Black people and black culture shape popular culture and fashion. Yet and still, leadership within the fashion industry does not often reflect the people from the communities in which they draw their inspiration from.

Some may argue that the lack of representation at the top is due to a skill or knowledge gap–while others may claim that there are many barriers to entry. In this case, both sentiments are true. That is why Footaction created the No 1 Way Design Academy in partnership with two Portland, Oregon based black-owned design academies PENSOLE and FAAS Studio to build a pipeline to get designers from historically black colleges and universities into the industry.

Footaction is committed to amplifying and celebrating the next wave of creative visionaries who continue to push the culture forward. As a part of that commitment, the design academy offers No 1 Way competition which aims to foster diversity of talent and champion the idea of creative individuality.

In August, Footaction made an open call to over 85 HBCUs to participate in a six-week digital and in-person design intensive. Hundreds of students applied to be a part of the program by sending in their designs, but, only 10 students were selected to participate in the FAAS at PENSOLE online program to refine their designs. From there, the competition was cut in half and the top five finalists (which so happen to be five young women) relocated to Portland for a 3-week hands-on design academy at the FAAS Studio.

This post was written by Lydia Blanco, a writer at Black Enterprise, where it was originally published. It is published here with permission.