A note from Tim Brown, co-founder and co-CEO of Allbirds
When I first met Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, we immediately connected on the enormous possibility of a new design language for sustainability. One that would be more inclusive, more culturally connected and something more than simply creating more environmentally friendly products. D’Wayne immediately understood that solving the problem of our generation in Climate Change wasn’t just about the science and it wasn’t just about speaking to the few who understand it, it was about a need for an approach to design that we hadn’t seen before. I left that meeting knowing we needed to find a way to work together.
Tackling big challenges is nothing new to D’Wayne. After decades of industry-defining work that undeniably shaped modern sneaker culture, he set his sights on one of the foundational issues he encountered throughout his career: the lack of diverse thought and backgrounds in the footwear space. Despite being an industry that draws inspiration from and markets to Black and Brown communities, D’Wayne was consistently one of the only non-white designers at the leading sportswear companies where he worked. So in 2010 he founded PENSOLE Academy, which quickly became a revolutionary training ground for the next generation of footwear design talent.
This week, we launched applications for the BRD (Better Responsible Design) Program with PENSOLE and its MLab for material innovation and sourcing. BRD is an eight week course that will give 20 up-and-coming creatives the opportunity to gain hands-on expertise with sustainable footwear design, equipping them with the tools they need to turn their passion into an environmentally-minded career path.
At the end of the program, each participant will gain a certificate of completion, and Allbirds will be lucky enough to bring on two of the designers for three-month paid internships. Each of the interns will work closely with Allbirds’s world-class design team, and apply their learnings from the course into real, commercialized products.
D’Wayne and PENSOLE have set out to prove that, with the right tools, support, and opportunity, we can change the sneaker industry to be more inclusive and more sustainable. Both of our organizations understand that the future of design must be viewed through an environmental lens, and that the next generation of creatives will be vital in dreaming up new ideas and innovations that will unlock potentially world-changing climate solutions. We’re thrilled to work with PENSOLE and these talented young creatives, and hope that, together, we can play a small part in creating a more supportive, sustainable footwear industry.
If you’re interested, or know someone who would, please apply here — we would love to hear from you.