Dr. D’wayne Edwards is a notable figure in the footwear industry, recognized for his contributions as a footwear designer and his commitment to fostering diversity and education within the industry.
He is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the footwear industry and creates opportunities for underrepresented groups, including designers from minority backgrounds.
His work and dedication have earned him many accolades and recognition within the industry. He received the Footwear News "Person of the Year" award and the AAFA Footwear Designer of the Year award.
Edwards, the president of the first-ever Historically Black College/University focused on design, is prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion through the fourth annual national Black Footwear Forum.
The BFF, a collective of footwear industry professionals and supporters from across the country, promotes collaboration to set industry objectives that focus on enhancing and advancing Black talent at every stage. They work to cultivate community for Black footwear professionals through national and regional chapter events and activations.
On September 21-24, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) will team up with Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design (PLC) for the fourth annual Black Footwear Forum. The theme for this year is “Culture is Currency”.
“This is by far my favorite time of the year. I am humbled to have the support of the industry’s top brands who deeply care about our culture and the Black creative talent that agreed to volunteer their time to share their knowledge,” says Edwards. “This makes it possible to collectively uplift the culture, and remind us of our value and our industry. Every year we try to set a higher standard and BFF 2023 will be a magical moment that will continue the movement.”
Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) have been engaging in conversations around DEI in the footwear industry as well. They provide resources and educational programs to promote diversity and inclusivity within the sector.
“The Black Footwear Forum has evolved into a nationwide movement, shining a spotlight on the diverse and impactful contributions made by Black creatives within the American footwear industry on a daily basis,” stated Matt Priest, President and CEO of the FDRA. “I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to express the collective gratitude of the shoe industry, recognizing the invaluable contributions of everyone involved in the BFF. The vitality of the footwear industry is intricately tied to the involvement of the Black community, and as such, FDRA relies on the BFF to provide a vital platform for our industry colleagues to connect, learn, and celebrate together.”
The three-day forum, also known as “The Industry’s Homecoming,” recognizes and preserves the impact, leadership, and creativity of Black professionals in the global footwear industry. As a collective of footwear industry professionals and supporters from around the country, BFF encourages collaboration in establishing industry goals that center on developing and advancing black talent at all levels.
This event offers opportunities and resources for emerging talent from marginalized communities, allowing aspiring designers and entrepreneurs to break into the industry.
Notables in various industries come together to inspire and encourage. And that it is a free event is priceless. The impressive program features two-time Academy Award-winning costume designer, Ruth Carter, Hip-Hop Pioneer Grandmaster Caz and a ribbon cutting for Pepsi x Frito-Lay Refresh and Relax Lounge at PLC.
“PepsiCo is honored to unveil the new student-designed lounge to kick off the Black Footwear Forum and, as part of our continued partnership with Pensole Lewis. Together, we’re combining our resources to help bridge the diversity gap in the design industry and increase representation through education, opportunities, mentorship and more to drive further innovation in our field,” said Mauro Porcini, SVP and Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo.
The donations of over 30 major industry brands contribute to make this event possible. Adidas, Amazon Music, The Athlete’s Foot, Bacardi, Caleres, Carhartt, COACH, Designer Brands, eBay, Foot Locker, General Motors, Logitech, Microsoft, MillerKnoll, Nike, Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse, ON Running, Pepsi, Puma, RG Barry Brands, Rock, Rubik’s, Steve Madden, StockX, Target, Under Armour, XBOX and more!
What Dr. Edwards has done is unimaginable to many. Through hard work, focus, and tenacity, he established the Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design. Which has become the leading career education and professional development pipeline for the creative industry. He is paving the way for creative vision and progress and creating pathways for underrepresented individuals to help foster a more diverse and vibrant creative landscape.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are at the forefront of conversations in the footwear design industry. It is apparent that this specific sector needs greater representation and inclusivity.
How can designers contribute to promoting diversity and inclusion in the footwear design industry on an individual level? A good starting point is to take a page out of Dr. Edwards’ book and begin with:
Encourage diverse representation in design teams and collaborations. They can advocate for implementing hiring policies that prioritize inclusivity, seek talent from underrepresented communities, and offer opportunities for aspiring designers from diverse backgrounds.
Offer mentorship and educational opportunities to aspiring designers, especially those from marginalized communities, is one way designers can promote diversity and inclusion. Sharing knowledge, providing guidance, and fostering talent can create a more inclusive and equitable pipeline for future designers.
Look for opportunities to collaborate and partner with people, groups, and organizations that promote diversity and inclusivity. Through collaboration, they can enhance their impact and create initiatives aimed at industry change.
Use their platform for thought leadership to highlight the significance of diversity and inclusion in the footwear design industry. Public discussions, sharing experiences, and raising awareness for greater representation and equity are some things they can do.
Get involved in industry events, conferences, and organizations that specifically address diversity and inclusion in footwear design. By working together with like-minded professionals, they can make a collective impact and drive change at a higher level in the industry.
Like other industries, the footwear design sector acknowledges the significance of DEI and some are making efforts for better representation and inclusivity. These principles have garnered the support of various brands, organizations, and industry professionals in pursuing a fair and diverse footwear design industry.
The footwear industry has been positively impacted by Dr. D'wayne Edwards' efforts to promote diversity, education, and mentorship. His efforts continue to inspire aspiring designers, contribute to the growth and inclusivity of the industry and create equity for the next generation of Black footwear designers.
This article was originally published in Biz Boost News.