Sole Mates: Giving Back While Pushing Design Forward


Emily and Jessica Leung are designers on a mission to save the world, one pair of heels at a time. Their line of shoes, Hey Lady, was created with the promise of combining fashion, comfort, and giving. The twin sisters from Silicon Valley are no strangers to transformation, either! Emily began adulthood by attending college as a pre-med student, but eventually found herself working in the world of public relations and marketing. Jessica worked in the retail store trenches during college, transitioning that experience into an internship that also led her down the path of PR and marketing. Neither of them planned to end up working in fashion, but a revelation fell into their lap, and a new idea was born.

Heels are a recurring thread in the tapestry of womanhood – you simply can’t escape them. Whether it be for the office, going to a club, or attending a wedding, wearing a pair is an often painful destiny one must face. The girls noticed that the day after Jessica’s bachelorette party, the bridesmaids were stuck babysitting swollen feet and ankles alongside their hangovers due to shaking their groove-thang in towering designer stilettos all night. And while running their annual half-marathon, they had the epiphany that a night of clubbing in heels left their feet with the symptoms of having ran a 13-mile race! The Leung Twins were fed up, so through a wild bachelorette party and an unexpected injury, they came to the conclusion that something had to be done to make heels less of a pain. The girls eventually quit their jobs in public relations and embraced on this new venture.

Hey Lady has a mission: Create heels that are comfortable, beautiful, and that give back to society. Functional performance technology is at the core of every shoe. The soles of every pair contain a full insole of NASA-developed, shock-absorbing memory foam; the same foam used for basketball and running shoes! Thoughtfulness does not end with the interior aspects of the heels. The exterior design nixes the idea of following trends, and focuses on drawing inspiration from legendary women, past and present. With all of the thought they have put into creating fashion forward footwear, they still have not forgotten to look around them, and to give back to those in need.

#HeyLadyGivesBig is the campaign slogan for all of the charitable work that the Leung Twins do to give back to the community-at-large. Finding a way to give back to the causes that matter to them was a no-brainer given their life experiences:

“Our dad’s poor immigrant upbringing has always left an impression on us, we don’t take anything for granted and know everybody is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  He grew up in one shanty room with 6 people, having to tie down the aluminum room when it rained, and having to walk to the park to shower and find a place to study.  People helping him and his family allowed him to have an education in America and go from school janitor to Lockheed aerospace engineer to starting his own business.”

Having huge hearts, they were unable to choose just one cause to give back to, so they decided that there would not be a limit to their love. Each shoe design raises money for a different charity, and each charity receives $8, immediately, when its corresponding shoe is purchased from According to the ladies, “8 is a lucky Chinese number and it also represents infinity, so we just liked the thought of this continual flow of empowerment.” The portfolio that their initiative supports includes charities like Salvage Blue, UNICEF, UN Women, and Random Acts of Flowers. It would be an understatement to say that these organizations are simply beneficiaries of the Leung’s designs – in fact, many of the Hey Lady designs are inspired by the organizations. For instance, the Principessa Gatsby beaded flat has elements of ocean waves that represent ocean conservation, and the Double Trouble glitter criss-cross was partly inspired by the double helix, representative of rare cancer genetics (Jessica was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a 0% chance of living — that was 3 years ago!).

It is said that you can’t take care of others if you do not take care of yourself first, and the Leung Twins have shown the fruits that can be born of self-care. The power to empower can manifest in a multitude of ways, but I can’t think of a better way to give back than through doing what you love for a living.

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