The Black Footwear Forum Inspires 600+ Black Creatives and Sets New Industry Standards at Fourth Annual Event

Two-time Academy Award-winning costume designer, Ruth Carter, costume designer and PUMA creative director, June Ambrose and Grammy Award-winning DJ Jazzy Jeff encourage attendees

DETROIT, Sept. 28, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The highly expected Black Footwear Forum came to a close on September 24th in Detroit, MI with outstanding success. Attendees of the free event left feeling inspired and buzzing with excitement from presentations, panel discussions, and networking opportunities.

Held at Detroit’s HBCU Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design (PLC), the industry’s college and the only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) dedicated to design, in partnership with the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), the four-day event proved to be a resounding success and lived up to its theme, Culture is Currency: Know Your Worth, attracting a diverse range of participants from around the globe.  

“I am extremely proud of the overwhelming success of BFF,” said PLC’s forward thinking president and founder Dr. D’Wayne Edwards. “This year’s event served as a catalyst for innovation, fostering meaningful conversations and inspiring attendees to think differently. I believe the knowledge gained and connections made will have a lasting impact on the industry.”

The event, launched by the ribbon cutting ceremony and unveil of the new Pepsi x Frito-Lay Refresh and Relax Lounge designed by PLC students, Rodney Banks and Angel Buckens, and dedicated to Kevin Carroll (author, speaker and agent for social change), was marked by an exceptional lineup of speakers, each an influential figure in their respective fields. NBA All-Star and entrepreneur, Russell Westbrook, was also part of the unveiling who partnered with PepsiCo to celebrate and encourage PLC students to keep pursuing their creative path, emphasizing the importance of diverse talent in the design field.  

Thought-provoking talks encouraged meaningful discourse, and aspiring and established designers were inspired by luminaries’ passion, knowledge, and expertise, who challenged conventional wisdom and provided fresh perspectives.

Emceed by Astor Chambers, Host/Co-Founder of Culture Raises US, the anticipated days covered a wide range of critical discussions relevant to the industry that delved into critical topics and emerging trends while addressing the most pressing issues facing the industry today—Diversity, equity, inclusion and leadership.

Creative and innovative thinking was ignited by speakers and moderators from esteemed organizations and successful brands, which contributed to memorable conversations.

Two standout conversations were the “Black Genius Conversation” featuring Ruth Carter, a two-time Academy Award-winning costume designer, moderated by D’on Lauren Edwards (Michael Kors shoe designer), and “Free Game: Generational Purpose,” a discussion on heritage vs. legacy with June Ambrose, costume designer and creative director for PUMA, and Grammy Award-winning DJ Jazzy Jeff, moderated by James Whitner.

“The black footwear forum is an inspiring weekend to not only be amongst alumni and emerging creatives but also titans of industry, in a space where information and ideas can be reciprocated is a beautiful and necessary experience,” said June Ambrose.

Furthermore, the attendees were offered free legal consultation through “Sessions with the Sneaker Lawyer” provided by Jayaram Law.

“The Black Footwear Forum has blossomed into a national movement, connecting Black employees in the footwear industry in both regional chapters and at the national event in Detroit and I couldn’t be prouder of the way BFF has grown since its inception in February 2019,” said Matt Priest, president & CEO of FDRA.

The BFF team’s dedication and hard work, unwavering support of sponsors and partners, and enthusiastic participation of attendees resulted in the event’s tremendous success, setting new benchmarks for excellence in the footwear design industry.

Priest adds, “Dr. D’Wayne Edwards and I, and our respective teams, have worked tirelessly to ensure that BFF participants experience an event worthy of their invaluable contribution to our industry. We believe the experience curated in Detroit this year did just that, but something tells me we’re just getting started.”

This year’s BFF was sponsored by over 30 major industry brands, which included Nike, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Adidas, Target, Foot Locker, Millerknoll, Rock, AmazonMusic, The Athlete’s Foot, Bacardi, Caleres, Carhartt, COACH, Designer Brands, eBay, Foot Locker, General Motors, Logitech, Microsoft, MillerKnoll, Nike, Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse, ON Running, PepsiCo, Puma, RG Barry Brands, Rock, Rubik’s, Steve Madden, StockX, Target, Under Armour, VisitDetroit, Wolverine Worldwide, XBOX, Xencelabs, and more.

For more information, visit and follow us on IG @pensolelewis for updates.

About the Black Footwear Forum (BFF): The Black Footwear Forum (BFF) exists to celebrate and safeguard the influence, leadership, and creativity provided by black professionals in the global footwear industry. As a collective of footwear industry professionals and supporters from around the country, BFF encourages collaboration in establishing industry goals that center on developing and advancing black talent at all levels.

About PLC: Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design is the pipeline for career education and professional development in the creative industry. We bear the torch, leading the way to creative vision and progress. At Pensole Lewis College, we work at the crossroads of making the industry better, developing unconventional educational experiences and creating ingenious products. Offering a new path to break into the world of product creation, we prepare and empower the largest talent pool of creatives to enter the industry to make it better for the next generation.

About FDRA: Founded in 1944, FDRA is governed and directed by footwear executives and is the only trade organization focused solely on the footwear industry. It serves the full footwear supply chain and boosts the bottom lines of its members through innovative products, training and consulting on footwear design and development, sourcing and compliance, trade and customs, advocacy, and consumer and sales trend analysis for retailers selling shoes around the world. FDRA also runs the footwear industry’s weekly podcast Shoe-In Show featuring leading footwear executives and experts discussing key business trends. In all, FDRA supports nearly 500 companies and brands worldwide, representing 95% of total U.S. footwear sales, making it by far the largest and most respected American footwear trade and business association.


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SOURCE Pensole Lewis College