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Reebok Execs to Help Gen Z Sneaker Designers Learn the Trade

Reebok executives will lend their time to help 50 young talents learn the sneaker trade this year.

The footwear brand will partner with the sneaker and fashion retailer APB, online education platform Yellowbrick and national education and workforce nonprofit JFF on an initiative aimed at helping Gen Zers ages 17-20 develop industry-relevant knowledge, skills and experiences, it announced Thursday.

An expansion of a 2020 pilot that served 15 learners from non-traditional backgrounds, the program will enroll 50 candidates in Tallahassee, Fla., Charleston, S.C., and additional select cities. Materials will be based on the content of Yellowbrick’s Sneaker Essentials course, which it created with the Fashion Institute of Technology and Complex. Reebok will provide proprietary content to this core curriculum and make company executives available for live mentorship sessions and portfolio reviews. APB’s community and education platform APBYOU will also contribute.

“Less than a year ago, Reebok committed to building programs that will nurture young talent and drive more diversity into the industry,” Sean Finucane, vice president, wholesale at Reebok, said in a statement. “By educating and developing talented young people and by connecting them directly with established designers and executives from our team, we’re able to expose them to the multiple career paths that exist within our incredible industry.”

The Sneaker Essentials course culminates with a capstone project in which students create their own shoe designs. Three participants will be selected to refine, produce and market their own sneaker, which will be made available at APB, the program’s exclusive retail partner. Net proceeds will go toward funding additional iterations of the program with the hope of introducing additional cities in 2022.

“Our Sneaker Essentials course has been a staple of Yellowbrick’s industry-specific offerings for years, but now, working with Reebok, APB, and JFF, we’re able to take it up a level,” Dion Walcott, vice president, brand partnerships for Yellowbrick, said in a statement. “Our partners are committed to making this a life-changing experience for learners entering the program, and we’re excited to unlock as many doors as we can into the exciting sneaker industry.”

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Others are making similar investments in the next generation of up-and-comers.

Earlier this month, three VF Corp. brands—Timberland, Vans and The North Face—announced an integrated partnership called DiverCity x Design. The corporate apprenticeship aims to empower young Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) designers, providing them with professional design expertise and experience.

Created in partnership with Pensole Academy, a Portland-based group supporting young footwear design students through education and career mentorship, the program will accept 27 students for a three-week online pre-program. From this group, 18 students will be picked to participate in an eight-week Pensole Masterclass where they will work in groups to produce capstone projects showcasing what they’ve learned.