborators that are involved in the project, down to the people editing or doing post-production. These are people that have been long-standing relationships and true friendships. It felt just like Steve was saying; the ease of communication – we don’t have to sugar-coat stuff. Especially when it is a big project – having a shorthand with people and knowing, OK, ‘my second unit director understands my eye’. Or this DOP I’ve been working with for years on the come-up, now finally I get to give him an opportunity.

SM: It almost feels like a band. Lennon and McCartney… without the hassle. Blondie. I’m definitely the bass.

GS: I’m in the rhythm section too. I’ll take the drums. Actually, I wanna be the bass player, Steve.

M: This is what it’s like working with these guys (laughs).

Yeah, this dynamic – the friendship, authenticity, these are all elements that make for really good collaboration. And Neela, you mentioned having worked with people who you’ve been on the come-up with, who else has been involved in the films?

M: So many and even just first – Rashida, I remember you, I directed a film that you were in for Black History Month for Channel 4, years ago. So even this is also another iteration. 

SM: Part of the gang! You’re on synths (laughs)

M: Welcome to the band, Rashida! (all laugh). But yeah, this is the thing. Organically these things are happening where you’re meeting people at new stages in your career and you’re able to work together in different ways, which I think is amazing. The person who took the stills for the film is Christina Nwabugo; she’s one of my great friends and collaborators over the years, she’s also the second unit director. We had Olan Collardy, in my opinion one of the best DOPs in the UK right now. He was leading cinematography. So there’s been lots of those kinds of connections. Nathalie Pitters, another DOP on the second unit here in London, and Jurgen Lisse from Amsterdam who’s actually a friend of Patta, both who I had the opportunity to work with for the first time on this. And of course, I have to mention Nia Imani, my newest friend and collaborator since moving to the US, and our incredible editor who I treasure! So it really was from every angle.

“We’re about self-reflection. It’s a give-and-take situation, which is what community is all about. Community is not a one-way street – it goes this way and that”

Gee Schmidt

How would you describe the term ‘the wave’, and how is it explored within the films?

GS: In my exploration of Patta, it’s about the duality of things. So Patta, a Black-owned brand in streetwear, makes a lot of big statements but at the same time we’re also about self-reflection. It’s a give-and-take situation, which is what community is all about. Community is not a one-way street – it goes this way and that.

M: Yeah, it’s like getting swept up in this energy… There are highs and lows and you’re learning from people that are younger than you and you’re teaching people that are older than you. And the other way round. It’s not about age, it’s not about experience. I think on all sides we’re all learning from this experience and to me the wave, and how it manifests in the films, was based on being inspired by the idea that things go upstream, downstream, left, right. We just have to go with the momentum.

“You’re learning from people that are younger than you and you’re teaching people that are older than you. And the other way round. It’s not about age, it’s not about experience”

Mahaneela

SM: We’re seeing images that we’ve never really seen before given this kind of platform. That excites me. The empowerment of Black women in this series as well as this guy trying to find space for himself. These images haven’t often been seen… you often see criminality, or overtly masculine sportsmen or women. These people are just trying to make their way through the environment they find themselves in, and trying to create space for themselves, I’m really proud of it in this particular venture. It was wonderful. They see themselves.

GS: There’s also space for insecurity. The guy is not there yet and you see what the importance is of family and all these little things, whether that’s sharing food with each other or listening to music with your brother. I like that we see somebody who just doesn’t know yet, you know what I mean? That feeling isn’t only dedicated to young people but to all of us, because that search and getting inspired and learning, that’s something that triggers me. And whatever I can do, and definitely with the people I’m doing it with, I’m loving every bit of it.

I’ve got to give it to Nike, a big company who are also transparent. The people working with Nike itself are people that I’ve known for years.

The film really encourages viewers to feel validated in their pursuits, whether it’s at the point of success or the beginning. But you have some big talents in the film such as Little Simz, Skepta, Ozwald Boateng. How was it working with them, Neela?

M: It was amazing, a full circle moment. I’ve known Simz since 2014, so I’ve seen her journey. I’ve always thought one day we’ll do something together, but it will just happen when it’s meant to happen. It was such a great vibe on set because it was like connecting with old friends. We both had a moment sitting on the roof where she was getting her make-up done and she was like, ‘Wow. I’m really proud of you’, and I was like, ‘I’m really proud of you, too! We’re here’. It felt like the whole shoot was seeing other people and going, ‘Wow, look at us meeting each other in this setting, we’ve got all these amazing people of colour in the crew.’ There was an ease and a comfortability, and you could not recreate that. Even Skepta, I’m friends with his sister so I’ve met him over the years but always in the most random settings, like playing laser tag. When we got on set, he was like ‘what, you’re here!’ And Ozwald as well. He took me to one side and said ‘I love the fact that I’m seeing a Black woman director calling the shots today’. I honestly didn’t want that experience to end, it was amazing. We had such a great time.

“The whole shoot was seeing other people and going, ‘Wow, look at us meeting each other in this setting, we’ve got all these amazing people of colour in the crew.’ There was an ease and a comfortability, and you could not recreate that”

Mahaneela

Patta’s brand has been forging a diverse and inclusive space for young creatives. Is that something that you’ve felt within the films themselves?

GS: There’s the sense of pride from our diaspora. Suriname is really well presented in small details here. It’s very important and essential for who me and Edson are and in terms of our company, but also the diaspora as a whole, whether it’s the West Indies with Steve or Jamaica for Neela. Many of our friends have roots in Africa. All those relationships and knowledge that we should have about who we are, are what we definitely have to keep on the table. Raise that flag.

SM: That was a conversation we had right at the beginning. We had a conversation about Africa, about Suriname, the West Indies, the Netherlands, UK, North America – the different textures and influences that make us unique in the diaspora in general. That was a wonderful starting point.

What happens next? How does the concept of sharing and highlighting the wave continue?

SM: I would say as a band, I wanna make a couple more albums, that’s for sure (laughs).

GS: This is the first album, we should get a date for the second album.

M: We’ve got one film out in the world, there’s three more to come, then there’s gonna be the full film. This storytelling experience is far from over, but beyond that I think this is the beginning of more collaboration… so many threads of connections have happened just from making this film that there’s no doubt. The point is to start this chain reaction.