A note from Chelsea:

After watching The True Cost documentary a few months ago, I’ve been actively seeking out ethical, sustainable clothing brands (and feeling mighty guilty about any purchases made at ZARA). So when I stumbled upon Sotela, a clothing company that was founded by a young woman right here in LA, I was enamored. Their founder, Hanna Baror-Padilla, launched Sotela on Kickstarter earlier this year, around the same time that Bossladies ran our Kickstarter, with a campaign aptly titled “The Last Dress You’ll Ever Need.” She raised more than $20,000 to kick off her mission to produce dynamic, minimal, comfortable clothing for women right here in California. We reached out to Hanna to learn more about the inspiration for Sotela and get some ideas about styling the dresses for fall.

Hanna Baror-Padilla: The inspiration for Sotela began in 2014 when I learned about the negative impacts of the fashion industry. For so long, I had been blissfully unaware of sweatshop factories, child labor, and the environmental repercussions of clothing production. Once I read about Rana Plaza, I knew my shopping habits had to change. I immediately pledged to give up fast fashion and began promoting ethical fashion through my blog.

I found a whole world of ethical fashion I didn’t know existed. There were a handful of amazing brands designing beautifully made clothing. However, I couldn’t find minimal-yet-timeless dresses that were also affordable. There were so many statement dresses, which are lovely, but nothing I could wear everyday.

I looked into my own closet and considered the silhouettes I loved. All of them were boxy and swingy. Relaxed-fit clothing appealed to me because it felt more practical and versatile compared to form-fitting clothes. Not only that, but last year I experienced health issues making tight clothing nearly impossible for me to wear. I wanted to create dresses like that, and I knew if I wanted these dresses, other women would too!

Sotela values quality, sustainability, and functionality. Each piece in our collection is meant to help women get ready in fewer than 10 minutes AND feel confident. As women, we know our bodies are constantly changing—we get bloated, pregnant, lose weight, gain weight—but the fit of most clothes don’t reflect that. Our dresses take it into account: each piece spans multiple sizes.

Our manufacturing process is unique because—not only do we manufacture here in California— but we are moving away from third-party production and beginning to produce everything in-house. Within the next 2-3 years, we hope to have our own manufacturing facility so we can design, cut, and sew under one roof.

Sotela has styled three outfits for all the ladies who love their morning coffee, hustle hard at work, and spend their evenings with friends.

Morning Coffee Outing

sotela dress

Comfort and functionality is my number-one priority when getting dressed in the morning, especially when I’m going to a coffee shop. The oversized sweater, cocoon dress, and white sneakers make me look put together while feeling unbelievably comfortable.


Sotela Dress

Before launching Sotela in May, I worked as an urban planner in a very conservative office. My uniform usually consisted of black heels, black tights, and a black dress. I spiced up my usual office ensemble by layering it over a white button down and grey cocoon sweater.  

Nighttime Cocktail with Friends

Sotela dress

It’s all about the layers! When the weather is cool, I wear my cocoon dress with plenty of layers like this crop-top from Everlane, camel cape, booties, and hat. I love wearing crop-tops and sweaters over this dress because it creates an illusion of length. It makes me look taller without having to wear heels!

It’s hard to believe all of these three outfits are with the same Cocoon dress. Gotta love versatility!

Sotela founder

Hanna is the founder of Sotela — a responsibly-made clothing line. She is passionate about designing a wardrobe for the ever-changing woman to cut down the clutter in her life and make her feel amazing. @Sotelaco