We are pleased to announce Dr. Najwa Javed as our Fifteenth Muslim Woman of the Month!
Dr. Najwa Javed is a podiatrist located in San Jose, California. Throughout her years of experience treating patients with an array of foot pain and problems, she found that there is a gap in the shoe industry, as well as a need for comfortable, yet fashionable heels for women.
To offer a happy medium between the unattractive medical shoes available on the market and the painful heels that women want to wear, but that often lead to unbearable foot cramping and blistering, she created a luxury footwear brand called E’MAR.
E’MAR uses innovative technology that consists of a hidden inlay that rebalances and realigns the entire foot. When in an elevated position, this provides maximum stabilization for both the ankle and foot, which offers unparalleled support for the foot and leg.
This journey was far from easy for Dr. Javed from the very beginning. But as a Pakistani, Muslim immigrant, her innate resilience and ambition gave her the determination and strength to persevere, despite all of the doubts and obstacles she faced along the way to bring her vision for the brand to life.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Javed, where she shares all about her journey, what led her to become a podiatrist, and how she built her own revolutionary footwear brand.
Read on to learn more about Dr. Javed’s story and her trailblazing innovation below, and for an exclusive discount code you can use to shop her amazing products!
Can you tell us about yourself?
I am a full-time practicing foot and ankle surgeon in San Jose, California. My background is in Podiatric Surgery, which is a specialization in foot and ankle surgery. In order to become a podiatrist, you have to do four years of podiatric medical school after your undergrad, and then three years of a surgical residency followed by a fellowship.
I’ve been a practicing podiatrist for about 15 years, and my niche is limb salvage and trauma. Over the years, I’ve been able to focus on getting people back to the things that they love to do including: walking, running, hiking, and being able to do things like walk through Disneyland when they thought that was no longer an option for them.
As I continued to hone my skills and got better and better, what I started to see was an influx of patients who were no longer ill, but who were young, healthy individuals, who were having a hard time finding proper shoe gear, so that they could go to a meeting and walk in something that didn’t look like they were wearing orthopedic-style shoes.
My practice kind of evolved from trauma and limb salvage to doing more biomechanical work, treating CEOs of companies, VCs, socially active women, all of these high-profile patients, and all of them would say, “Dr. Javed, we don’t want to constantly be wearing athletic shoes and these big bulky orthotics.”
My idea was, if I’m fashionable, and I don’t like to be boxed into one type of look, how can I help find a solution for the men and women that I treat? And from that came this huge research opportunity to see how footwear and the innovations in footwear were failing us.
I decided to come up with an insole or an orthotic, which we are experts in already, but it had to be very sleek, just a millimeter thick, and we could give that to patients, customize it, and have them use it.
But what ended up happening is that the customization of the orthotics was not functional and it wasn’t working because one, it’s very expensive. And two, it doesn’t fit in all shoes. So patients started having a really hard time finding solutions in footwear again.
That’s what inspired me to think outside of medicine and think inside like, “How can we find a solution that would make it easier for everybody to look and feel a certain way without being in pain?”
Wow, what a journey, between being a foot surgeon and then starting this brand! I love the products that you have created! I think there’s something to be said about products that are actually made by a doctor and a surgeon who understands. Out of curiosity, were you born in America?
My parents were in the U.S already, but we have a tradition in our family where the first child is always born at the maternal grandmother’s house. My mom was born and raised in Bahrain, which is a small island in the Gulf of Arabia in the Middle East. So my mom went back to have me at her mom’s house, and then I came back to the States. So technically, I wasn’t born here, but I was raised in America.
We moved a lot as children. We lived in New York for 10 years, then we moved to Chicago for about three years, and then my formative years were all in Oklahoma. That was a very weird and difficult stage for me, because here I am, on the brink of adulthood, a 13 year-old girl, and we moved from these big cities where there was representation of the brown girl, and now we were in Oklahoma, a small town.
“It was around this time that I started to spiritually cling to my Muslim identity. I felt like I couldn’t find any other identity that I wanted, and I became a very curious Muslim.”
There was nobody who looked like me and nobody who acted like me. Being the eldest of four siblings, it was a really hard time because I had to set the precedence to showcase what our family was going to be. There was a lot of pressure to be the best that I could be at school, never getting bad grades, excelling at everything, and also trying to make friends. It was a difficult and hard time.
It was around this time that I started to spiritually cling to my Muslim identity. I felt like I couldn’t find any other identity that I wanted, and I became a very curious Muslim. Like, “Why do we do this? How do we do it like that?” That has been something that I’ve kept for my whole life.
I’m very curious and I love to find answers to my questions that stem from Islam, and it’s beautiful for me personally. I really truly believe that this is one of the most integral and defining moments for a practicing Muslim youth.
If you identify as Muslim and you practice, it’s very difficult because you get really confused in the cultural nuances. “Should I go out to the party with my girlfriends? Can I go out with them to that club? I’m not going to do anything wrong, but can I have fun while still being able to be me?”
