How Freda Salvador Is Building Business With Celebrity Hits & Bold Collaborations

Design duo Cristina Palomo-Nelson and Megan Papay launched their Sausalito, Calif.-based brand Freda Salvador in fall ’12 with a selection of handmade looks crafted by a small factory in Spain.

After seeing some success with fashion retailers such as Shopbop.com and Bloomingdale’s, the team is now putting a larger focus on a direct-to-consumer strategy. In addition to an e-commerce business, the brand has had a flagship in San Francisco since 2012 and last year launched a second store, in Los Angeles, known as The Edit.

Freda Salvador Brand Updates
Freda Salvador Keen mule.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

“Our women are interested in the everyday shoe, shoes that they can wear to work and all the way into the night,” said Papay. “We appreciate hearing about that experience, and in the end that changed our focus from wholesale and created a new story of hand-selecting product in stores.”

Creative collaborations also are a priority. The brand partnered with San Francisco-based painter Claire Rojas last summer and launched its second collaboration with jewelry and accessories designer Anndra Neen in November. The Anndra Neen styles retail for $365 and $545, while the core product ranges from $350 to $595.

Freda Salvador Brand Updates
Freda Salvador oxford.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

Papay noted that Freda Salvador has become more experimental with design over the years. “After our more playful, casual option.” Popular styles for the brand include platform and d’Orsay oxfords, ankle boots and backless mules.

Specifically, the label’s Keen Mule has become a hit with the celebrity set, including Gigi Hadid, Taylor Swift and Jennifer Lawrence. “We can’t keep the style in stock,” said Palomo-Nelson. “Sales have definitely peaked, and we’re excited to see that [Hadid in particular] loves the brand so much.”

Gigi Hadid in Freda Salvador Mules
Gigi Hadid in Freda Salvador during Milan Fashion Week.
CREDIT: Splash News.

The steady expansion brought some obstacles along the way, too.

“We’ve had some challenges with the growing pains of switching from wholesale to direct-to-consumer and buying enough product to support the growth,” said Palomo-Nelson. “We’re figuring out the balance. Wholesale is still important to us; Shopbop.com has been an amazing partner all along.”

Looking ahead, the duo is targeting a couple of key growth prospects. “We want to expand our product selection, most likely with handbags first, and also experiment with pop-up shops,” said Papay.

Kristen Stewart Cannes Film Festival
Kristen Stewart stepped out in Freda Salvador’s studded laceless oxfords.
CREDIT: Splash.

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