Like most artists and designers, D’Wayne Edwards identifies as a dreamer. But dreams, like clouds, often change shape the longer we look at them. But not so for D’Wayne who envisioned great things for himself at a very young age and went on to achieve them all, and then some. He reached for the sky and touched the stars.
D’Wayne has a lot in common with Michael Jordan, his former boss. His appetite for excellence has propelled him to superlative success. D’Wayne turned his childhood passion for drawing sneakers into a high-flying design career, moving from L.A. Gear to Sketchers and then eventually landing his dream job at Nike’s Jordan Brand. D’Wayne’s designs have, in total, earned over $1.5 billion.
I kept mentoring kids and helping them get into college and eventually get a job at Nike. Because when someone believes in you more than you see in yourself, that’s the unlock in life.D’Wayne Edwards
But D’Wayne was determined to leave a mark on the footwear design world that couldn’t be measured in dollars. As one of very few Black leaders in his business, he saw an opportunity to create a pipeline for diverse designers.
D’Wayne quit his job at Nike to launch Pensole Footwear Design Academy in order to build career pathways that didn’t exist when he was coming of age. Pensole is now an established force in footwear design education, providing a host of immersive programs in partnership with ArtCenter and other institutions. The results speak for themselves: Pensole had a hand in training over 500 footwear designers working today.
In this debut episode of Change Lab’s new season investigating the future of education, D’Wayne reflects on the importance of mentorship, hard work and hands-on learning in creating a more diverse and sustainable design education model.