You’ve been there before (I know I have) : your jeans are fitting a bit too tightly, and that dress is a bit tighter and more restrictive than it used to be…
The feeling of not quite feeling comfortable in your clothes.
Whether it’s because of a few extra pounds gained after neglecting the gym for a couple of months, bloating from PMS, or a million other reasons that make you wish you could, instead, wear your pajamas, feeling like your clothes don’t fit makes it hard to face the day.
We want to feel good in what we’re wearing and confident in how we look, even though our sizes may fluctuate.
Hanna Baror-Padilla, creator and founder of new California based fashion brand Sotela, noticed the market was lacking options for clothing pieces that would enable women to have something that always fits, and looked beautiful, too. The pieces from her collection are all eco-friendly and offer women the versatility of always fitting and looking great, even if and when their body changes.
Hanna recently launched, and successfully funded, Sotela’s Kickstarter campaign and I caught up with her to learn more about her brand.
First, tell me a bit about yourself: where you’re from, what you had been doing leading up to your launch of Sotela, what your interests are etc.
I’m from Los Angeles, California and before launching Sotela, I was an urban planner. Crazy, right? I got my masters in urban planning and worked specifically in transportation for almost three years, which entailed reading and writing traffic documents.
Were you always into fashion or is Sotela something that evolved from a need you noticed that wasn’t being fulfilled in the marketplace?
Several months into my job as a transportation planner, I had a gnawing feeling that my new career wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I started a fashion blog to fulfill my creativity and began drawing on the side. I noticed there was a need in the ethical fashion space for clothing that meets the physical realities women face daily, whether they are pregnant, losing weight, or need clothing that don’t have uncomfortable waistbands.
Do you have a background in fashion design? Launching a clothing brand without a design background is pretty inspiring – I’m sure there are a lot of women who have great ideas, but are worried about lack of experience. What advice would you give to someone trying to pursue this path?
No, I do not! I’ve had experience with entrepreneurship, but never in fashion design. When I realized there was a need for dynamic clothing, I spoke with several people in the ethical fashion space including Shannon Whitehead, Factory45’s program director. My main concern was not having enough experience to start a clothing line, but she still encouraged me to move forward with my idea. At first, I was terrified, but Factory45 guided and supported me throughout the process. My advice to anyone who wants to pursue their passions is to start making connections with people in the industry you want to join. They can offer advice and point you in the right direction.
Tell us a bit about your dresses – it’s clear that using eco-friendly fabrics is important to you based on the fabrics you’re using.
Completely! I believe that well designed clothing can be made without compromising the planet. Before deciding on tencel and modal, I had thought about using deadstock fabrics, which is environmentally friendly because it reduces waste in landfills. However, my main concern was that deadstock fabrics are usually made with polyester or nylon, which can be toxic.
The tencel used for the shift and cocoon dresses are made from natural wood fibers that require less water and are produced using a closed loop system that recycles the solvents for future use. The modal used for the jersey swing dress is made from the pulp of renewable beech trees. Beechwood forests are natural and sustainable because they propagate on their own.
What was the design process like? How did you settle on the shapes and silhouettes of the dresses?
When I started designing for Sotela, I knew that I wanted timeless dresses that would look great on most women. I didn’t want to design trendy pieces that may only last in a woman’s closet for a short period of time. The shift, cocoon and jersey swing dresses are versatile, minimal and ridiculously comfortable!
You guys are committed to manufacturing in the USA – why is that important to you and what sorts of challenges do you face in choosing to produce here?
I knew from the very beginning I wanted to produce an ethical fashion company because I don’t believe in valuing profits over people. Manufacturing in the USA is one of Sotela’s core values, which is why we chose a factory in Costa Mesa, California that pays its employees well and maintains a clean and safe working environment. Since we chose a factory that pays its employees well, our dresses are more expensive than what you would find at the mall, which is one of our biggest challenges. It isn’t easy convincing customers they should pay more for quality clothing since they are used to paying practically nothing at big box retailers.
What’s the next step for Sotela?
Since we are fully funded (!!!!), we are going to start production and design next season’s collection. I’ve received many comments from potential customers about producing sizes beyond a woman’s size 12 so I’m hoping to get started on that as well!
Congratulations to Hanna for her successful Kickstarter. Lucky for you, there are a few days left to pre-order a dress from Sotela at the special Kickstarter pricing. Order yours here