Dr. D’Wayne Edwards Releases First Shoe From U.S. Black-Owned Footwear Factory


September 26, 2023

Dr. D’Wayne Edwards is paving the way for the future of Black creatives.

As the founder of Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design, the country’s first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to reopen, Edwards wants to change the narrative for Black footwear designers.

In 2022, Edwards founded one of the first Black-owned athletic footwear factories in the U.S. through a partnership with Designer Brands. The Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio (JEMS) is located in Somersworth, New Hampshire.

And the brand, JEMS by PENSOLE, has now released its first shoe called the FIRST JEM. The shoe is inspired by the late Black inventor Jan Ernst Matzeliger, who designed the automated shoe lasting machine.


Pensole Lewis College released a statement about JEMS on Instagram.

“With Pensole Lewis College, Dr. Edwards has reimagined and reinvented the education system, providing a unique educational experience; teaching students skills to thrive in the product creation industry,” the statement read. “He founded JEMS, the first Black-owned athletic footwear factory in the US, in 2022 with the vision to empower the next generation of creatives by offering greater accessibility to manufacture their own brand, ultimately leaving the industry a better, more diverse place.”

In a news release, Edwards shared his excitement about the launch of the the FIRST JEM.

“The FIRST JEM celebrates Matzeliger’s little-known legacy. His invention of the Lasting Machine in 1883 revolutionized the way shoes are made and is still used today,” Edwards said. “We’re celebrating his legacy and embodying that same revolutionary spirit, seeking to bring opportunity to new design talent and influence the face of the footwear industry.”


Designer Brands President Bill Jordan also explained in the news release, “Diversity drives innovation and brings new thinking, designs and products to consumers, yet Black representation sits at less than five percent across all design industries. We’re excited to partner with Dr. Edwards on the JEMS by PENSOLE line. FIRST JEM is just the beginning step in our goal to forge entrepreneurial opportunities for underrepresented footwear designers and make their vision and designs accessible to our customers at DSW stores.”

The FIRST JEM drop is available to purchase on DSW.com.


5 4 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join the BOTWC newsletter for the latest in news & culture!

By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Newsletter Signup
Skip to content