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The Sole Searcher
For some, the smell of mom’s home cooking sparks an onslaught of nostalgic emotions, but for Cristina Palomo Nelson, 28, codesigner of cult-followed label Frēda Salvador, it’s leather hides and freshly produced shoes. Coming from a long lineage of shoemakers (her grandfather and father taught her the ropes), it’s almost like this pedi profession was in the cards for the El Salvador-born beauty.

Equipped with oodles of passion, a penchant for quality craftsmanship, and years of industry intel, it comes as no surprise she’s got San Franciscans chomping at the bit, vying for the brand’s streamlined booties and loafers. And, while Frēda Salvador’s local presence has been burgeoning at an unstoppable rate, the shoe designer is generating national buzz as well — WWD recently dubbed the brand “one to watch,” and it can be scooped up everywhere from Shopbop to Saks Fifth Avenue. We’d walk a mile in this lady’s (adorable) shoes, any day!

Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“I am loving every minute of where my life is right now. I recently got married and am living in one of the best cities in the world. Starting a business has been incredible. Megan Papay and I founded Frēda Salvador in August of 2011. We are starting to design FW14 and are looking forward to expanding our distribution. We have our own online store as well and recently opened our first storefront.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“My career goals are focused on growing Frēda Salvador into Frēda Nation. I really want the brand to be a household name! I’d love to do more community and local outreach as well and collaborate with talented artists, designers, chefs, and winemakers — continuing to do new inspiring things with new inspiring people.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
“Exactly what I am doing. I was born into a shoemaking family. My grandfather was a shoemaker and my father followed in his footsteps. This career path was inevitable for me. I feel very fortunate to have met my business partner Megan and have our visions aligned.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“We recently had our first-ever sample sale, and we had no expectations. We’ve been really lucky and have developed a strong following here in San Francisco, but we could have never imagined the turnout would be so great! People were lining up outside waiting for the doors to open; we sold out of all 200 pairs in 36 minutes.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“My father taught me to never just assume things are getting done. If you want them done right, you have to be present. He’s worked in the shoe industry for over 30 years, and there are so many factors that you rely upon to deliver the final product. So many things could go wrong. And, really, at the end of the day, the only ones really impacted are the brand owners, since we are the ones having to face our retailers and customers.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“I have an amazing husband and family, I live in one of the coolest cities in the world, and I am doing exactly what I want to be doing career-wise, so no one. Now, if the question was, if you could trade lives with anyone, just for a day, I would say Frida Kahlo. She is a big inspiration to me.”

A perfect day in San Francisco always includes these three things...
“An afternoon at the park, beers and oysters with friends, and a sushi dinner date with my husband.”

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans