Nike, Adidas and Under Armour were all in the same room and it wasn't awkward.

Nike, Adidas and Under Armour aren't often in the same room together, unless it's a courtroom. But last week the sportswear giants set aside differences to support increased diversity in the footwear business.

Final presentations for Pensole Footwear Design Academy's first class in partnership with BMe Community took place in Portland Friday night.

Pensole's latest class divided students into teams of four and gave each a specific… more

Pensole educates aspiring footwear designers. BMe Community is a support network for black men and others committed to community improvement.

The class was a "passion project" for Pensole founder D'Wayne Edwards, who was one of three African-American footwear designers when he started in the industry in 1989. Edwards went on to work for several companies, including Nike's Jordan Brand, before founding Portland-based Pensole in 2010.

Nineteen students took part in the class, which was sponsored by Nike, Jordan Brand, Adidas, Under Armour and Keen. Each sponsor provided housing for four students.

Each student was placed on a team with three or four others and given an assignment to design a specific shoe for a sponsor, such as a fashion shoe for Adidas.

On Friday night, the teams showcased final work, including the brand palettes, materials, inspiration, consumer research, marketing plan and designs for the shoes.

Like all Pensole classes, all-nighters became part of the experience. Some students said 18-hour workdays weren't uncommon.

"I've never been pushed like this before," said West Texas A&M student Dayren Tolliver, who helped design a hiking shoe for Keen.

Edwards designed Pensole to provide practical knowledge not found in university programs. It's placed more than 100 graduates in full-time jobs.

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