He may have a storied career in the footwear industry, but Dr. D’Wayne Edwards is first and foremost a father.
The industry veteran was honored with the Person of the Year award at the 36th annual FN Achievement Awards on Nov. 30. His daughters, D’on Lauren and Dior, presented the award to their father, describing him as their biggest supporter.
“While we stand here today honoring our father as FN’s Person of the Year for 2022, we want to recognize him as our person of the year not only this year, but every year,” said “D’on, alongside Dior.
The pair spoke about how their father’s support and encouragement on their own professional journeys — and how this ability to uplift young creatives has translated into his professional work.
“Not only has he given my sister and I the opportunity, confidence and support to chase after and nurture our dreams as young professionals. Our dad has paved the way for many young men and women of color who have faced adversity in an industry where change is difficult,” Dior said.
While his resume boats experience as a professional designer for L.A. Gear at age 19, a design director at Jordan Brand and a creator behind bestselling designs for MJ, Carmelo Anthony and Derek Jeter, the footwear industry veteran said he wants to be remembered for more than his design experience.
“When I left the industry in 2011, I wrote down a goal,” Edwards said in his acceptance speech. “My goal was to make people forget I ever designed shoes before.”
Last fall, Edwards became the controlling stakeholder in The Lewis College of Business, a Detroit-based historically Black college and university founded by the late Violet T. Lewis that closed in 2013. His mission: to transform the institution into the country’s first HBCU to focus on design: the Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design, which reopened this year.
“Today is a manifestation of that goal,” Edwards said on stage. “Because today, this award is not about the shoes that I designed, the sales of those shoes that I’ve designed, but it’s about the lives that we’re designing with Pensole Lewis College to represent this industry and leave it much better than we all entered this industry.”
Almost 150 design students have come through the school this year, and that number is expected to double in 2023. The college has also caught the attention of the luxury industry, and one of Pensole’s newest partnerships is with Capri Holdings’ three brands: Jimmy Choo, Versace and Michael Kors.
The Pensole Lewis College also joined forces with five VF Corp. brands — Dickies, The North Face, Timberland, SmartWool and Vans — for a diversity-focused masterclass, an industry-certified class that is now in its second year. According to Pensole, students from the masterclass who became VF Corp. apprentices have become footwear designers at Timberland and Vans.
“This award belongs to the Pensole Lewis College family, staff, team, our amazing founding partners,” Edwards said. “I am not here alone.”
For 36 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards — often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The 2022 event is supported by presenting sponsor Nordstrom, as well as Caleres, FDRA, Merrell, Vibram and Volumental.