I was a hijabi for 12 years of my life. My hijab didn’t have anything to do with pressure from the outside. It was just that I reached a pinnacle in my own life where I felt like my religiosity was strong enough that I didn’t have to wear an external covering to protect my internal conflict anymore.
“I wanted to be literally anything and everything other than a Najwa– a Gina, a Jessica, a Norma, Puerto Rican–just anybody except me growing up.”
It really changed me because when I was younger, I was so confused. It was very hard for me to come into my own. You’ll have sleepovers and your parents are like, “No, you can’t have a sleepover” or other things that nobody could understand.
I want to go to prom but, “Oh you can’t.” “But why can’t I? What if I wear this?” And they’re like, “Okay, you can take your cousin to chaperone you”– just all these things. It was interesting. We had a lot of growing pains growing up in a very small town in the U.S.
This is the immigrant narrative. You grow up from it, you grow out of it, and you grow into yourself. It’s a journey. I wanted to be literally anything and everything other than a Najwa–a Gina, a Jessica, a Norma, Puerto Rican–just anybody except me growing up.
It literally took me decades to own my nose, but that’s symbolic of who I am. I have a very ethnic face and I just couldn’t accept myself. So I’m so glad that we have positive role models now for girls to reach out and look up to because I think that’s what’s going to change the narrative.
Yeah, it’s so true. It’s a common thing we go through because we’re faced with all of these doubts and fears, even within our own community. A huge problem in our community is that we’re not that inclusive, but our religion is inclusive. I think it has a lot to do with the fear of giving into modern society, and not wanting to let that impact our religiosity. That same fear is isolating people and pushing them away from the religion rather than bringing them in.
We have to bring our children into the fold of: it’s a way of life. I think that it’s the things that you do, and I feel like we have to change it. If we don’t, our children are going to move away from it, and that’s worse, because the religion itself is so inclusive. It’s so beautiful. There’s so much in it that we’ve lost because it’s become cultural.
I’ve been reading Quran now. I’ve read it multiple times, but I’m reading it now, not just by translation, but by transliteration, trying to find out where this idea came from, and why at that time it was deemed necessary to come down and become part of the book. It’s fantastic.
It teaches you not just what the words are, but why they were even said. What’s the context behind it? Why are we following what we’re following and why is it so important?
I think that when you do that, it makes you realize that you can be a proud Muslim, and know that what you’re doing is so wonderful because it’s so integral to your being. It has nothing to do with what the world thinks you should or should not be. That’s revolutionary for me personally.
“It’s so critical to me for my son to have an identity and my daughter to have an identity, for them to be strong in their identities, and to know that this is who they are so that they can unapologetically be themselves because we do grow up apologizing for who we are.”
It’s helpful for my children because when they have questions, I need to be able to answer them. I can’t just tell them, “Oh, we just don’t do this,” but that it’s because Allah said, “No.”
I’m going through a teenage stage with my son right now, and there’s a lot of questions that he has. I’m so thankful that I have the opportunity to help answer those questions for him, and empower him in his own faith, so that he doesn’t get pushed over or fall for something because there’s nothing that he can stand for.
It’s so critical to me for my son to have an identity and my daughter to have an identity, for them to be strong in their identities, and to know that this is who they are so that they can unapologetically be themselves because we do grow up apologizing for who we are.
I can really relate to that. It’s like you try and overcompensate for that in other ways and I don’t think we should have to do that, or feel that we’re not good enough just being who we are. Where are your parents originally from?
My dad is from Pakistan. My mom is Pakistani and Irani. My maternal grandmother is Irani, but we consider ourselves Pakistanis. That’s the culture that we closely relate to, so that’s what we eat at the house, that’s what we speak.
We’re Pakistani Muslims and growing up, there’s a very specific type of cultural thing that happens when you’re non-white Americans. There’s a distinct food, there’s a distinct way you wear your clothing, and it’s very specific to you. Most people don’t understand it.
The only people that could understand my cultural nuances were my Vietnamese friends or my Korean friends because they would bring California rolls to school and people would look at them weird.
Then I’d bring tomato rice to school, and people would look at me weird. We never had a peanut butter jelly sandwich. It was just so funny.
Haha yes, that’s like the labna or zatar sandwhiches I used to take to school, too! We rarely ever had PB&J too! It is funny how we can all relate to those growing pains I guess! What inspired you to become a foot surgeon?
As any immigrant child, you only are given a few options. I mean, for my generation at least. It was either doctor or engineer. That was it. I didn’t want to do engineering. I thought that medicine would be really fantastic for me because I was super empathetic.
Initially, it was just because those were my only two options, I never thought I could do anything else. But during my undergraduate years, I really fell in love with it. I actually thought I wanted to do pediatrics or maternal and child health
After I graduated undergrad, I went ahead and got a Master’s in clinical research and biostatistics in Texas, and I thought that I wanted to do something more in helping women, their health, and their disparities. I felt like I could give back a lot to the minority women’s community.
