Shoe Retailer DSW Supports Black-owned Footwear Design and Production in Detroit

Designer Brands Inc., parent company of DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse based in Columbus, has announced an investment of $2 million to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion through a partnership with Pensole and D’Wayne Edwards, president of the soon-to-open Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design in Detroit.
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DSW Shoes, Fort Collins
Detroit’s Pensole Lewis College will start and run the first Black-owned footwear factory in the U.S. with designs from PLC graduates with help from a $2 million investment from Designer Brands Inc. // Stock Photo

Designer Brands Inc., parent company of DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse based in Columbu Eds, has announced an investment of $2 million to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion through a partnership with Pensole and D’Wayne Edwards, president of the soon-to-open Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design in Detroit.

Through the partnership, Designer Brands will invest in the first Black-owned footwear factory in the U.S. — Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio (JEMS) by Pensole — to produce shoes designed by graduates of Pensole Lewis College, the first only historically Black college and university (HBCU) in Michigan.

“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,” says Roger Rawlins, CEO of Designer Brands.

“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 by Pensole is named in honor of Matzeliger, a Black man who revolutionized footwear manufacturing in 1883 with patents and methods still used today. From now through Matzeliger’s birthday on Sept. 15, DSW will chronicle the opening of the factory 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,” says 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.”

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.

The Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design will become the nation’s first-ever reinstated HBCU, with plans to reopen this May. In collaboration with the College for Creative Studies, it will offer programs across design, sustainability, business, STEM, and more, serving young Black creatives across industries.

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