by Stephen Garner

VF Corporation announced on Tuesday that as part of its ongoing commitment to racial equity, its Timberland, Vans, and The North Face brands have launched an integrated partnership with PENSOLE Academy called DiverCity x DESIGN.

This new corporate apprenticeship program will provide unique access to professional design experience and empower Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students as they learn, create, and build a career in the footwear industry. The mission of the partnership will be to invest in the industry’s future and create a program that ensures diversity of thinking and experience.

The immersive curriculum was developed in partnership with PENSOLE, a Portland-based footwear design academy, which provides students with the knowledge and experiences required to become well-rounded professional footwear designers. DiverCity x DESIGN will equip students with footwear design principles, product creation process, hands-on experience, professional development training, and brand engagement. The top-performing students will be granted career mentorship with cultural experiences at each of the brand’s headquarter cities.

“I have been a consumer of Vans, Timberland, and The North Face brands for decades, and it is humbling to see our relationship grow into us working together on such a meaningful program,” PENSOLE founder D’Wayne Edwards said. “DiverCity x DESIGN is an amazing opportunity to reach consumers where they are and provide them a pathway into our industry unlike what they have been afforded before. Thank you to VF for being a leader in our industry and trusting PENSOLE with such an important program that will help shape the future of your company and the lives of your consumers.”

Lena Waithe for The North Face

In addition to DiverCity x DESIGN, this spring the Timberland brand will launch a youth program in partnership with CONSTNT: DVLPMNT and PENSOLE Academy. The “Creative Discovery Tools” youth program will introduce middle-schoolers to careers within the footwear industry through a four-week online footwear and color design program. The goal is to scale the program over the next five years to span middle school, high school, and post K-12 opportunities that focus on developing industry-ready designers.

“Our partnership with the PENSOLE Academy is part of the work to build a more inclusive and equitable future,” explained Chris McGrath, vice president of global footwear design at Timberland. “Through the program, aspiring BIPOC designers will gain insight and experience that will prepare them to launch into a lifelong career. DiverCity x DESIGN, coupled with our youth program, creates the platform to nurture talent at a young age and opens doors for BIPOC students to realize a dream job in a field, and with a brand, that may have felt unattainable.”

“As a brand engrained in youth culture and centered around enabling creative expression, we are excited to partner again this year with D’Wayne and the PENSOLE team,” added Mark Haskins, vice president of global footwear product design at Vans. “This partnership is not only a great opportunity for us to work closely with creative students and provide them insight into what it’s like to work at Vans but we are especially proud to support PENSOLE’s important mission of growing the representation of Black creatives in the footwear industry.”

“The North Face has always been about encouraging exploration everywhere, from the highest mountains to the city streets,” commented Jean-Marc Djian, global vice president of footwear for The North Face. “As we continue to invest in and expand our footwear innovations, we are excited to work with PENSOLE to create new opportunities for up-and-coming designers, and ensure the creativity, expertise, and expression of the designers we work with is as diverse as the communities who use our footwear to explore.”

Open enrollment for the program begins today and will run through March 30th, 2021. Interested students are encouraged to apply at this link.