Designer Brands announces $2 million investment in America’s first black-owned shoe factory, in partnership with Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, President of Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design

Columbus, Ohio, February 16, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Designer Brands Inc. (NYSE: DBI), parent company of footwear retailer DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse, today announced an investment of $2 million in promoting action-oriented diversity, equity and inclusion through a partnership with Pensole and legendary shoe designer Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, President of Pensole Lewis College of Commerce & Design (PLC). Situated in DetroitPLC is the first and only historically black college and university (HBCU) in Michigan and the first design-focused HBCU. PLC, formerly known as Lewis College of Commerceshould reopen in May 2022.

As part of the new partnership, Designer Brands will invest in the first black-owned shoe factory in United States – JEMS by Pensole – to produce footwear designed by PLC graduate students, for sale exclusively to DSW.

“We find that the footwear industry lacks effective representation of people of color, especially black people, and that $2 million investment will address the root causes to break down barriers,” said Designer Brands Managing Director Roger Rawlins. “Blacks make up less than five percent of those in all design industries, lacking much-needed diversity. Designer Brands and DSW’s engagement with Pensole will create a U.S.-based shoe factory, with the goal of all work leading up to the launch of black designers’ brands within DSW.”

“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 towards this goal,” said Dr Edwards. “With Pensole, Designer Brands and DSW will provide opportunities for designers to bring 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.”

JEMS stands for “Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio” – itself named for the pioneer of the black shoe who, in 1883, received a patent that revolutionized shoemaking, a process that inspired the methods that the industry still uses today. With Black History Month in February, Designer Brands has adopted “MORE THAN A MONTH” as its symbolic theme to recognize and honor Black innovators and provide opportunities for creators of color. From now until Matzeliger’s birthday September 15DSW will report on the opening of JEMS by Pensole and the production of its first shoes.

About designer brands
Designer Brands is one of North America leading designers, producers and retailers of footwear and accessories. Designer Brands operates a portfolio of retail concepts in nearly 700 locations under the DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse®, The Shoe Company® and Shoe Warehouse® banners. Designer Brands designs and produces footwear and accessories through the Camuto Group, a leading manufacturer selling in over 5,400 stores worldwide. Camuto Group owns the licensing rights for the Jessica Simpson® footwear business and the shoe and handbag licenses for Lucky Brand®. In partnership with a joint venture with Authentic Brands Group, Designer Brands also owns an interest in Vince Camuto®, Louise et Cie®, and others. More information can be found at

About Pensol Lewis College of Commerce and Design (PLC)
La Pensole Lewis College of Commerce and Design will become the nation’s first-ever revived HBCU. Founded by Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, founder of the PENSOLE Design Academy in DetroitPLC will resurrect the Lewis College of Commerce in Detroit. Beginning in May 2022PENSOLE Design Academy, in collaboration with the College of Creative Studies (CCS), will offer programs in design, sustainability, business, STEM, and more, serving young black creatives from all sectors. For more information, please visit

For more information:
Designer Brand Media Relations
[email protected]

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SOURCE Designer Brands Inc.