Designer Brands commits $2 million to first Black-owned U.S. footwear factory
Designer Brands Inc., the Columbus, Ohio-based owner of the DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse, The Shoe Company and Shoe Warehouse retail banners, announced on Wednesday an investment of $2 million to increase diversity within the footwear industry through a partnership with Pensole and footwear designer Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, president of Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design (PLC).
Located in Detroit, PLC is the first and only Historically Black College & University (HBCU) in Michigan and the first HBCU with a focus on design. As part of the partnership, Designer Brands will invest in the first Black-owned footwear factory in the United States – JEMS by Pensole – to produce shoes designed by PLC graduate students, to be sold exclusively at DSW.
“We see the footwear industry lacking effective representation by people of color, specifically Blacks, and this $2 million investment will address root causes to remove barriers,” said Designer Brands chief executive officer, Roger Rawlins.
“Blacks represent less than five percent of those across all design industries, thus lacking much-needed diversity. Designer Brands and DSW’s commitment with Pensole will create a U.S.-based shoe factory, with the goal of all work leading to the launch of Black designers’ brands inside of DSW.”
JEMS stands for “Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio”, named in honor of the Black footwear pioneer. With Black History Month in February, Designer Brands has committed to the theme “More Than A Month” with the aim to recognize and pay homage to Black innovators and providing opportunities for designers of color. From now through Matzeliger’s birthday on September 15, DSW will chronicle the opening of JEMS by Pensole and production of its first shoes.
“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 toward that goal,” added Dr. Edwards.
“Together with Pensole, Designer Brands and DSW will provide designers opportunities to offer 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.”
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