Foot Locker Inc. has made a $2 million investment in Pensole Inc., which operates the Pensole Footwear Design Academy, founded by former Jordan design director D’Wayne Edwards. In short time, Pensole has become a signifiant part of the sportswear industry’s talent pipeline.
Pensole features the most sought after faculty in footwear, comprised of both young professional designers and established footwear design leaders from the top footwear brands, with more than 150 years combined experience.
The investment deepens Foot Locker’s long-standing partnership with Pensole and extends the companies’ relationship across all aspects of the design process. It will also give Foot Locker and its vendor partners new access to collaborative design and manufacturing talent.
Edwards will remain the majority owner of Pensole. In a recent interview, he said Pensole will stay on the same trajectory and the money will help “create a better academy.” He expects to use the money to expand class offerings, hire more staff and design exclusive products for Foot Locker.
Edwards, who has worked in the athletic industry for three decades, created a pipeline of new designers through the academy that offers free tuition and a learn-by-doing curriculum that teaches students the entire footwear and apparel process, from product inspiration and concept development to manufacturing and branding.
“My relationship with Foot Locker goes back over 30 years, from consumer to designer to educator and now partner,” said Edwards. “I am excited to deepen our relationship with Foot Locker so we can empower consumers to create their future through innovative educational programs.
It has always been our joint mission to foster the next generation of emerging footwear and apparel design talent, and I am confident that our collaboration will contribute to the continued growth of the academy, success of our students and accelerated innovation in the footwear industry.”
Together, Foot Locker, its vendor partners and Pensole will collaborate on new educational programs and the design and manufacturing of exclusive products for the Foot Locker family of brands.
Foot Locker first supported Edwards and his vision for Pensole in 2015 through an annual master class design competition, “Fueling the Future of Footwear.” Thirty students who have gone through the Foot Locker and Pensole Master classes are working in the industry. Foot Locker has also sold three styles created from the class globally.
“Through this investment, we are excited to extend our partnership with Pensole, an organization that shares our deep commitment to fostering education and driving design innovation and excellence in the industry,” said Richard Johnson, chairman and CEO of Foot Locker.
“Pensole’s position as a leading footwear design academy will enable Foot Locker to deepen our relationships with our vendor partners and leverage the next generation of talent across our brand partners for exclusive consumer-facing concepts. We look forward to working closely with D’Wayne and Pensole’s talented students and world-class faculty as together we design and produce the footwear of tomorrow.”
Partnership with New Balance
Pensole has now partnered with NewBalance for the 3rd annual 3-Week Design and Marketing “Co-Op.” This course features on the job training in Footwear Design, Color + Material Design, Functional Apparel Design, and Marketing.
Students will be selected by category of submission for a hands-on learning experience at the New Balance HQ and a chance to earn a 1-Year Paid Apprenticeship. For details and submission requirements, visit www.Pensole.com.
Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)