Designer Brands Joins Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design for Ribbon-Cutting of JEMS by PENSOLE, One of the First Black-Owned U.S. Footwear Factories

Designer Brands Joins Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design for Ribbon-Cutting of JEMS by PENSOLE, One of the First Black-Owned U.S. Footwear Factories

Event Celebrates Culmination of Designer Brands’ $2 Million Investment in Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Underrepresented Footwear Designers

SOMERSWORTH, N.H., March 20, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Designer Brands Inc. (NYSE: DBI) (the “Company” and “Designer Brands”), one of the world’s largest designers, producers and retailers of footwear and accessories, today unveiled the newest milestone achieved together with Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design (PLC) – the ribbon-cutting of JEMS by PENSOLE, located in Somersworth, New Hampshire, as one of the first Black-owned footwear factories in the United States.

The development and opening of the factory represent the culmination of Designer Brands’ $2 million investment into advancing action-oriented Diversity, Equity & Inclusion through its partnership with Detroit-based PLC, the first and only Historically Black College & University (HBCU) in Michigan and the first HBCU with a focus on design. Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, legendary footwear designer and President of PLC, will serve as the first designer to create a collection of shoes to be released by the factory. LeCrown Shoes Industry Co., LTD with decades of footwear development experience has also invested $1 million

“JEMS by PENSOLE’s opening marks a major achievement in improving representation by people of color in the footwear and design industries,” said Bill Jordan, President of Designer Brands. “We are excited to see the initial shoe designs brought to life by PLC graduates in the new factory, with the future products to be sold exclusively at DSW stores. By honoring the legacy of Black entrepreneurs, we aim to inspire future designers by providing a powerful path for educational, career and retail success. When we work to advance diversity in the world of fashion brands, our business succeeds and everyone wins.”

“JEMS by PENSOLE is a firm step for promising careers for Black leaders in footwear, who as a group represent less than five percent across all design industries,” said Dr. Edwards. “With our factory now open, we’ll quickly advance PLC graduates to training for product pre-production all the way to creation of our first sneakers. Our partnership with Designer Brands and DSW makes all this possible and celebrates Black business innovators in important and meaningful ways.”

JEMS stands for “Jan Ernst Matzeliger Studio” – itself named in honor of the Black footwear pioneer who in 1883 received a patent that revolutionized footwear manufacturing, a process that inspired methods the industry still uses today.

About Designer Brands
Designer Brands is one of the world’s largest designers, producers and retailers of the most recognizable footwear brands and accessories, transforming and defining the footwear industry by inspiring self-expression across every facet of its enterprise. Through its portfolio of world-class owned brands, led by the industry-setting Vince Camuto brand, Designer Brands delivers on-trend footwear and accessories through its robust direct-to-consumer omni-channel infrastructure, featuring a billion-dollar digital commerce business and nearly 650 stores across the U.S. and Canada. Its retailing operations under the DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse and The Shoe Company banners deliver current, in-line footwear and accessories from most of the largest national brands in the industry and hold leading market share positions in key product categories across Women’s, Men’s and Kid’s in the U.S. and Canada. Designer Brands also distributes its owned brands through select wholesale relationships while leveraging its design and sourcing expertise to build private label product for national retailers. Designer Brands is also committed to being a difference maker in the world, taking steps forward to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the footwear industry and supporting our global community and the health of our planet through donating more than six million pairs of shoes to the global non-profit Soles4Souls. More information can be found at

About Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC)
Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design is the pipeline for career education and professional development in the design industry. We are the source for creative vision and progress; bearing the torch to push the culture forward — beyond what’s visible. At Pensole Lewis College, we offer a new path to break into the world of product creation. We prepare the largest talent pool of designers to enter the industry empowering them to make it better for the next generation, leaving our industry better than when we entered it. For more information, please visit

Safe Harbor Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995
Certain statements in this press release may constitute forward-looking statements and are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. You can identify these forward-looking statements by the use of forward-looking words such as “outlook,” “could,” “believes,” “expects,” “potential,” “continues,” “may,” “will,” “should,” “would,” “seeks,” “approximately,” “predicts,” “intends,” “plans,” “estimates,” “anticipates,” or the negative version of those words or other comparable words. These statements are based on the Company’s current views and expectations and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause actual results, performance, or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance, or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. These factors include, but are not limited to: uncertain general economic conditions, including inflationary pressures and rising interest rates, and the related impacts to consumer discretionary spending, as well as supply chain disruptions and pressures; risks and uncertainties related to the ongoing coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic, any future COVID-19 resurgence, and any other adverse public health developments; our ability to anticipate and respond to fashion trends, consumer preferences and changing customer expectations; our ability to maintain strong relationships with our vendors, manufacturers, licensors, and retailer customers; the risks to our reputation or operations associated with our reliance on foreign sources for merchandise, including failure of our vendors to adhere to our Vendor Code of Conduct; risks related to losses or disruptions associated with our distribution systems, including our distribution centers and stores, whether as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, reliance on third-party providers, or otherwise; our ability to manage our Chief Executive Officer transition, retain our existing management team, and continue to attract qualified new personnel; risks related to cyber security threats and privacy or data security breaches or the potential loss or disruption of our information technology (“IT”) systems; risks related to the implementation of an enterprise resource planning system (“ERP”) software solution and other IT systems; our reliance on our loyalty programs and marketing to drive traffic, sales, and customer loyalty; our ability to protect our reputation and to maintain the brands we license; our competitiveness with respect to style, price, brand availability, and customer service; risks related to our international operations, including international trade, our reliance on foreign sources for merchandise, exposure to political, economic, operational, compliance and other risks, and fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates; our ability to comply with privacy laws and regulations, as well as other legal obligations; domestic and global political and social conditions and the potential impact of geopolitical turmoil or conflict; risks associated with climate change and other corporate responsibility issues; and uncertainties related to future legislation, regulatory reform, policy changes, or interpretive guidance on existing legislation. Risks and other factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from our forward-looking statements are described in the Company’s latest Annual Report on Form 10-K or other reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. All forward-looking statements speak only as of the time when made. The Company undertakes no obligation to update or revise the forward-looking statements included in this press release to reflect any future events or circumstances.

SOURCE Designer Brands Inc.

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