The Importance of Strategic Brand Collaborators and Opportunities for Future Generations

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On this episode of the ThenWhat 3×5 Podcast, host Grant Barth talked with D’Wayne Edwards, Founder of PENSOLE Academy, a design academy specializing in footwear, functional apparel and accessories, color theory, materials, prototyping, concept making, and much more.

The duo talked about strategic brand collaborations and why they’re essential. First, though, they dug into Edwards’ career. He worked in the footwear industry for 32 years before walking away in 2010 to teach at a school that didn’t exist.

“I had several people be like, ‘You’re going to leave [being] the Design Director of Jordan to teach?,'” Edwards said.

He founded PENSOLE. The idea came from his 17-year-old self. When he grew up wanting to be a shoe designer, there weren’t any resources or educational opportunities out there.

“I was the crazy kid who wanted to draw sneakers and play ball,” Edwards said. He dreamt of drawing sneakers all through school, but he couldn’t find a college offering a program that specialized in the industry.

Then, the internet and social media showed up. This led to kids sending him emails and messages with designs, but he couldn’t look at them because Nike didn’t want a coincidence happening with a similar sneaker design. At this point, he realized that there were kids out there who wanted to be in the same career field as him.

He started a competition called Future Sole, where kids sent in their design ideas. Over a few years, the entrants jumped to over 800,000. He was taking his 10-year sabbatical at the time, so he thought it would be an excellent time to test the idea of a design academy.

Listen to learn more about Edwards’ career and his path to PENSOLE Academy.

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