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From customizing his high school basketball team’s sneakers to eventually becoming the Footwear Design Director of Jordan Brand, D’Wayne Edwards was able to turn a burning passion of his into a lifelong career while not conforming to the typical path taken by others in the footwear design industry. His career began at the young age of 19, and with over 30 years of experience in the industry, he founded PENSOLE, the first academy in the U.S. dedicated to footwear design. Founded in part due to the difficulties he faced in his journey through the footwear industry, his vision for the school is to provide opportunities to young designers regardless of their socioeconomic background.
The journey to becoming an HBCU took over 11 years, eventually reopening Lewis College of Business and Design in Detroit and creating Pensole Lewis College, making history as the only HBCU in Michigan as well as being the first one to reopen after it closed in 2013. Hosting its first classes in March 2022, the school offers programs across design, sustainability, business, STEM, and more. With funding coming from various foundations and even the retailer Target, his former employer, Nike, is set to invest $3 million over the next 3 years to build a talent pipeline for the Beaverton-based company.
It’s no surprise that Nike is looking to invest in his design school as the brand has publicly made commitments to invest over $140 million into the African-American community, stating they wanted to focus on social justice, education innovation, and economic opportunity for POC. Though these investments are great for the community, the brand still has work to do as rumors have circulated about the recent HBCU Dunk pack not having input from African-American designers. Hopefully, with this investment into PLC, the sportswear giant can diversify its design team and take input from those that are directly tied to the stories told through their sneaker releases.
We’ll have to wait and see the talent that emerges from PLC but considering D’Wayne Edwards' history in the footwear industry, it’s not too difficult to imagine that many of footwear’s next big designers will come from his school. For more updates regarding the sneaker and streetwear industry, keep it locked to our Twitter andMobile App to stay up to date on future releases.
Images via Pensole