Freda Salvador: classics with a twist

Photograph of Freda Salvador, at 2416 Fillmore, by Melissa McArdle

Photograph of Freda Salvador at 2416 Fillmore by Melissa McArdle


Entrepreneurs and shoe designers Megan Papay and Cristina Palomo-Nelson say their lives and designs have been inspired by confident, commanding role models. Perhaps that’s what helped them accomplish the near-impossible recently when relocating their flagship shop from Union Street to 2416 Fillmore: They did it a couple of weeks ahead of schedule.

“We moved from our former store one day — and opened up here the next,” says Papay. “We just decided to do it.”

Their boutique, Freda Salvador — the newest addition to Fillmore Street — offers flats, sandals, boots and heels for women. All feature signature artisan elements including luxurious leathers, studded soles, covered heels and straps that can be converted for different looks. The shop’s exotic moniker is a play on Palomo-Nelson’s roots in El Salvador, where her family ran a shoe-making business for 65 years, and their shared admiration for feisty artist Frida Kahlo.

“We both love her strong sense of being and her boldness,” says Papay, who says she and Palomo-Nelson create their designs for their fictitious woman, Freda Salvador. “She’s just no-nonsense, urban, has a true sense of style. And most of all, she needs a pair of shoes she can put on her feet from 7 in the morning and wear until 11 at night, without thinking about her feet hurting or needing to change.”

The two shoe collaborators met while on the same design team at another footwear company, where they designed four collections together and discovered they had a good synergy. They broke away and launched their first collection in 2012.

Freda Salvador offers footwear in prices ranging from $350 to $625 for women only    at least for now. But the styling often borrows from the masculine, with several versions of oxfords, many adorned with buckles and studs.

“Every season, even when we look at designing sandals for spring, we gravitate toward men’s footwear,” says Papay. “Men aren’t going to wear something crazy on their feet. Their designers have mastered the classics — and women also need a good core shape for a shoe.”

She adds: “But we like to do classics with a twist: some interesting hardware, cut-outs, sometimes unexpected leather combinations.”

In the small operation, with only nine employees in all, the two owners collaborate on designs in their Sausalito office and have the footwear crafted in a family-owned factory in Spain. While Fillmore is their only brick and mortar store, they do a considerable online business and their designs have been offered by small and large retailers, including Sak’s Fifth Avenue.

The shop, previously occupied by HeidiSays Casual, was repurposed with some typical modern elements: reclaimed wood, concrete flooring and steel furniture. But the place is warmed by decidedly atypical weird and wonderful accoutrements: wooden shoe and boot forms, an old globe, bare-bulbed signs, well-worn throw rugs, various forms of Kahlo-iana and an oversized ottoman for seating, with a Nespresso machine within reach.

“We wanted something warm and welcoming — a place where girlfriends can come in and hang out for a while,” says Papay. “It was important to us to have a homey feel.”

In addition to delivering three times more foot traffic than the large Union Street location, which doubled as a design studio and was on the second floor rather than street level, the new store offers other advantages.

“Fillmore has always been our favorite street to shop and eat,” says Papay. “It’s definitely our girls walking around here. It just feels like our neighborhood.”