Inspirational footwear design legend D’Wayne Edwards will receive an honorary degree from ArtCenter and deliver the commencement address at the spring graduation ceremony Saturday, April 27, 2019, 10 a.m. at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Following the ceremony, which will be livestreamed here, Grad Show will be open in the Pasadena Convention Center where the approximately 220 spring graduates have their work on display.
Edwards, former design director of Nike’s Jordan brand, has mentored hundreds of sneaker fans and young creatives, guiding them to become designers through his PENSOLE Academy in Portland, Oregon.
Edwards’ start in the industry came after he submitted a new shoe sketch every day into the suggestion box of L.A. Gear, where he worked as a file clerk. After six months, the suggestion he included with every sketch, to hire him as a footwear designer, was realized. At 19, he became the youngest, and one of the few African American footwear designers in the industry. His designs have sold more than $1 billion worldwide.
Los Angeles native Edwards started PENSOLE as a place where students from diverse backgrounds could learn footwear design. Collaborating with ArtCenter and corporations such as Foot Locker, he has created a footwear designer pipeline to employment at top brands.
He has been instrumental in expanding the network and programming for the College in Portland and will be recognized for his accomplishments and the impact he has had on ArtCenter’s community.
“D’Wayne is a visionary who has made career dreams come true for so many aspiring designers,” said ArtCenter Provost Karen Hofmann. “His commitment to educate a diverse next generation of footwear design professionals and work with brands to employ this new wave of talent is an extraordinary achievement that will create incredible value for the industry and the market for years to come.”
Each year, ArtCenter students travel to Portland to immerse themselves in the footwear and sports apparel mecca. Students attend workshops at PENSOLE to envision future concepts, create prototypes for target markets, participate in brand-sponsored projects and study-away intensive programs to learn the business side of footwear design. During the PENSOLE workshops, Edwards invites numerous design professionals from top athletic brands such as Nike, adidas and Under Armour, to critique the work and provide career advice. Many of the guests, who are ArtCenter alumni and worked with Edwards during his career, are involved based on the “pay it forward” premise to mentor the next generation of designers.
Among those mentored by Edwards is alum Ari Montanez, who realized his NBA dreams through design. While in high school, Montanez met Edwards who suggested he apply to ArtCenter. Montanez followed Edwards’ advice and recently earned a degree in Product Design. A few months before he graduated, Montanez accepted a job offer from No.One, a start-up sneaker company in Venice specializing in high-end handmade shoes. “I realized I may not be able to make it on the court as a player but I can figure out a way to make it on the court with my drawing,” said Montanez.
ArtCenter has a long history of placing graduates at the major footwear brands. Footwear design leaders and alumni such as Kevin Fallon at Under Armour, Safir Bellali at VF Corporation, Al Van Noy and John Munns at adidas, and Martin Lotti and Mark Smith at Nike return to the Pasadena campus often to tap the minds of students. They sponsor classes and recruit new talent in order to remain relevant in the dynamic and competitive world of footwear design.