Originally posted July 30, 2020.
For those of you who are new around here, welcome! My name is Hanna Baror-Padilla and I’m the founder and designer of Sotela. I’m also the one behind the blog posts, newsletters, and social media! I launched Sotela via a Kickstarter Campaign in 2016 for three reasons:
- Bloating caused by a hormone imbalance left the majority of my closet unwearable
- I craved simple yet classic garments that weren’t tight around my stomach
- I gave up fast-fashion and wanted garments made with eco-friendly fabrics in fair living conditions
I went the Kickstarter route to see if I was the only one who wanted clothing that aligned with their style and values. Our campaign was funded within 30 days and we started production on our three ‘Essential Dresses’ in a factory.
After 6 months, we realized the factory model wasn’t for us and slowly transitioned into made-to-order with one seamstress. We had a hybrid model that allowed us to keep low numbers of inventory while still being able to cut and sew what we needed. It worked at the time, but it wasn’t a viable option to scale.
In 2019, we fully transitioned into made-to-order, doubled our size offering, and moved to a studio with a team.
What is Made-to-Order?
I often forget that made-to-order isn’t the norm. When I meet new people, I explain that Sotela is a slow fashion brand that makes everything after an order is placed. That model not only ensures we minimize our waste, but it also gives us the flexibility to tailor clothing to the customer’s body. It makes sense until I explain our lead times can be up to 5 weeks. In a time of instant gratification, the expectation is to receive everything within the week.
And I get it. I sometimes get impatient with my online orders until I remember slow fashion is a lifestyle. Knowing there is a wait-time for a garment makes receiving it that much more special. A lead-time makes each purchase more intentional because you have to still like it after a month!
At the moment, our lead time is 5-6 weeks. It’s the highest it has ever been in the history of Sotela. Our sales doubled in May and it’s been a process trying to keep up with our current team. My first reaction was to expand the team to meet demand, but that wouldn’t be sustainable in the long run. I needed to see the demand would stay constant in the following months.
With that being said, we hired part-time help to transition to a bigger team. Although we have more hands on deck, it doesn’t necessarily make things quicker. The learning curve while training takes several months, especially if you have little to no experience.
How to Choose a Sotela Size
From the beginning, our sizing has set us apart from other fashion brands. The Essentials Collection from our Kickstarter campaign only had three sizes. Not only did it make choosing a size easier, but it was also forgiving on weight fluctuations.
We now offer 10 Sotela sizes that span 15 conventional sizes (0-30). Our inclusive sizing makes Sotela special, but we know it can also be confusing. There are several posts on the blog and website that can hopefully help.
My first tip is to buy measuring tape! It’s essential to know your measurements when shopping online. It may seem daunting not knowing where to measure, but that’s why we created this video!
My second tip is to know what ‘hip measurement’ means. Some companies consider high hip (hip bone) measurement while others look at the low hip (tip of butt). At Sotela, we always look for the low hip because that ease is what gives you space in your pants and jumpsuits.
Once you know your measurements, look up the garment’s measurements. It’s important to choose a size that is at least 2″ bigger than your largest measurement.