Pensole Lewis College and DSW to Launch Program for Black Design Students

by | Feb 21, 2022 | Tools and Resources

Black designers account for less than 5% in the design industry, but a new initiative is looking to boost that number. On September 15th, popular shoe retailer DSW will debut its first line of footwear from JEMS by Pensole, the first Black-owned shoe factory in the nation. In addition to creating more diversity within the field, the initiative will also create careers for up-and-coming Black designers who wish to captain and market their unique brands on a commercial platform.

So how will it all unfold?

Michigan’s first and only HBCU, Pensole Lewis College, will receive a $2 million dollar investment from DSW’s parent company Designer Brands Inc. (DBI) to open the JEMS by Pensole factory in New Hampshire. JEMS, which is short for Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio, pays tribute to Matzeliger, a Black inventor who improved the process of manufacturing shoes after receiving a patent for his “lasting machine” in 1883. 

Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, who founded Pensole Lewis College (Detroit) and Pensole Footwear Design Academy (Oregon), will launch the factory on Matzeliger’s birthday and create the first line of shoes that will premiere at DSW before working with graduates of Pensole Lewis College who are looking to launch their brands. Edwards, who has 30+ years of experience in the footwear industry, previously worked as the design director for Nike and is one of only six people to have designed Air Jordans during the brand’s first 23 years.

Future plans for the program include moving footwear production to Detroit in about 4 years.

To stay current with future updates, connect with Pensole Lewis College on Instagram here.

Do you have friends or family that would love to participate in the new Pensole Lewis + DSW program? Share this article and encourage them to apply!

By Jess McKenzie

By Jess McKenzie

Jess McKenzie is a brand identity designer from Detroit, MI. She is a self-proclaimed nerd that loves 80s movies and longs for Saturday morning cartoons to return. When she is not tied to her computer, she can be found taking random road trips and practicing landscape photography.


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