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Foot Locker, Pensole and New Balance Launch Sneaker Design Competition

Pensole Footwear Design Academy is flexing its muscles as a sneaker pipeline powerhouse.

The Portland-based academy is bringing together two of its most powerful partners, Foot Locker and New Balance, to create an all-new master class and design competition, “Fueling the Future of Footwear.”

The trio of footwear partners said the class, which began accepting applications Nov. 5, will be a “hands-on, intensive design competition” to find and develop future footwear industry designers. Although both New Balance and Foot Locker have participated in past activations with the academy, this will be the first time the two have combined on the same Pensole program.

“We have worked with PENSOLE for the last three years and are excited to add Foot Locker to the program,” Jared Goldman, senior director of design at New Balance, said in a statement.  “Our relationship with PENSOLE has opened New Balance up to a diverse group of talented designers that we would never have met prior to our first class. This is an amazing opportunity for designers that want a career in the footwear industry to get a start.”

Thirty students will be chosen to participate in the class, where they will be expected to complete challenges related to footwear and apparel design in both the lifestyle and performance categories over a period of three weeks. Each of the 30 students will be given free housing and tuition for the time they spend working on the competition, a value estimated at $5,000 each.

Coursework will concentrate on the design process, with topics dedicated to footwear design, colors and materials, apparel and marketing products. Winners will ultimately be chosen by a panel of judges selected from industry experts and brand representatives from New Balance and Footlocker.

“This is the only class that we teach outside of Pensole’s campus in Portland,” Pensole founder D’Wayne Edwards added. “We are excited to teach our fourth class at the New Balance Research and Development Center, to continue our mission of identifying and elevating emerging design talent.”

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This competition will be the first where prospective participants can springboard into paid internships at New Balance or Foot Locker. On top of that, contestants are eligible to earn up to $500 in New Balance merchandise.

In January, Foot Locker invested $2 million into Pensole as a way to strengthen the bond between the retailer and one of the more high-profile footwear design pipelines. Patrick Walsh, vice president of marketing for Foot Locker North America, described the partnership as a great way to both pinpoint latent design talent and connect with Foot Locker’s target consumer.

“Partnering with Pensole has been a powerful initiative at Foot Locker as we are always looking for innovative ways to connect with our consumers. There is no better way to do so than to make them part of our product-creation process,” Walsh said in a statement. “We are excited to continue building upon our mission of empowering youth and sneaker culture through ‘Fueling the Future of Footwear,’ alongside two great partners—New Balance and Pensole.”