DETROIT (FOX 2) - Dr. D’Wayne Edwards is one of the most revered Black designers in the footwear industry. After decades of hard work, he founded Detroit's only historically Black college. Now the school is hosting several events to help young designers get started.
"We’re giving you the tools you need to get into the door, you need to take the hinges off, so there’s no longer a door and so other people can come in after you," said Edwards.
Success is like a seed you plant a vision water it - and watch it grow.
"The sky is the beginning," he said.
Dr. D'Wayne Edwards' legacy speaks through his designs. His resume speaks for itself - spending 30-plus years as a head designer at some of the most prestigious and competitive sneaker brands from Jordan, to Nike, to LA Gear, the list goes on.
His Rolodex is filled with names and numbers of some of the most iconic athletes of our time. And yet, his humility shines through in every conversation.
"Twenty years ago," he said, holding one of the sneakers he designed.
FOX 2: "You designed this 20 years ago?"
"Twenty years ago, because Michael bought .,, He was the first person in America with two Bentley GT Continentals," Edwards said. "He would buy cars in twos."
FOX 2: "Michael Jordan."
"Yes, sorry, Michael Jordan," Edwards said.
"My mom gave me the gift." he said. "And so when she gave me the gift, I was able to see someone who could do some amazing things. But she never got a chance to earn a living doing those things. (It was the) same with my two older brothers that were also born with the same gift, and they taught me.
"All three of them I lost."
Which is why, when his corporate chapter closed Edwards knew the next one had to be in education - paving the way for the next generation of legacy designers - especially minorities.
In 2010, Dr.. Edwards founded Pensole Lewis College, or PLC as he calls it, an academic institution of firsts. .
PLC is Detroit’s only HBCU.
It’s also the first footwear academy in the US dedicated to footwear design, drawing students to Detroit from around the world, all while nurturing the city's very own.
"Being able to provide an alternative to those kids who don’t have the financial means, don’t even know that certain careers of design is an option or even a career path, but also it’s educating the parents too," he said. "These kids are passionate about this because they are able to see, 'Oh I can see Virgil, I can see Pharrell, I can see Cela, I can see these people that look like them."
Or maybe they’re from right here in the 313.
"By far the most creative city in America, but half the people don’t know it," he said.
Over the past two weeks, PLC and its school partners from Pepsi to Footlocker have hosted a series of free pop-ups in Downtown Detroit.
"We provided free design programming for the entire community. Every day was a different brand," he said.
It’s all about making design and education more accessible.
"Design education was not accessible for people in the City specifically the people of color in the City," he said. "And that one of our big purposes in being here was offering free design education."
This brand-new Pepsi student lounge, designed by the students, has officially now opened, with words of encouragement and designs curated by them.
The next four days there will be over 600 of the top, but designers, movers and shakers in this industry will be in Detroit helping kids find their future in this space.
Here is a list of online resources to learn more:
PLC website: pensolelewiscollege.com
PLC Footwear Forum Speakers: blackfootwearforum.com/speakers
PLC Footwear Forum Agenda: blackfootwearforum.com/agenda