Designer brands invest in America’s first black-owned shoe factory

Designer Brands has partnered to create entrepreneurial opportunities for underrepresented shoe designers.

DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse’s parent company is investing $2 million in a partnership with Pensole and legendary shoe designer Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, president of the Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design (PLC). Located in Detroit, PLC is Michigan’s first and only historically black college and university (HBCU) and the first design-focused HBCU. PLC, formerly known as Lewis College of Business, is scheduled to reopen in May 2022. (Target is a founding supporter of PLC.)

Through this partnership, Designer Brands will invest in the first black-owned shoe factory in the United States – JEMS by Pensole – to produce shoes designed by PLC graduate students. The shoes will be sold exclusively at DSW. (JEMS stands for “Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio” – named for the black shoe pioneer who in 1883 received a patent that revolutionized shoemaking and inspired the methods the industry still uses today .)

“We find that the footwear industry lacks effective representation of people of color, especially black people, and this $2 million investment will address the root causes to remove barriers,” said Roger Rawlins. , CEO of Designer Brands. “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.”

Dr. Edwards noted that 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,” he said. “Together 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. “

[Read More: DSW parent Q3 earnings top Street]

With Black History Month in February, Designer Brands has adopted “One Month to Go” as its symbolic theme to recognize and honor Black innovators and provide opportunities for Creators of Color. Between now and Matzeliger’s birthday on September 15, DSW will chronicle the opening of JEMS by Pensole and the production of its first shoes.

Designer Brands operates nearly 700 stores under the DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse, The Shoe Company and Shoe Warehouse banners. The company also designs and produces footwear and accessories through the Camuto Group, a leading manufacturer selling in more than 5,400 stores worldwide.

The Camuto Group owns the licensing rights for the Jessica Simpson shoe 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.

The Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design will become the nation’s first-ever reinstated HBCU. Founded by Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, the founder of the PENSOLE Design Academy in Detroit, PLC will resurrect the Lewis College of Business in Detroit. From May 2022, PENSOLE Design Academy, in collaboration with the College for Creative Studies (CCS), will offer programs in design, sustainability, business, STEM and more, serving young black creatives from all sectors.