Hanna Baror-Padilla: founder of Sotela

I shared my extremely versatile Sotela dress on the blog two days ago, and as promised, I now have the pleasure of introducing the woman behind the brand! Hanna is tackling the fashion industry from an incredibly empowering perspective. She's created a line of dresses that allow women to feel good about themselves no matter how their body fluctuates. Previously an ethical fashion blogger, Hanna has a whole lot of wisdom to share...

Sotela

Can you share a little of your personal background?

Where do I begin!? I live in Los Angeles, California with my husband and two dogs. From a young age, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur.  I watched my parents sell cowboy boots and leather goods at their store in Hollywood while I stood by dusting the counters and talking to customers.

I started getting interested in sustainability while in college. I majored in global studies and loved talking about the intricacies of free trade, globalization and charity. After college, I went straight to graduate school to study urban planning. I thought it would be similar to global studies, but at a local level. Halfway through the program, I realized it wasn’t for me, but I didn’t want to quit. I finished my program in two years and got a full-time job as a transportation planner. I was a transportation planner for almost three years before quitting in May 2016 to launch Sotela.

What gave you the inspiration for Sotela?

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Before launching Sotela, I wrote the ethical fashion blog, Gold Polka Dots. My blog spurred a creativity in me I hadn’t felt before. I started designing and dreaming of my own sustainable clothing line.

In 2015, I had digestive issues that led to inexplicable bloating for 8 months. I couldn't wear the majority of my clothes because they were too tight and uncomfortable. I woke up everyday dreading my morning routine of staring at my closet with nothing to wear. 

That made me think about how often women experience the same frustrated routine of trying to find something that fits. This is why I created Sotela. I believe women should reach into their closets and have multiple pieces that will always fit, and better yet, make her feel beautiful. 

Do you personally shop ethically? 

Yes! I pledged to give up fast fashion over three years ago and it has been life-changing. Not only am I conscious about my clothing, but also what I eat and put on my skin. 

Can you share your strategy behind building an ethical wardrobe?

My number one tip in building an ethical wardrobe is to take a step back and stop shopping. Take a week or even a month off from shopping to identify your style and evaluate your needs from your wants. We often say, “I need these pants,” but do we really need those items or do we just want them? I created this worksheet on my blog that helped me build a more ethical wardrobe.

What's been the most rewarding part of this journey for you?

I was just thinking about this yesterday, but the most rewarding part of my journey has been following my dream. I didn’t really know I had it in me to launch a clothing line until I did it in May with a Kickstarter campaign. Surpassing my Kickstarter goal was the cherry on top! 

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What is one thing you wish more consumers understood about the clothes they buy?

I wish consumers understood the story behind the clothes they buy. There is a person behind each piece of clothing and we need to care about how they were treated and their livelihood. It shouldn’t be okay that we can purchase a shirt for $5, while someone in Bangladesh starves to death. We’ve become so removed from the story that we justify our fast fashion purchases.

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Which Sotela dress is your personal favorite?

Ah, this question gets me every time because it is like choosing a favorite child. I love each dress for different reasons/occasions. However, the most comfortable dress is the Jersey Swing dress.  

Will there be more styles in the future?

Working on it right now! I’m hoping to add two pieces this winter that will be made with textured fabrics. I still don’t know if I want to release new products seasonally, but I do want to keep creating timeless pieces that can be added to our Essentials Collection. 

HAS THERE BEEN A SPECIFIC CHALLENGE FOR YOU IN RUNNING SOTELA? How have you overcome it?

Honestly, there is a new challenge every single day that unfortunately brings fear, insecurities and doubt. I can’t say I’ve overcome it or ever will, but I’m learning to live with it. Reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” has truly helped me recognize fear and seeing it for what it is, a feeling. It can’t physically stop us from doing anything. 

I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom:

 “Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. And fear hates uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.”