Display boards in the classroom.

Image: Marcus Yam

In the heart of Old Town, Pensole Footwear Design Academy churns out dozens of new students every few weeks after each one has become fully inundated with all things sneakers. The school, founded by D’Wayne Edwards whose own meteoric career trajectory took him from being the youngest shoe designer LA Gear has had to Sketchers and eventually Nike, where he became one of only six creatives—everto design a Nike Air Jordan sneaker, lets him mentor young designers with his skill and connections. Read the full story on Pensole's beginnings here.

Case in point: Shoe giant Foot Locker has entered into a collaboration with Pensole to invest in the next generation of footwear by coming into the classroom and putting their money where their mouth is. Foot Locker’s first “Fueling the Future of Footwear” course at Pensole will kick off on July 13 in a three-week class-based competition. While many design students will work for years before something they sketched up will actually come to fruition, Pensole and Foot Locker will pluck 18 of the top student to create a new collection of shoes for Asics Tiger.

Pensole Founder D'Wayne Edwards (center) show the students the design process.

Image: Marcus Yam

“Delivering fresh, new athletic footwear innovation to our customers is at the core of everything we do at Foot Locker,” said Stacy Cunningham, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Foot Locker. “We are thrilled about our partnership with Pensole, and having Asics on board will certainly make the first competition a memorable one, as we invest in the next generation of trendsetters and fashion-forward thinkers.” 

The competition winners will be chosen by a mix of Foot Locker, Asics, and industry executives, alongside the professor of the course, and Pensole’s Edwards – acting as master curators and giving the emblematic Foot Locker ”Approved” seal to the winning design. The chosen design will be sold at select Foot Locker locations (fingers crossed for one in Portland) and the winning team will receive a $12,000 scholarship.    

“The future of the footwear industry is reliant upon hands-on learning, and the training of tomorrow’s design and business leaders,” said Edwards who understands this cities relation to the shoe world with major footwear players all around who are always seeking new talent. And as for Asics, the brand brave enough to commit to producing student work without having yet seen it? Senior director of brand marketing, Shannon Scott, sums it up, “We can’t wait to see the creativity and fresh interpretation the students bring to this first project.”

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