Dr. Dwayne Edwards

Pensole Lewis (PLC Detroit) founder & president

Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, an accomplished designer, began his career in 1989 as an entry-level footwear designer for LA Gear at the age of 19, despite lacking formal education.

Over the past three decades, he has amassed an impressive array of accolades, including the Red Dot award, three-time Mercedes Benz Fashion award, recognition as one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business and Business Insider’s 100 People Transforming Business, as well as being awarded the President’s Volunteer of Service Award by President Barack Obama.

Edwards boasts an extensive portfolio, having designed over 50 patented products and 500 footwear styles for iconic musicians such as Tupac, Notorious B.I.G, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Nas. His designs have been worn by athletes competing in six different Olympic Games and have graced the stadiums of all major professional sports leagues, adorning the feet of legends like Derek Jeter, Carmelo Anthony, and Michael Jordan.

In 2010, Edwards established PENSOLE, the first academy in the United States dedicated solely to footwear design, located in Portland, Oregon. PENSOLE has quickly become the preeminent footwear design school, securing partnerships with the industry’s top brands and retailers. The school has placed over 700 of its alumni in positions at leading brands, including Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Brooks, Vans, Puma, Timberland, The North Face, JORDAN, and Zenga, among others. As an educator, Edwards has taught and lectured at prestigious institutions around the world, including ArtCenter in Pasadena, Parsons in New York, MIT in Boston, Kolding Design School in Denmark, and Harvard University. In 2019, ArtCenter College of Design honored him with an Honorary Doctorate degree, joining an exclusive group of four recipients in the school’s 90-year history.

Renowned for his work in promoting diversity in design, Edwards organized the Black Footwear Forum (BFF), successfully connecting over 600 Black and Brown designers and attracting notable industry figures such as Ruth E. Carter. His efforts in this regard have earned him prestigious awards, including the Footwear News Icon award, IDSA Special Achievement Award, and Footwear Plus Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also been recognized as one of the Most Influential People in the Sneaker Industry by COMPLEX and included in the Business of Fashion 500 global innovators list.

Edwards’ personal career aspiration of establishing the first Black-owned footwear factory in the United States was realized with the launch of JEMS, a platform that provides young, aspiring Black designers the opportunity to create and establish their own brands. His most impactful achievement to date, however, is spearheading the reopening of Detroit’s HBCU, Pensole Lewis College, now known as PLC Detroit, and assuming the role of President. PLC Detroit holds the distinction of being the first design-focused HBCU and the first HBCU to reopen, and was recognized by Fast Company as one of the world’s most innovative design companies in 2022.

Throughout his illustrious career, D’Wayne Edwards’ mission has been to leave the industry better than he found it and to make the conversation around diversity a non-issue.