What’s His Company’s Name?
Pensole Footwear Design Academy
Former Director of Jordan Brand Footwear Design, Nike Inc.
How He Started: As far as I can remember, maybe around 10 or 11 years old, I was drawing shoes. It just became a passion of mine. I was a high school athlete so I played baseball & basketball, but I realized quickly that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the NBA or to the major leagues, so I stuck with drawing. I realized my passion for footwear once I got to my senior year in high school. I remember watching Michael Jordan and his shoes were just so different. I would draw Jordan’s all day.
How He Went From A Temp To A Footwear Designer: My first job after high school was as a file clerk with a temporary agency. I would go to different corporations on a weekly basis and just file papers all day long. The third assignment I received was to work at the company, L.A. Gear, as a file clerk and I was like “Wow, I’m at a footwear company.” I thought, “Well, I’m here. I know I’m a file clerk, but let me see if I can get a job at the footwear department.”
The company started a “Suggestion Box” and my suggestion was that they hire me as a footwear designer. Everyday for 6 months straight I put my sketches in the box. After those 6 months, the chairman called me into his office and said, “I hear you’re the guy that’s been putting sketches in my box. Do you want a job as a footwear designer?” Of course, I said yes. I was 18 years old at the time with no formal education in fashion or footwear design.
How He Got A Job With The Jordan Brand:
When I was in high school, I drew my own version of the Air Jordan II’s. Years later, I was sitting at a Jordan Brand design offsite and at the time I wasn’t officially apart of the brand. We were talking about the new projects and one of those projects was a toss-up, which meant it wasn’t really assigned to anyone-whoever had the best idea actually got to work on the project. At the time, it was to design a brand new version of the Air Jordan II’s. I remembered that pair I drew in high school and I grabbed a napkin and sketched it up in about 5 minutes. I got that project from those 5 minutes.
Looking back, I did want to work at Nike, but never for Jordan – I never thought Jordan would be an option for me. When it became a reality, I was amazed that I got the job from something I did 12 years prior. Where I grew up, that wasn’t even a dream. That was something so far out of reach that I didn’t even consider it as an option. However, I embraced the challenge and I learned from everyone that I worked with. I asked questions everyday. My goal was to get better than everyone there. There were people that didn’t believe in me, but I just used that as motivation. I had an opportunity and I took advantage of that opportunity to the best of my ability.
At age 19, Dwayne was the youngest professional footwear designer in the industry. He was one of six designers ever to design an Air Jordan (21 and 22) in its 23-year history. Dwayne worked as director for Jordan Footwear Design for over 9 years, and later established his own design academy, Pensole Footwear Design Academy.
Why He Created His Own Footwear Academy: I grew up in Inglewood, California which isn’t the greatest place to be. When I started, there were no real outlets for design, specifically for footwear design. California at that time was all about apparel design, so all of the schools there were apparel-focused.
When I got my start at Nike, I had no real outlet to further my career and primarily, I just kept my mouth shut and learned from everyone that I was around. I didn’t have any formal education so I was just running off of raw talent and ambition. I asked all of the designers that were there for years ahead of me, “What does it take to become a footwear designer?” From engineers to developers to designers-I asked questions all day long. I know there are people, especially kids who draw shoes just for pure hobby’s sake- not for the purpose of getting a job. Maybe now these kids will begin to process it as a real career path. We all need guidance and direction on how to pursue our dreams.
“Just Do It.”