When Dolly Singh first met Elon Musk, it was 2007, and SpaceX had already seen its share of rocket launch failures.
Singh had spent the past six years as a recruiter in southern California, matching those who could build rockets with the companies who wanted to enter the next frontier. Then there was Musk, who to the aerospace community was the software guy from Silicon Valley, and he wanted Singh to come work for him and give up her own independent business and clients.
She knew his résumé, but she also knew rockets were hard.
Musk drew her two lines, Singh said, reenacting it for Business Insider on a Starbucks table in San Francisco seven years later.
One line slanted up, showing the acceleration of Silicon Valley, "better, faster, cheaper." The famous Moore's law. The other line was flat. The U.S. rocket industry, Musk told Singh, pretty much hadn't moved over the last 50 years.
Singh says Musk told her: "It's not a leap of faith to say that you can take these technologies and pull this laggard industry into the 21st industry."
Singh took the leap of faith, and spent the next five and a half years touring candidates through the SpaceX campus and watching Musk try to pull the rocket industry forward.
After years of walking around the hard factory floors, Singh realized there was a different industry that needed to be pulled forward, whose line had likewise remained stagnant.
For Musk, it may have been rockets. For Singh, it was the high heel.
"To me, when you’re surrounded by some of the smartest people on the planet, building some of the biggest and most badass machines on this world, the idea that my shoes are such crap became really obnoxiously unbearable, " Singh said.
Why you need an astronaut and a rocket scientist to design high heels
Singh had been thinking about her high heel problem for about a year and a half before she approached some of her friends at SpaceX, former astronaut Garrett Reisman and rocket scientist Hans Koenigsmann.
Instead of asking for help with high heels, she approached them with an engineering problem: how would they redesign a chassis to support a human's weight and range of motion?
Dolly Singh, founder and CEO of Thesis CoutureThey took a cue from Musk and broke the problem down to the fundamental laws of physics acting on high heels, or chassis depending on your approach. When it comes to high heels, there's three: how the shoe distributes weight, what happens when it hits the ground and the friction between your foot and the shoe.
Those are the only design constraints, Singh said. The basic shape of the high heel and its materials — a metal plate, a metal shank and compressed cardboard — haven't changed in many years.