Designers Brands invests in first U.S. Black-owned footwear factory

United States
Published:  03 March, 2022

Designer Brands has partnered with footwear designer Dr D’Wayne Edwards to open what the company reports is the first Black-owned footwear factory in the U.S.

JEMS by PENSOLE will produced shoes designed by students of Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design, which will then retail exclusively through Designer Shoe Warehouse.

Designer Brands reports that its investment of US$2 million is its largest Diversity, Equity & Inclusion investment to date.

The company said: “Black designers represent less than 5% of all talent across the greater design industry. To improve those numbers, Designer Brands wants to bring people of colour to the table – especially Black designers – and support a path that creates rewarding careers.”

The name of the factory – JEMS – stands for “Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio”, in honour of the Black footwear pioneer who, in 1883, received a patent that revolutionised footwear manufacturing.