Home  /  Business   /  Designer Brands Announces $2 Million Investment into First Black-Owned U.S. Footwear Factory, Partnering with Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, President of Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design

Designer Brands Announces $2 Million Investment into First Black-Owned U.S. Footwear Factory, Partnering with Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, President of Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design

Designer Brands Inc, parent of shoe retailer DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse, announced today an investment of $2 million into advancing action-oriented Diversity, Equity & Inclusion through a partnership with Pensole and legendary 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. PLC, formerly known as the Lewis College of Business, is expected to reopen in May 2022.

In this new 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.”

“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,” said 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.”

JEMS stands for “Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio” – itself named in honor of the Black footwear pioneer who in 1883 received a patent that revolutionized footwear manufacturing, a process that inspired methods the industry still uses today. With Black History Month in February, Designer Brands has embraced “MORE THAN A MONTH” as the symbolic theme 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.

About Designer Brands
Designer Brands is one of North America’s largest designers, producers, and retailers of footwear and accessories. Designer Brands operates a portfolio of retail concepts in nearly 700 locations under the DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse®, The Shoe Company®, and Shoe Warehouse® banners. Designer Brands designs and produces footwear and accessories through Camuto Group, a leading manufacturer selling in more than 5,400 stores worldwide. Camuto Group owns licensing rights for the Jessica Simpson® footwear business and footwear and handbag licenses for Lucky Brand®. In partnership with a joint venture with Authentic Brands Group, Designer Brands also owns a stake in Vince Camuto®, Louise et Cie®, and others. More information can be found at

About Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC)
The Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design will become the nation’s first-ever reinstated HBCU. Founded by Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, the founder of the PENSOLE Design Academy in Detroit, PLC will resurrect the Lewis College of Business in Detroit. Beginning in May 2022, PENSOLE Design Academy, in collaboration with the College for Creative Studies (CCS), will offer programs across design, sustainability, business, STEM, and more, serving young Black creatives across industries. For more information, please visit

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