While I was doing that, I was applying to medical schools. I was like, “This is great. I can do this.” But I didn’t get in. I didn’t get in on my first or second try. So on my third try, I was 22 years old. There was a lot of pressure and I was a really good student, but for some reason, I just couldn’t get in. I would do great, get interviews, but then I wouldn’t get selected.
One of my girlfriends was going to a podiatric medical school and she was like, “Hey Najwa, maybe you would want to do this.” I had no idea what podiatric medicine was, so I ended up shadowing a physician. The first surgery I saw was this 18 year-old girl who had Macrodactyly, which is basically an abnormally enlarged toe. She was 18 and it was really traumatic for her. He did surgery and it was just fantastic.
“I am so glad that this is what Allah had in store for me. At that point, I didn’t know. But it ended up being the best thing that could have ever happened.”
I just thought, “Wow, you can give somebody so much confidence.” Maybe I was lacking confidence at that time, or I don’t know what triggered me to think that this might be a good field for me. So I ended up applying that year to podiatric medical school.
What ended up happening is, I got into both. I got into medical school in Oklahoma, and then also got into podiatric medical school in California. My parents weren’t happy about it, but I ended up taking the position in California, and moving halfway across the country to start this career. My parents were like, “I can’t believe you gave up an MD school to go to a DPM school.”
Honestly, it’s a scary situation. I was worried, “Did I make the wrong decision?” But Alhamdulillah, it ended up being the best decision I could have ever made because I wasn’t built to do maternal and child health, unfortunately.
It was really difficult for me to do that, but I have loved this life that I’ve been able to make as a podiatric surgeon. It’s just fantastic. I am so glad that this is what Allah had in store for me. At that point, I didn’t know. But it ended up being the best thing that could have ever happened.
Subhan Allah, it was like you were being guided to where you were actually meant to go. Choosing a career path and being sure you’re making the right decision can definitely be really hard for a lot of people, especially when your parents have super high expectations or different expectations than what you would like to do. But good for you for following your own path and what you felt was right for you.
Even what society entails, like “What are you? What are you becoming? What are you doing?” There’s so much pressure on us from our parents and even from ourselves. The thing I’ve learned over the years is that anything that you want to do, and you do it with a lot of passion and zest, it will pay you back a hundred-fold because you’re so invested in what you’re doing.
If it is something that is amazing, but your heart’s not invested in it, or you just can’t do it because you don’t find meaning and purpose in it, at some point, you’re going to have to change that.
“It’s a luxury to be able to have these thoughts as an immigrant when your parents didn’t have that luxury, and so they couldn’t understand your plight.”
This realization was not something that was afforded [to our parents]. It’s a luxury to be able to have these thoughts as an immigrant when your parents didn’t have that luxury, and so they couldn’t understand your plight.
Being able to understand what my parents were going through, and opening so many doors for them to see that America is a place where you can become whatever you want, do whatever you want, and be successful at it. I think it was novel and new to them.
I get emails all the time like, “Dr. Javed, we want our kids to do this, how do you get in?” And I’m like, “What does your kid want to do? If your kid wants to do it, have them reach out to me, and I’ll help them.”
Those are the important things that we as parents have to do. I have two children and I really focus on their well-being, what they’re motivated about, and giving them the tools to succeed in those areas. That’s what my job is as a parent. Our parents were like, “Look, we don’t have a lot of tools, but you have to get out of this, and this is how you’re going to do it.”
I love that. I can see just how much you support your children. And you really are a great example for them with how you have paved the way for yourself, and now not only have a successful career in medicine, but also a successful brand. What is E’MAR and what is the significance behind the brand’s name? What is the mission and purpose of your brand?
I tell people E’MAR is my third child. From its infancy stage, to its toddler stage, to where it is right now, it has been an incredible journey for me, not only professionally, but also emotionally. There’s a lot to be said about building a company when you don’t come from business, fashion, or design.
E’MAR is a luxury footwear brand that I built. The inception of it actually started in 2017, but it came to market in 2020, right before the pandemic. E’MAR stands for Elevated, Medial, Arch, Rebalancing technology. The whole idea behind the brand was to marry science and style, and be completely disruptive in the footwear industry.
The reason behind this was that, as I had mentioned earlier, I’m an expert in biomechanics, shoe gear, stability and health, and I’m a practicing surgeon, so I practice every day. That really is a game-changer because I treat pathologies on a daily basis. I don’t just study them in theory. I know what normal is, but I know abnormal even better.
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I was trying to find a brand that would help us not get to that abnormal stage where you would need therapeutic shoes, which are what most people buy on the market. There isn’t an in-between shoe. Luxury shoes look great, but feel horrible, and orthopedic shoes feel great, but look horrible. I was trying to find a protective type of shoe gear that would be preventative–something that is not on the market.
So, I decided to marry medical innovation and bring it into the footwear industry. It was the toughest, most humbling and educational thing that I have ever done.
