Sneakers are one of The Culture’s go-to’s for self-expression. One of the main fashion accessories to complete the look and we play a major role in which kicks are considered hot. But on the creative side, we were not the ones designing them and getting into the shoe game on that design end was something very difficult to do. Keyword, was. Enter the Pensole Footwear Design Academy in Portland, OR the country’s premier school for shoe design. The school is the brainchild of D’Wayne Edwards, a Creator For The Culture with an amazing story.
His journey started in the late 80’s when as a young man straight outta South Central, LA, he started working at shoe company LA Gear. Not as a designer but an entry-level file clerk. Every day for six months Edwards would sketch a new sneaker design and place it in the company Chairman’s suggestion box. The Chairman was equally impressed by his designs and his tenacity and offered him a trial run at being a designer. He took full advantage of the opportunity eventually becoming one of LA Gear’s top designers then moving up to Sketchers and reaching the top of the sneaker game making it to Nike and becoming only the sixth person ever to design an Air Jordan.
Edwards wasn’t a college graduate but had the talent and drive and just needed an opportunity and some mentoring and that, along with a desire to add diversity to the sneaker business, was his true motivation behind leaving his position as Design Director for Jordan Brand and starting Pensole. The application process is not based on degrees or pedigree, just one’s talent that comes across through the one hand-drawn shoe design they must submit. And the course is no joke for those chosen. It’s 3 weeks of 12-hour days grinding out project based assignments and meetings with and lectures from Edward’s many industry connections. The goal is to get his students prepared and to put them in situations to succeed. And it’s working. More than 40 Pensole grads have found jobs with companies like Nike, Adidas, Cole Haan, Zappos, and New Balance. They have also partnered with the Magic trade show in Las Vegas where over 5,000 companies, among them big names like Aerosoles, Fossil, and Perry Ellis will be on hand to inspect one new prototype design from each student that in an instant can change a student’s career and life.
Tuition is around $3,000 and the academy has expanded to online courses as they continue to grow and demand increases. And with it’s passionate and dedicated leadership, look for Pensole to keep up the great work. Now a bonafide sneaker legend, Edwards is at the forefront of helping aspiring designers achieve their dreams and continue to play their part in shaping the look and the style of The Culture.
Written By @TalentedMrFord
Follow him on IG and Twitter