Papay and Palomo-Nelson founded Freda Salvador in 2011 and interestingly decided to base the company not in fashion-saturated New York or the runner-up American style capital, Los Angeles — but rather in San Francisco, a place better known for tech startups and North Face. Previously, Papay sampled different parts of the fashion industry in New York: the celebrity services department at Calvin Klein, fashion and beauty public relations, and her own accessories line. Her husband's job brought her out to San Francisco and she joined the design team at a shoe company, Anyi Lu, and met her future business partner, whose family has been in the shoe business for more than 65 years. Shoemaking "was always in my blood," said Palomo-Nelson, who holds a masters in fine art from the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and who also trained at Italian shoe design school, Ars Sutoria (Sarah Flint's alma mater).
Papay and Palomo-Nelson, who are so in sync they tend to finish each others' sentences, decided to name their brand Freda Salvador to "resonate alifestyle." The "Freda" comes from the duo's admiration of feminist artist Frida Kahlo. "We love her badass-ness," says Palomo-Nelson, whose family business is based in El Salvador — hence, "Salvador."