Being a doctor, you go through residency and rigorous training, but you know what you’re getting into because you’ve dedicated your life to that. But when you’re a physician, and you decide to launch a brand, and you have no pedigree, business degree, or fashion degree behind you, people are just like, “Oh my gosh, what are you doing and why are you doing this? You don’t need to do this. This is not your niche.”
I had a lot of pushback, especially from the Italian manufacturers. They didn’t want to listen to what I had to offer. It was really hard for me to break into talks with them to hear my idea. So it’s been an incredible journey.
Wow, that’s really crazy to hear because you would think that most people would be really excited and receptive of something that could actually solve a real problem and need.
Yeah, I thought so too. I had a really clear picture in my mind to be honest. I was like, “Okay, the product-market fit is perfect. There’s a product and there is a need, so it fits. There’s a founder-product fit. I’m a founder, who is a doctor, who can make a product and shoe gear, who knows the most about feet anybody will know because I practice it. I’m going to develop this product, then I’m going to give it to the VCs, they’re going to take it, and it’s going to be over.”
That’s how simple, naive and innocent my brain was. It was just so mind-boggling to me because that’s not how it works at all in the real world. Honestly, if I had known what it takes to do something like this before I did it, I probably wouldn’t have taken the risk.
There’s something to be said about not knowing until you know. That allows you to take a leap and not be so afraid because I didn’t even know that there could be any fear. I just took a bet on myself. I told my husband one night, “I think I want to do this, what do you think?” He’s like, “Yeah, sure, go ahead and do it.” It was such an easy conversation. I didn’t think there was anything behind it.
“There’s something to be said about not knowing until you know. That allows you to take a leap and not be so afraid because I didn’t even know that there could be any fear.”
When I started talking to the manufacturing companies in Italy, because I wanted to develop it where they did it the best, they laughed. They were like, “Women wear heels because they’re painful, and they know it. We still sell Louboutins, why would we want to make a line that’s actually good for your feet? There’s just no need.” Plus, they were like, “Women don’t believe in having comfort in heels. It’s the holy grail, and nobody can find it.”
That’s when I figured, Wow, this task is much more daunting because there is no actual category. There’s just the category of high heels and then there’s the category of orthopedic shoes. There’s nothing in between.
This is where E’MAR is. The mission was to solve a problem so that women could have a solution to painful footwear, and then also empower them so that they could look and feel like they wanted to without hurting themselves, so that I, the surgeon, won’t have to do surgery on them in the long-term. Or I could mitigate the damages as much as possible.
But it was the hardest thing to convince, and it still is because these are not therapeutic shoes. They’re preventative shoes. So, how do you describe an industry which doesn’t really exist right now?
“I was always used to being the underdog. Nobody would ever bet on me, so I had nothing to lose.”
Being a woman of color, and without a pedigree in fashion or business, it’s very hard for people to accept that somebody with nothing behind her name could get somewhere.
I was used to that. I was always used to being the underdog. Nobody would ever bet on me, so I had nothing to lose. And it was okay because if you don’t have anything to lose, what’s the harm?
Either at the end of the day, you’ll be really successful doing something great or you’ll have a story to tell your grandkids. They’ll have a blast hearing that their grandma tried to do something revolutionary, and it didn’t work, but she had a blast doing it. So that’s how I took it, and I just went with it.
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How did you end up getting past that and bringing it to what it is now?
Once I decided that this is what I am going to do, I had to start from scratch. It’s just like, you don’t know what you don’t know. First, I had to figure out, how do you build a shoe line? I started Googling it. Then, I started to talk to everybody and anybody who would talk to me.
I would call companies and CEOs. That is very difficult because people don’t want to put themselves out there. They’re just very scared. “I have to cold call people, what if I get rejected?” So what if you get rejected? What’s the worst that can happen? They said, “No?” Your ego doesn’t have to be that strong or big that you can’t handle rejection. I would be like, “Okay fine, you rejected me. No worries, next one.”
I literally did a Rolodex of every CEO that made a company or brand that I was inspired by, and would be the same target market of the people that I wanted to reach out to. I started asking them, “How did you build this? What was your inspiration? How did you find your manufacturer? What were some of the pitfalls that I should know about?”
I was very lucky that I had some really great conversations with the CEO of Birdies, the San Francisco-based startup. I had the opportunity to talk to Tamra Mellon from Jimmy Choos and her own bespoke line of shoes which are named after her.
I asked questions to other companies like Senreve’s CEO. It’s not to name drop, it’s just that you feel like these people are iconic and out of reach like you can’t talk to them. But you can. You just have to try.
There were a lot of times I would talk to VCs, and they would say things to me which I didn’t have answers for, and I would feel dumb. I would be like, “I don’t know what a CAC is.” They would use these terms to have some power over me.
I would come home really upset and discouraged. I would tell my husband, “I don’t understand these words.” And he’s like, “CAC means Customer Acquisition Cost.” And I was like, “Well, why would they use that with me? They know that I don’t have a business background. I don’t know what the word is and I don’t know what these marketing terms mean.”
My husband was like, “Listen, they’re just doing it to get under your skin. But the fact of the matter is, if you’re a physician and you tell somebody that you’re gonna do a PRP injection, do they know what a PRP is? No, you have to explain it to them, so you shouldn’t get lost in the nuances of the word. Stay focused on what your brand is and what you’re trying to accomplish.”
“I really had to empower myself, be my own cheerleader every single day, and be like, “Najwa, you can do this.” Sometimes, it’s hard. It’s hard to empower yourself.”
That really changed my mindset. I was like, “Nobody is going to make me feel dumb.” I was hesitant to ask, “I don’t understand, can you repeat it?” because I thought that they would think I’m dumb, but I’m not. I’m extremely educated.
I really had to empower myself, be my own cheerleader every single day, and be like, “Najwa, you can do this.” Sometimes, it’s hard. It’s hard to empower yourself.
One day, I just looked at my son because he was trying to write his book. He was really struggling, but he was empowering himself. I was like, “I need to set a model for my kids so they know that nobody can tell them they are not worth the dream that they have.” That’s how it ended up working and that’s where we went. And now, Alhamdulillah, we are where we are.
Oh, wow, Mashallah you are so strong for empowering yourself to get through that. You didn’t just give up. You had a dream and a vision, and no matter who was doubting you, you were adamant about making it happen. And you did despite all the odds. Not a lot of people can do that. How long did it take you to come up with the science behind the sole and what was that process like?
That was a really interesting journey. Orthotics are second nature to a podiatrist. We make a lot of them. I have 10,000 casts that we’ve done in the last 10 years.
It’s like when you go to the dentist and they make molds of your teeth. This is something that you do routinely. So I had a lot of aggregated data. I think I mentioned that I have a Master’s in clinical research and biostatistics, so I can work with numbers really well.
I started to do a lot of data aggregation trying to figure out like, “This is a standard woman’s size seven shoe, a three-inch heel, and this is the mold of a patient’s foot, how am I going to make an orthotic to fit in the shoe?
That’s all I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking about a brand. I was just thinking about this insole. I started to do prototypes and testing so that I could help my patients purchase them. I finally figured out that you can’t customize them. It has to be standardized in some fashion or form.
The best way I can describe it is like a bra. You could have a different cup size, like a 34B, 34C, or whatever, but the bras are always standardized. You go to the store, and you can pick something up and know that this is your size, this is your shape, and this is what you can wear, right? So I had to really standardize this prototype.
We had four prototypes that were developed by a lab that I work with really closely, and then we sent these insoles to Italy. I told Italy that I want them to build a shoe around the insole. They were like, “No, we don’t do that. We build the shoe, and then you put the insole in.” I said “No, this has to be developed from the inside out.”
One of our first hashtags at E’MAR was, “Perfect from the inside out.” Most shoes are built with the design from the outside. You see the shoe, it looks cute from the outside, you put your foot in to see if it’s comfortable or not, and then you buy it. But we wanted to build it from the inside out.
It was really interesting–the project, the way that we did it, and the communication back and forth to Italy. The only reason why we were even able to get this manufacturing company was because of the fact that the CEO came and met me in San Francisco.
“That’s how we got a fighting chance because a woman was like, ‘No, you really have to try her out.'”
He had an ankle fracture that was repaired, so he knew about foot and ankle trauma and how it could limit you. His girlfriend at that time who came with him was walking around the San Francisco streets in these little Zara heels, and her feet were killing her. She was like, “Oh my God, you have to take this doctor up on her technology and just see if it’s even possible.”
That’s how we got a fighting chance because a woman was like, “No, you really have to try her out.” We were able to get some prototypes built out from them. Once they sent out those prototypes, we were able to test them in office with radiographs.
We would x-ray patients’ feet and ask, “Would you like to try these heels and tell us how they feel?” Then, we would take those radiographs and modify where we needed to: the toe boxes, the slopes, whatever. We would send it back to Italy with the data that we had collected, and then they would hone it until we had the perfect shape for what we were looking for.
Thats super interesting. Is there a certain formula for comfort as far as what the foot needs that you guys base it on?
Yeah, the whole technology for every single shoe is specified for each user. Every single shoe, like if it’s a two-inch heel, versus a three-inch heel, all of that technology is different for each shoe and each style.
So the investment was huge because you can’t use one orthotic or inlay in every style. It has to be specified for each style and design. It has to balance the foot from the back of the heel to the front so that it distributes pressure through the whole sole, instead of just at the ball of the foot or the leg.
Every time we come up with a new style, we have to do the same thing. It takes about two years to build every single style that you see. It’s a lot of investment, it’s a lot of time to make sure that it’s perfected. A lot of testing has to be done so that we can make sure that each one is optimized for ideal pressure control.
What are some of the styles that you have currently?
Our signature style is called Aiden, which is named after my son who inspired me to build this. It’s our classic take on an iconic black pump. It has a dual-layered upper, which is a suede and leather combination, and it has an elongated toe box. It helps to hold your foot in place so that your foot doesn’t slide. There’s no toe cleavage and it has a three-inch heel.
Then, the second shoe that we built is called the Raya, which is named after my daughter. It’s a peep toe, has an ankle strap, and an orthotic built into it. It’s super sassy, very specific to the sassiness that a woman sometimes needs to get through the day.
“Each design has a lot of meaning to me and it represents the child that I’m trying to empower.”
The next design we came up with is the Meraki. The Meraki is a terminology used for an intersection of science and art. It was a fitting name for this specific shoe because it’s very beautiful. It’s double air, so most people use it for weddings. It’s just a very fantastic shoe.
All of the shoes that have been developed afterwards, like the Nayel boots or the ARI pumps, they’re all named after my nephews, nieces and my children. Each design has a lot of meaning to me and it represents the child that I’m trying to empower.
There’s nothing in my brand that doesn’t actually stand for something or have a story behind it. Even our Everyday Flats, they were named that because sometimes a woman just needs an everyday shoe to just do everyday things.
That’s beautiful. It’s so special that you’re bringing out the personality of the child into the personality of the shoe. So you must be really involved in making sure that the shoe fits what it’s supposed to represent.
Yeah, what the shoe looks like and what I envision that to be. We had over 180 sketches done for the Aiden, and the same thing for the Raya. Every single design goes through so many iterations until I find the perfect heel and the perfect strap. We have a customized buckle which is a double circle, and it stands for an endless circle of life.
Even the bottom of our shoe has an anti-slip layer which is the same emblem of the E’MAR logo that’s embedded in there, and it’s just so beautiful.
It looks like artwork on the bottom of the shoe, so a woman never has to feel like, if the bottom is showing, that it looks anything but gorgeous. I want her to wear something that makes her feel uplifted, stylish, and happy.
Your shoes are very elegant and beautiful, and I’m sure that any woman wearing them feels the same. How important is it to have proper shoes for your foot type and what kind of problems could arise from not wearing the right shoes?
It’s just like anything in life. We need to understand our body to make health and wellness be at the core of it. Sometimes we just can’t and we don’t. But, there’s a huge shift right now in this new generation. We’re all about preserving our mental, physical, and emotional health.
This is the best time, out of all the times it could have been, that we’re actually promoting foot health for women and men. If you don’t wear the proper type of shoe, what ends up mostly happening is that you have pain. People will tolerate a lot of it until they can’t anymore. Most patients won’t come in for foot pain, leg pain, or back pain until it’s so bad.
I always tell patients, “It’s like going to the dentist or to the optometrist.” You have a need: You have to get your mouth cleaned; you have to make sure that your oral health is good; you have to make sure that your vision is good. So you go in, get checked, and make sure that whatever you need to do, you do it. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss, wear your contacts, and wear your glasses.
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But when it comes to feet, nobody wants to do anything about them. My job is to teach patients to make sure that they prevent themselves from having injury. If I guide you to wear the type of shoe you want and you feel great in it, you’re going to wear it.
Because the field of orthopedics was so heavily male-driven, a lot of women wouldn’t want to go because every time they would go, the doctors would just tell them, “You can’t wear this. You have to wear a tennis shoe.”
They would feel like they couldn’t feel good about themselves. This whole generation of women stopped going to the podiatrist. I think it’s coming back now though, and people are much more in tune with their health.
My job is to make sure that you have a really good sole, that the shoes are not too flexible, has some good arch support inside of it, and is not a complete ballet flat, but has a little bit of heel counter to protect your achilles and your back.
Honestly, if people could just do that, and make sure that they stretch twice a day for two minutes, they’re going have really good lower extremity health. That’s what is going to keep you walking when you’re 60, 70, and 80.
A lot of times we just think, beauty is pain, and it looks good so we’re just going to fight through it. But it’s really important to know the long term consequences of doing that continuously, so thank you for sharing that. Congratulations on being sold exclusively at Nordstrom! Can you share more about that?
Oh my gosh, thank you so much. First and foremost, I was so humbled to be able to launch at Nordstrom. It was a dream that I had from the inception of the brand.
People always ask me, “Why Nordstrom?” Coming from an immigrant family, it was a big deal to buy something from Nordstrom. Even as a med student, I would go and be broke, and they would still treat me really well, regardless if I bought $30 jeans or $300 jeans.
Their customer service is fantastic and their brand model was something that really resonated with E’MAR. I felt like they would be the right brand partner for me.
“I don’t know if it’s my my parents’ resiliency that is in my blood, where people can tell me ‘No’ all they want, but I won’t give up. I was like, “Alright, they said, ‘No,’ that’s fine. I’m still gonna do it.”
I sent them an email when we launched in 2020, so right during the pandemic, on January 1, 2020. On March 16, the whole world shut down. It was really traumatic because I had all these years of preparation, then we’re launching and there’s so much hype, and the whole world shuts down. Nordstrom sends me back, “Women are no longer wearing heels, so we’re not interested.” It was really a blow.
