The First Ever African American Footwear Forum

Share this page

The First Ever African American Footwear Forum

Categories: In The News, Pensole, Two Ten News

The first ever African American Footwear Forum (AAFF) took place last week in Washington D.C. The Forum brought together African American talent from across the footwear industry in a way no previous event has. It also helped close out Black History Month 2019 at a time when questions surrounding diversity and opportunity are at the forefront of the national mindset. Two Ten is thrilled to be a sponsor and partner of the Forum and we’re grateful to have taken part in such a historic moment for the footwear industry.

Matt Priest, FDRA, D'Wayne Edwards, PENSOLE
Pictured: Left – Matt Priest of FDRA, Right – D’Wayne Edwards of PENSOLE. The Founders of the event.

D’Wayne Edwards, the founder of PENSOLE Footwear Design Academy and sponsor of the event, identified diversity in the footwear industry as his next large initiative. D’Wayne has been discussing this topic and working to promote diversity in the industry for years, starting PENSOLE as a way to give aspiring designers of all backgrounds a chance to break into the industry.  D’Wayne calls out the story of Jan Ernst Matzeliger, who “revolutionized the footwear industry with his patent for an automated shoe-laster,” as an example of how underappreciated the contributions of black men and women have been within the industry.  Mr. Matzeliger and his invention were largely ignored until 1991 when he received a stamp honoring him and his work.

The Forum’s other main sponsor, FDRA, also discussed diversity throughout the industry with D’Wayne and others. Last year’s second annual Sneaker Week included discussions around not only racial diversity in the footwear industry but also how to ensure gender diversity. Throughout February, FDRA’s podcast brought in leaders within the industry to discuss these topics even further.

One of the panel discussions during the event.

This partnership between FDRA and PENSOLE, and the discussions happening because of it, culminated in the AAFF last week. The Forum took place at Howard University in Washington D.C. with the stated goal to “enhance access, education, and awareness for African Americans who are seeking opportunities to influence, lead, and impact the global footwear industry and consumer culture.”  In attendance were a variety of footwear brands, passionate industry professionals, representatives from historically black colleges and universities, athletes, entrepreneurs, and influencers.  The Forum featured two days of events exploring and celebrating how diversity drives innovation and creativity drives global competitiveness. Sessions of note include, career panels, networking events, and discussions around solutions to bridging the gaps across the industry.

The Forum sparked a wave of enthusiasm around the industry surrounding this topic. Media outlets, like Footwear News, are also helping to spread the message. In addition, Nicekicks.com has partnered with D’Wayne and PENSOLE to highlight some of the best up-and-coming talent in the industry with their Future 50 campaign.

Two Ten is thrilled to be part of this growing and important conversation and looks forward to more opportunities to improve the lives and careers of ALL members of the footwear industry.

Photos from the African American Footwear Forum


More News Stories

Stories from the Frontline of the Footwear Industry

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

With 20.5 million jobs lost amid the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, the shoe industry continues to face severe cut backs as a staggering 60% of the industry, more than 100,000 people, have been laid off or furloughed.  Our team hears their stories every day.  The employees who helped our industry thrive are now … Read More

Two Ten Delivers Over $1 Million in Crisis Relief to Footwear Workers in Need

Monday, May 18, 2020

Originally written by Nikara Johns at  Footwear News on May 8, 2020. From bankruptcies to layoffs, it has been a trying few months for the footwear industry. And as April saw the worst monthly unemployment rate on record, with 20.5 million jobs lost amid the coronavirus crisis in the United States, the shoe business continues to face … Read More

On the Frontline for the Footwear Industry

Friday, May 1, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted so many lives in our footwear community.  Two Ten has been receiving applications for financial assistance at an unprecedented rate that is 10X greater than at any other point in our history. Thousands of footwear families are in difficult positions they never thought possible – and turning to the industry’s foundation for … Read More

Five Resources for Mental Wellbeing in the Time of COVID-19

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges for all of us who are home bound and socially-distancing. However, this time also creates an opportunity to learn new skills for career development, personal satisfaction, and general well-being. Major universities such as Harvard and Brown, in addition to online platforms like Coursera, are offering free courses in subject matters ranging from computer programming … Read More

Unprecedented times, unprecedented need.

Monday, April 6, 2020

We are not just an industry, we are a community. Our 80-year legacy is to take care of each other, especially in hard times. Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Two Ten is experiencing 10X the number of emergency financial assistance applications since the beginning of March and doesn’t show any signs of slowing. This dramatic … Read More