Why An Ex-Nike Designer Started A Footwear Design School

Pensole Footwear Design Academy held its 2016 World Sneaker Championship contest in February, and with the unveiling of the winning design slated for Thursday night, the man who founded the first-of-its-kind school in Portland, Ore., in 2010 is restating its purpose to the public.

D’Wayne Edwards, the school’s founder — who discussed opening a sample facility in an exclusive interview in 2013 with Footwear News — is once again sharing his reasons for opening the academy’s doors six years ago.

After cutting his teeth with L.A. Gear and going on to designing for brands such as Nike, Jordan Brand, and Skechers, Edwards eventually amassed 500 men’s and women’s sneaker designs in his portfolio. Although this was a huge personal triumph, Edwards couldn’t stop thinking about the footwear designers of the future.

“Toward the end of my career, it was very difficult for me to hire students directly out of college,” he told Fast Company, explaining that it was a struggle for students to get involved with sneaker design straight out of college due to a lack of footwear-focused academia.

pensole D'Wayne Edwards
D’Wayne Edwards, founder of Pensole Footwear Design Academy.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

“Footwear is one of the most complex things you put on your body,” he said. “It’s like designing a house or a car. There are multiple materials that need to be considered.”

Partnering with schools such as Parsons The New School for Design, Art Center College of Design and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pensole has launched a number of successful design contests over the years. Its most recent contest was “Fueling the Future of Footwear,” a partnership with Foot Locker and Asics that challenged 18 students to come up with their own Asics sneaker design.

On Sept. 8, Edwards will unveil the winning Asics Gel Lyte III design with the help of the retailer and the athletic brand in New York, as well as engage in an open discussion about footwear’s future. The design features purple and orange colors inspired by sunrise and sunset. It will launch at select Foot Locker locations on Sept. 17.

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