In the words of Designer & Artist Jae Tips, “Storytelling can only be great if it comes from your true self, and we all have a story to tell.”
Going into the Black Footwear Forum (BFF), I was unsure what to expect not being a footwear designer or an artist. I am a Progressive Soles leader – an Employee Resource Group for the Black community at adidas, with a passion for the community. But if you asked me to describe my experience in a few of words, I would say homecoming, acceptance, creativity, passion, authenticity.
It was an inspirational experience to see the representation of black leaders, to be immersed in the creative vibes flowing through so many creators, to see the passion in their eyes and hear the authenticity in their words. I was confounded by the sense of homecoming and community.
As I sit by my computer reliving my time at BFF, reading over my notes filled with so many inspiring quotes from new and familiar faces, I want to tell you about Dr. D’Wayne Edwards and the legacy he is creating for generations to come.
Black spending power is expected to reach $1.8 trillion, but Black creators make up less than five percent of the design industry. Dr. Edwards’ work is crucial to closing that gap.
Dr. Edwards is the founder of the Black Footwear Forum and of Pensole Design Academy in Portland, Oregon, which is the first academy in the U.S. dedicated to footwear design. Now he’s investing more deeply in the future of our industry, having reopened the Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design in 2020, the first and only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in Detroit. The college was originally founded in 1938 by Dr. Violet T. Lewis, and it was an honor to see the Black Footwear Forum pay tribute to her granddaughter, Violet E. Ponders for her grandmother’s contributions.
Dr. Edwards also created the Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio (JEMS), the first Black-owned, creation-to-production footwear shoe factory in the U.S., creating even more opportunities for Black designers.
No one can deny the impact Dr. Edwards has had on the industry, and it was inspiring to see him and leaders, trendsetters, and creators such as Creative Director & Designer June Ambrose, Podcast Host Astor Chambers, Oscar-winning costumer designer Ruth Carter and Sport Executive Larry Miller dropping words of wisdom and encouragement for the future leaders of the industry.
While we are on the subject of inspiring leaders, I will be remiss if I do not share my experience during Sunday’s Cultivating The Dreamer Within – a day for her (hosted by adidas and i.e. (industry education).
Sunday was a day for us – a day for resetting, connecting, and rebranding.
After a unique R&B yoga experience hosted by yoga therapist Lauren Spearman and brunch hosted by adidas and Sisters in Soles, I was honored to participate in the adidas Community Leadership Development Workshop with our very own LaNiece Douglas, Ayesha Martin, Cheresse Thornhill, and Jessica Smith.
The workshop focused on reframing our failures as powerful tools that drive creativity and innovation. Going through the process of reliving my missteps, through my Failure Resume, was one of the hardest things I’ve had to face but listening to the many sisters in the group, I felt a renewed sense purpose. I owed myself grace that I didn’t know I needed.
If I could take one ounce of the drive and resilience showed by our panel and sisters in the audience. I would consider myself accomplished.
I cannot tell you which moment was the most impactful as so many resonated with me: