Freda Salvador's Founders Talk Gigi Hadid, Must-Have Travel Shoes, and Making It Big

Freda Salvador
Freda Salvador

Freda Salvador went from being a San Francisco-based boutique shoe label to a household name before the brand even held its first sample sale. Now, the brand is synonymous with a cool, boho-esque aesthetic sought after by celebs like Gigi Hadid, Emma Roberts, and Kristen Stewart and any fashion-loving girl from the East to West Coast who's looking for wearable, chic shoes that don't look like something everyone else already has.

So just how did the founders become the designers behind shoes beloved by both millennials and icons like Courtney Love? We got an inside peek into life at Freda straight from cofounders Cristina Palomo-Nelson and Megan Papay, who, even after seasons of success, sold-out shoes, and a roster of Hollywood fans, light up when they talk about their favorite styles and the moment they realized they had kind of made it.

Read on for their take on the brand's booming business and the styles every Freda girl should know about.

POPSUGAR: Freda Salvador has really blown up. What was the moment when you were like, "Oh my god, we're a thing?!"
Megan Papay: The first sample sale was hysterical.
Cristina Palomo-Nelson: We undershot that idea.

MP: At that store, we were like, "Oh, we’ll just have, like, some of our past season samples," and were like, "Starts at 6!" And we locked the door and were setting up, and there was a line around the whole block. We were expecting, like, maybe 40 people. It was crazy.

CPN: I think we sold out in, like, 11 minutes or something crazy.

MP: Yeah, it was nuts. Super exciting. We weren't prepared for it.

PS: That's amazing. Do you keep track of the celebrities who wear your stuff, or do you know? Or do you have, like, moments when you're like, "Oh my gosh!"

CPN: Yeah, I mean, there's been a lot that we've been thankful to see, but I think the biggest one has been Gigi Hadid. She wore our Keen mule in, I think, four different Fashion Weeks. Like, New York, Milan, Paris, London, back-to-back, so it was kind of cool because all eyes were on her at the moment.

MP: You could not pay for that. There is no price on her walking around in your shoes during Fashion Week.

PS: Is there a style you find that now you can't keep in stock? Your bestselling shoe?

CPN: Our bestseller would for sure be this style [points to Keen mules], whether it's, like, the white or the black: the mule. I think our first one that really put us on the map, I would say, like, the d'Orsay-shaped loafer.

MP: We're definitely a loafer/flat brand.

PS: What's your ideal travel shoe? What style are you wearing when you're traveling?

MP: Any loafers, honestly; you can get in and out so quickly.

CPN: Also, like, house slippers — easy, too.

MP: I've been wearing these [points to True mid-heel boot in gold]. They're so easy. Once you get past the fact that they're shiny gold, they're kind of a neutral, right? It's like, people need to get over leopard print . . . it's basically a neutral.

PS: You guys do boots so well, too. Now that Western's having a moment, you guys have already been doing the aesthetic for a while, like this is your . . .
MP: Kind of; our space. We're even going further into the Western and making it more obvious. We're doing low-ankle booties that are really cute, like mixed-snake [print] across.
PS: So, who are you designing for? What kind of motivates your design process each season?
CPN: Well, it always ties back to us. It's what we want to be wearing and what we feel like we need in our closets. But we travel so much. And I feel like it's funny: if you were to see us on the street, we walk with our head down; we're kind of scoping what everyone's wearing. And a lot of that is menswear or, especially in Europe, men's footwear. In Europe, especially, people are a little bit more functional in how they dress so, like, mixing more classic silhouettes with more modern.

PS: What are the differences between your customers' styles in SF and NYC, and do you think about the differences between West Coast and East Coast when you're designing?

CPN: [New York is] clean, edgy, modern.

MP: Here there's a little bit more ease and bohemian [feel], and just effortless.

CPN: I feel like the prints do really well here [in SF]. People are really looking for something that's going to make them stand out so, like, a printed-snake or a red croc. NY is much more solid or black or graphic.

PS: What's next for you guys?
CPN: Collaborations, for sure. We [launched] one in June with Sarah Swell, who's a Sausalito-based jewelry designer, and she did a brass anklet for that [loafer]. And, like, a halo effect . . . kind of brass halo loafer. In our LA store, Dylan Lex, the jewelry designer, is going to do a little pop-in; really cool.