In the footwear industry, Dr. D’Wayne Edwards keeps a sharp eye on underappreciated Black designers.
Edwards is the founder of Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design, the country’s first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to reopen. As AFROTECH previously mentioned, the school aims to empower Black creatives, business leaders, designers, and engineers.
To ensure creatives could be further supported, Edwards worked to transform and diversify the footwear industry by establishing JEMS by PENSOLE. Through a partnership with Designer Brands, he launched “the first Black-owned athletic footwear factory in the U.S.”
A statement on the college’s Instagram read: “With Pensole Lewis College, Dr. Edwards has reimagined and reinvented the education system, providing a unique educational experience; teaching students skills to thrive in the product creation industry. He founded JEMS, the first Black-owned athletic footwear factory in the US, in 2022 with the vision to empower the next generation of creatives by offering greater accessibility to manufacture their own brand, ultimately leaving the industry a better, more diverse place.”
“Diversity drives innovation and brings new thinking, designs and products to consumers, yet Black representation sits at less than five percent across all design industries,” Designer Brands President Bill Jordan explained in the news release. “We’re excited to partner with Dr. Edwards on the JEMS by PENSOLE line. FIRST JEM is just the beginning step in our goal to forge entrepreneurial opportunities for underrepresented footwear designers and make their vision and designs accessible to our customers at DSW stores.”