I don’t know if it’s my my parents’ resiliency that is in my blood, where people can tell me “No” all they want, but I won’t give up. I was like, “Alright, they said, ‘No,’ that’s fine. I’m still going do it.” So I continued to be engaged with them.
I was like, “I think it’s really important that, even though women might not be wearing heels right now, that you just try the shoe out.” So, I sent them a sample and they were like, “It’s really great, but sorry, we’re not going to carry you. You need to have a diversified portfolio. We just don’t want to do heels.”
So then, I invested in making the Everyday Flat, and I went back to them and said, “Hey, this is what you guys wanted, and I did it.” They were like, “Okay, we’ll give you a try.” I was like, “That’s all I need. Just give me one chance and let’s see what your consumers think about it.” They gave me an initial three-month onboarding.
When we finally launched, Nordstrom had a really good response to our shoe line. They were so surprised we were actually selling our heels, not our flats, with them. They decided to keep us on board, so we’re no longer trial for them.
It’s the craziest story and it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done. But the only reason I even made it was because I just would not take ‘no’ for an answer. I couldn’t see them saying ‘no’ to me when I knew what I had would be so good for them.
“I will go anywhere and do anything that I believe in, and nobody can tell me otherwise. It’s because I know that what I’m doing is with the power of God in my heart.”
That’s amazing, kudos to you for pushing through that, and for working hard for what you wanted. You really believed in yourself and made them believe in you as well.
The thing is, it’s really true. Nobody can be your brand ambassador other than you. There’s nobody who’s going to have that passion other than you. If you cannot make that passion shine through, then it’s just not going to work.
I don’t feel comfortable being confrontational or being up in everybody’s face and being aggressive, but I will assert where I do feel like what I’m doing is right. That goes for every facet of my life.
I will go to a rally for Palestinian rights, for student rights, for Black Lives Matter. I will go anywhere and do anything that I believe in, and nobody can tell me otherwise. It’s because I know that what I’m doing is with the power of God in my heart. It’s going where I know I need to go.
Yeah, that’s so true and your determination is really proof of that, especially with how far you’ve been able to come. You will never know what the possibilities are until you try. There is a highlight on your Instagram dedicated to Christian Louboutin. Is that the main inspiration for your line?
The funny thing is, every single woman at some point in her life has been like, “I want some red bottoms.” When I first got my paycheck, the first thing I did is I bought these shoes, and they were so painful. They sat in my closet, and I thought I had broken my toe. I was just like, “I can’t imagine women actually idolizing these shoes.” It became so crazy to me that people love these shoes.
The man who designed them, his main quotes are, “Women will be in pain and you will sacrifice yourself so that you can attain beauty.” It was ridiculous to me. I was just like, “That man doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about.” He didn’t have any clue. He’s here trying to tell me how I want to feel in heels?
No, that’s not how I want to feel in heels. I want to look beautiful and I want to feel beautiful, not just look it. So many women would come to me and be like, “I want these red bottoms, and I can’t wear them, or I own them and I spent $8,000 on them.”
He became the villain of my shoe line. I’m the hero. I’m going to come save you. The fact of the matter was, people love Loubuitons, but they can’t wear them. It just boggles my mind.
The inspiration was if I could find a Loubuiton that you could wear, and wear it with some level of comfort, I’m going to try to help you do that because I want women to be able to wear whatever they want. So, I’m going to make a highlight so that you can actually have some options if you want to wear them, even though it’s very hard to find options.
Then I was like, “I’m going to build you a line that’s going to make you look just as beautiful and feel good. Let’s see if you can give us a try, too.” That was the whole idea behind it. It was just to help people find what they want to find, even though the whole brand’s concept is pain.
It’s not surprising that it’s a man behind it who thinks he knows what a woman wants better than herself! I think it’s great you are giving women other options where they can both feel and look good at the same time. I also noticed on your brand’s Instagram that there is a medical highlight showing the different places you have operated in. What was it like treating some of these patients, especially those who had never seen a physician before?
It’s a moral duty to be able to give back in whatever facet we can. That can be through money, help, resources, or just even through prayer, which is the biggest thing that you could do for somebody.
Because I have the ability to treat people medically, I have gone to multiple medical missions over the years. With the chaos of Silicon Valley in the startup world and startup life, it’s my way of disengaging from that and going back to the basics of being human, and being able to provide services where these people have basically nothing.
It is so humbling to be able to do something like that, and to be able to recenter your soul. The next time you complain about something, just remember the blessings God has bestowed on you.
I really want my kids to know that, if God gave you something, and you have the ability to give back–whatever it is–you are so blessed.
My son is an author, and one of the things I asked him when he started doing this was, “What do you want to do with the proceeds?” He said, “I want to give half of it to charity.” The charity that he was really passionate about is Feeding America.
It was so empowering to see how this small thing that I do has helped him understand that if you’re in the power of giving and not receiving, you should give.
