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Portland is Now Home to the World’s First Sneaker Design School

Reason no. 18 to love Portland right now.

D'Wayne Edwards wanted to go to school for sneaker design. But in the late 80s, that wasn't an option—even in Los Angeles.

"I grew up in Inglewood, Calif., and it's a garment town. So there were tons of apparel design schools there, but nothing for footwear," he says. "This was pre-Google, so I couldn't just jump online and look stuff up, so it was really the phone book and word of mouth. But I looked into things, and there wasn't anything available. There was no path for me to go to college to study specifically for footwear."

Edwards ended up getting a job at LA Gear, where he worked on shoes, including the legendary Catapult. He went on to work for Karl Kani and Skechers before coming to Nike, where he designed the Air Jordan XXI and XXII. His designs have sold a billion dollars around the world.

But Edwards never forgot about that path that wasn't available to him. So in 2010, he started his own school, Pensole, in Old Town. It's still the only sneaker design school in the country. His philosophy is to rebuild education to suit everyone so that his students graduate with the knowledge their employers need. To that end, Pensole partnerships range from Parsons to MIT to Foot Locker to Adidas.

The thing Edwards is most excited about isn't just the shoe design school, it's the design of the shoe design school—which is closely modeled on trade schools to better prepare his artistic students for the trade they want.

"What we do could be applied to multiple industries, and quite honestly should be—from the perspective of how we go about structuring the academy and how the kids learn and how we work with companies," he says. "There's just a massive disconnection between education and corporate America. If schools were held accountable with what they taught students in conjunction with the ratio of them getting employed, we'd probably have a lot of schools close. But you will see education is going to close, because kids are getting disenchanted with being there four and five and six years, leaving with a mortgage and with no opportunity for employment."

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3. You Can Now Smoke Weed While Listening to Live Classical Music

4. Oregon's Unemployment Rate is Incredibly Low

5. Your Favorite Sports Team is Only a Short Walk Away

6. The Blazers Star in Some Weird-Ass Commercials

7. We Now Have a Mountain Bike Park in the City

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9. Portland is the Playground of Japanese Architect Kengo Kuma

10. You Can Soon Stream Local Music at the Library

11. Oregon Just Became the First State to Defelonize Hard Drugs

12. East Portland is Getting an Aerial Tree Walk

13. We're the World Capital of Canned Wine

14. Portland is a Hotbed of Small Bookstores

15. Unlike any Other City, We Have Multiple Niche Comedy Festivals

16. Our Developers Are Privatizing Socialism

17. The Nation's Best Airport Keeps Getting Even Better

18. We're Home to the World's First Sneaker Design School

19. Portland Scored the World's First Dog Tap Room

20Weed Prices are Falling From Cheap to Damn Near Free, and We Haven't Yet Found the Bottom

21. Our Local Mini-Mart Chain Makes Snickers Give You Free Candy Bars

22. The View From the MAX Orange Line is One of the Most Striking and Beautiful Paintings in the City 

23. We Are Still No. 1 in Semifactual Superlatives

24. We Make Biking So Accessible

25. You Can Crowdfund Anything Here

26. We Find So Many Ways to be Anti-Trump

27. Our Malls Are Becoming Cultural Embassies

28. Our Humane Society Rescues Pets From All Over the Country 

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30. No One Mourns Closures Like We Do