Footaction Supports HBCU Students & Diversifies The Footwear Industry
Courtesy of Footaction

For almost ten years, the Portland-based PENSOLE design academy has provided resources for young creatives to explore careers in fashion and footwear design by less traditional means.  Under the tutelage of D’Wayne Edwards, former design director of the Jordan brand at Nike, PENSOLE is teaming up with Footaction and the Function Apparel and Accessories Studio (FAAS) at PENSOLE to support HBCU students through the No 1 Way design competition. Qualified HBCU students can still submit their designs for consideration at PENSOLE until September 29th! 

The No 1 Way creative platform is a part of Footaction’s new mission and philosophy to spotlight new talent and recognize that there is no one way to success.  “For us, it’s about a long term commitment to HBCU students.  Our brand is really about amplifying and celebrating the next wave of visionaries who will continue to push the culture forward, and there’s a lot of untapped talent within the HBCU ecosystem,” says Footaction’s Vice President of Marketing Richard McLeod. 

When you look at design schools, Black enrollment is less than ten percent.  We’re not really in traditional design schools so to speak. “

Beyond the design competition, we can expect to see Footaction put a greater emphasis on the creative community through retail and pop-up activations, creative workshops, digital and social content programs, and branded collaborations.  Hence the partnership between FAAS, PENSOLE and Footaction to empower HBCU students to pursue careers in design is in alignment with their mutual goals.

Richard McLeod

“Footaction and PENSOLE have the same idea of empowering consumers to not only understand that they can be more than consumers but for them to now control their creative futures by designing the products they want to see.  The alignment just seemed really natural and organic from that perspective for the kids that shop there as well as the kids that we hope to reach with PENSOLE.” says Edwards.

The top five winners of the No 1 Way design competition will showcase their designs at New York Fashion Week in February.  1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners will receive between $5,000 and $15,000 in prize money, and the final winner will have their designs sold at Footaction stores worldwide and online.

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D’Wayne Edwards

“When you look at design schools, Black enrollment is less than ten percent.  We’re not really in traditional design schools so to speak. Even within HBCU’s, there’s seventy-five plus percent black enrollment but there’s less than ten that actually have design programs,” Edwards explains. PENSOLE and FAAS are working to bridge the gap between consumers of Athletic apparel and footwear, and consumers who want to design, but don’t have the resources to attend traditional design schools.

Our brand is really about amplifying and celebrating the next wave of visionaries who will continue to push the culture forward.”

“There’s a lot of ignorance around what the consumer wants.  A lot of the consumers for these global companies are people of color, but because there aren’t a lot of people of color in the industry designing for that consumer, there is a lot of ignorance around what the people will want,” says Angela Medlin, founder of FAAS and former design lead at Levi Strauss & Co, The North Face, Eddie Bauer and Nike.  For the finalists who make it to Portland, Medlin wants to give students a more nuanced and realistic view of what it means to design and grow a brand. “Traditional design schools teach you art history, and how to sketch, but they don’t teach you what to expect when you get in the industry,” Medlin, who was recruited by Peter Moore, the creator of Air Jordan, explains.

Angela Medlin

Black consumers have a huge impact on what sells, and what’s cool in the athletic apparel and footwear industry and fashion as a whole.  As we are moving towards a more diverse industry, young black creatives should become empowered to be a part of the creative process and the business of fashion.  We know all too well the lack of diverse perspectives within the industry, and we also see what happens when actual consumers aren’t considered in the design and promotion process.  With increased visibility on programs like the No 1 Way competition, and the PENSOLE and FAAS academies, our community of untapped creative talent has a better chance of succeeding in an industry that wasn’t designed for us.  

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