I love that so much. It’s so important to have a greater purpose in the work that we do, and it’s so inspiring that your son, at such a young age, is feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders, and wants to help in any way he can. You are truly an amazing role model for your children! How do you balance being a surgeon, a business owner/founder, a mother and wife, among other things?
I’m so glad that you asked me this question because like a lot of other women who are building companies, who are involved in multiple things, they’re always feeling like there’s a million tasks that they need to get done in a day, and they’re barely making through the 24 hours that they have.
I have been there for the last two decades of my life where I was constantly trying to be a surgeon, daughter, wife, daughter in-law, and then a mother, and there’s so much that goes into being a female and having responsibilities. I was always trying to attain this work-life balance.
“I had an epiphany that there is no such thing as work-life balance. It is building the best life that you can, at that moment in time.”
Then, one day, I had an epiphany that there is no such thing as work-life balance. It is building the best life that you can, at that moment in time. When your children are little, your season of life is different than when your children are older. Their needs are different.
When you’re newly married, your season of life is different than when you’ve been married for 20 years. When you have aging parents versus elderly parents– there’s just so much change that you go through.
My mindset has changed a lot over the last decade, and what I believe is, being able to have micro-milestones is key. I can’t tell you what I’m going to be doing in five years. That’s a very hard thing for me to tell people. Somebody else may want to plan their whole life out, that’s really important for them. But for me, it’s not.
My importance lies in being able to successfully get through the day in the tasks that I have within that month. Also, what I want to do for that year. That’s it, that’s all I have.
Last year, my goal was to launch at Nordstrom. I had micro-mini steps that I ended up utilizing, as far as being an owner of a medical practice. I tell my team that, I could be the owner of it, but they are my brand identity. If I can’t keep them happy, then my brand is not going to fly.
We do a lot of team building. I talk a lot, I’m very approachable. We’re an all-female run clinic. It’s very hard to be all-female, and still keep everybody there for years. We’ve had one staff member who’s been there for 18 years. We have another staff member who has been there for more than that. I just want to make sure that everybody knows that I value them.
As a surgeon, I value my patients a lot. I listen to them. I’m really passionate about making sure that I don’t just send a treatment protocol that I think is right without understanding what their needs are. I think that makes a difference when a female surgeon sits and listens to what your end goal is. I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to try to get you there the best way I can.”
I do that with my children like, “Okay kids, I know this is what your end goal is, and mommy is going to help you get there. We’re going to work on it together. I am an open and safe space for you to tell whatever you want.” I will have them talk to me.
It’s really important because if you don’t, you get lost in the minutiae of the transactional homework, the activities, the extracurricular things, and life goes by, and you haven’t built a relationship. Everything that I do is about building relationships, be that with my business, my office, my patients, or with my husband and children, so they know that I’m invested in them.
Maybe it‘s the duas they give me, maybe it’s the blessings that I get, or maybe it’s the positivity that I throw out there that the universe sends back to me multifold, and I’m very thankful for that.
I keep my family as my number one priority. They always have been and they always will be. I’m very close to my family. I always tell them that everything is secondary to them because they are such an integral part of me. We have so much peace in the house that, Alhamdulillah, everything else seems to find easy, open accesses. There’s not a lot of chaos, and that’s very helpful for me in my life.
That’s a really great perspective to look at it from because I have been trying to find a work-life balance, and it is so hard. So that is really helpful to hear. What advice do you have for both young aspiring female entrepreneurs and aspiring female surgeons?
I think that the best advice I could give you is, never let anybody tell you “No,” whatever you want to do, and however you want to do it. Even sometimes, your closest people– your parents, siblings, or husband– they could tell you no, but if you really believe that you have something that is so integral in your heart, and you want to make that a reality for yourself, make sure you give it your best.
At the end of the day, either you’re going to have a great story to tell or it’s going to end up being fantastic. Don’t be afraid of taking that risk. Don’t have that fear of failing because it’s okay to fail. Nobody was born succeeding out of the womb. It’s okay to have failures because that allows you to grow.
“At the end of the day, either you’re going to have a great story to tell or it’s going to end up being fantastic. Don’t be afraid of taking that risk.”
If you’re a woman of color, most of the time you’re going to be underestimated anyways, and that’s great! Nobody is going to have any expectation of you. They’re just going to be like, “Whatever, you’re not going to be able to do it.”
Then, when you do it, that’s your biggest advantage because you’re only competing with yourself. And you should seize the moment and seize the day.
I get a lot of women calling me like, “I just don’t think I can do it,” and I tell them that, “If you change that mantra, and send it out to the universe: ‘I can do it. I can do it,’ you will do it.”
To learn more about Dr. Najwa Javed and her luxury footwear brand, E’MAR, be sure to follow both pages on Instagram, @dr.najwajaved and @Emaritaly. You can also follow her on Facebook as @OfficiallyinHeels or as @Emaritaly, on Tiktok, as well as on LinkedIn as Najwa Javed DPM, MPH and E’MAR Italy
What are your thoughts on Dr. Javed’s inspirational journey? Could you relate to her experience at all? Let us know in the comments below!