Creating Patos Shoes: Trendy Shoes with Traditional Textiles


Inspiration strikes in unexpected places. For Fernando Rojo, a Community alum who will be a junior at Penn this winter, inspiration struck at a coffee shop in Argentina while talking with his sister. It was winter break in Rojo’s freshmen year of college and his family was taking their annual trip to Argentina, where his family is from. Every year, Rojo’s sister bought several pairs of shoes from one man at his stand in a flea market. She was constantly being complimented on them, and even brought back pairs for her friends to wear. On this particular day, while Rojo and his sister were sipping cappuccinos under the Argentine sun, she was wearing a pair from two years ago. While looking at the maintained vibrancy of the fabric as well as how neat and together the shoes still were, Rojo couldn’t believe that they had been bought at some small flea market shoe stand two years ago.

“I’d always thought, ‘Wow they look really cool’, but I didn’t think they’d be that nice quality if some guy on the street was making them,” Rojo said. “I’d think ‘Wow this is really nice, so why doesn’t he have a big business around it?’”

Rojo walked with his sister to the flea market, as it was just a block away from the coffee shop. There, he met the maker of the shoes, whose name is Rafael, and talked with him for a while.  

“I saw tourists all over the place, getting stuff, and I said, ‘Dude, what’s going on man? How’s business?’ he explained to me how there isn’t really much upbringing with education or anything,” Rojo said.  “He just decided to make shoes twenty years ago to make some money and now he’s so good at it.”

The next urgent question Rojo faced was how he was going to fit all the shoes he had bought into his suitcase. “I liked the product a lot and I decided to sell it here so literally what I did was I just bought suitcases full and brought them home, I stuffed my suitcase, snuck through customs, straight-up snuck them into the United States.” Soon, “Patos Shoes” was born.

Unfortunately, at the beginning, like almost all new companies, Patos was not very successful.  

“At the beginning, no one really takes you seriously, you don’t get any support that you think you will,” Rojo said.  “I tried to start selling my first products at the very beginning when I had my first idea and I had no clue what I was doing. I think I sold something like ten pairs in a week. It was just embarrassing.”

Despite his disappointment, Rojo kept going. Rojo knew that there would be a great interest in his product, so why was no one buying? “What I learned is that having a really good product just doesn’t matter at first,” Rojo said. “It’s like a pre-requisite to success, but it won’t lead to success.”

Rojo gradually began improving his product and his business, but being in college, he was not able to dedicate as much time as he wanted to. “So, I kind of went on, school was very, very time consuming and difficult because I just found I wasn’t doing both 100%. Little by little I went in improving the shoes and the product, getting it moving. I think things really started shaping up over the last eight months.” Rojo is currently taking this fall semester off so that he can focus on developing his business. He will be returning to Penn second semester as a junior.

Rojo’s business is growing and currently developing an exciting new line from Peru. He set up a kickstarter in order to hire fifteen Peruvian artisans full-time to construct the shoes. The process of making the shoes is a fifteen step operation that is shown on the Kickstarter website, starting at “sourcing local raw materials” and ending when they’re shipped to customers, with lots of detailed steps in between. “One guy cuts the fabric, different parts of it, then the interior, then he passes it to people who sew it and they sew the insole and they do tons of different steps. It’s a really cool process to see.”  

After years of hard work and struggle, Rojo’s business is blooming. Rojo’s Kickstarter began Sept. 13 offering his new line of shoes at a discounted price, with the goal of raising 45,000 dollars in one month.  Rojo and his prep team had hoped to be able to raise 10,000 dollars in 24 hours, a goal that was exceeded significantly. The Kickstarter received 10K in just four hours, which Rojo thinks is a good start. However there is still more to be raised to meet Rojo’s end goal of 45,000 dollars.

This Kickstarter is still just the beginning for Rojo’s business.  Rojo’s ultimate goal is to be able to create his shoes as efficiently as possible. “There are a couple fashion companies that are able to make products incredibly quickly, because they own their suppliers. There’s no company of my kind that handmakes products, who’s done that. So, as a result, hand making products is generally very inefficient. My goal is to make hand crafting of any fashion product incredibly efficient, from starting it to bringing it to the United States.”

Buy the shoes here: