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Designer Brands and Pensole Lewis College inaugurate black-owned footwear factory

By Cenia Zitter


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Ribbon-cutting of JEMS by Pensole. Credit: Designer Brands.

Designer Brands, an American footwear and accessory designer, producer and retailer, and Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC) opened the doors to one of the first black-owned footwear factories in the US this Monday, called ‘JEMS by Pensole’.

The factory is located in New Hampshire and marks the brand’s apex of its two million dollar investment into action-oriented diversity, equity and inclusion with the help of PLC. Further financial aid was provided by LeCrown Shoes Industry Co. LTD, amounting to one million dollars.

JEMS by Pensole pushes representation by people of colour in the industry and honours the legacy of black entrepreneurs, Designer Brands said in a release. Its president, Bill Jordan, said: “We are excited to see the initial show designs brought to life by PLC graduates in the new factory [.] We aim to inspire future designers by providing a powerful path for educational, career and retail success.”

PLC is the first and only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and on top of that the first one that focuses on design.

The first collection to be released by the factory will be designed by Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, footwear designer and president of PLC.

The new project’s name stands for ‘Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio’ and is an homage to a black pioneer who obtained a patent that revolutionised footwear manufacturing in 1883, which is still relevant in today’s industry’s practices.

Designer Brands