DSW Parent Company Invests $2M In America's First Black-Owned Footwear Factory In Partnership With Dr. D'Wayne Edwards
Photo Credit: Fast Company

DSW Parent Company Invests $2M In America's First Black-Owned Footwear Factory In Partnership With Dr. D'Wayne Edwards

Since fly kicks have been ingrained in the culture forever, it’s only right that there’s an investment into the community known for making shoes pop! With that said, today, Designer Brands has announced that it will invest a total of $2 million “into advancing action-oriented Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.”

The parent company of the renowned shoe retailer, DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse will partner with Pensole along with iconic footwear designer, Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, President of Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC), to bring more inclusivity to the footwear industry per PR Newswire.

“The footwear industry needs more diversity. The partnership we are entering into with Designer Brands and DSW is a new business model that truly empowers the consumer to influence the industry toward that goal,” said Dr. Edwards in an official statement. “Together with Pensole, Designer Brands and DSW will provide designers opportunities to offer new products directly to consumers. Along the way we will create careers and invest in talented aspiring designers to become the future of our industry.”

Designer Brands will put their support behind JEMS by Pensole, the first Black-owned footwear factory in America. JEMS, which stands for “Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio,” was named in honor of the Black footwear pioneer who received a patent that transfigured footwear manufacturing, still in use by footwear companies all over.

“We see the footwear industry lacking effective representation by people of color, specifically Blacks, and this $2 million investment will address root causes to remove barriers,” said Designer Brands Chief Executive Officer Roger Rawlins. “Blacks represent less than five percent of those across all design industries, thus lacking much-needed diversity. Designer Brands and DSW’s commitment with Pensole will create a U.S.-based shoe factory, with the goal of all work leading to the launch of Black designers’ brands inside of DSW.”

As Black History Month continues, Designer Brands has adapted the “MORE THAN A MONTH” theme to not only pay homage to Black innovators but to equip designers of color with new opportunities.

Shoes will be designed by PLC graduate students and will be sold exclusively at DSW from now until Sep. 15 — Matzeliger’s birthday.