Spotlight on: Soquel


Soquel by co-founder Meghan Babin
We've been taking a closer look at some of our Spring 2020 designs lately, including Cheryl Toy's wonderful Glenwood pullover, and my Felton cardigan. This week, I got a chance to interview Meghan about her wonderful menswear pullover, Soquel, which had been in the works since our very early days.

Tell us a little about yourself, Meghan! How’s quarantine going?

Hello from the beautiful Hudson Valley region of New York! Right now I am lucky enough to quarantine in a place where I can go outside, breath in fresh air, and go on walks daily without much worry. This is such a privilege in comparison to my friends, family, and fellow New Yorkers who are quarantining in NYC without much of an escape outlet. So far, we have “enough” of everything, and everyone is safe and healthy here. I’ve been occupying a lot of my time with knitting, reading, gardening, and brainstorming for fall designs!  

You’ve been designing great menswear for a long time. What interests you about designing for men? What’s your favorite thing about it?

Ah! Menswear is a bit of an unexpected passion project. Menswear is deceptively difficult, as there are very concrete tailoring and design standards. Designing menswear is an exercise in restraint and a test of finishing skills, which is why I love the challenge. All my favorite finishing techniques and tailoring skills were developed for menswear, which I often apply to women’s garments, too! It made me a better designer in the long run, and am always up for a menswear design challenge.

What do you think about differently when you think about shape and texture placement on a men’s garment? What are your must-includes in a menswear sweater?

The most important element (for me!) when it comes to all design is an all-about-the-shoulders approach. It’s the most essential part of all garment design for fit, and, in menswear, is the place where the ASTM sizing differs the most from womens’. Getting the correct fit in the shoulders, which are more broad than in women’s wear, is the key to success. I’ve adopted the full-fashioned shoulder technique for the best fit possible for set-in sleeve designs.

Generally, the “less is more” approach when it comes to texture and fabric design is my approach. I always choose or create classic texture designs and place them in a way that most men find universally flattering. My next adventure with menswear is creating a block of designs with the option for waist shaping for a more tailored and flattering silhouette. 

Soquel has a slightly unusual construction, where it’s knit in the round to the underarms, and then divided, and the sleeves are knit flat and seamed. What made you choose this approach? What does it do for the garment?

Ah, that is a simple answer. The cable design dictated my decision there. It’s an all-over interlocking cable design, which I didn’t want to interrupt on the lower body with seams. The “gathered” smocking stitches at the cable overlaps are quite sturdy and help with the all over fabric stability overtime, so I thought it was a safe bet to eliminate seaming from the lower body. 

Usually, I would choose to work the entire garment flat or in the round, but sometimes the fabric design leads the way, as it was in this case. But the added benefit to working the sleeves flat is project portability and overall “bulk-in-lap” reduction.

Tell us about the little details in this design -- the neckline, the ribbing-to cable transition, the smocking on the cables.

Necklines are possibly my favorite thing about menswear! I know this must sound weird, but I love design henleys or quarter-button/zip pullovers. Soquel, like several of my other menswear designs, features a henley neckline with a new-for-me buttonband application, which creates a more professional finished look. 

Ribbing-to-cable transitions are a key component to all our H+W designs, so the pattern grows seamlessly out of the ribbing into the scaffold-like cables. To add a little more visual interest without frills I added gathered/smocking wraps at the cable joins. I think it looks cleaner and more modern than a traditional cable crossing!

What’s next for you? Any hints about what you’re working on for the future?

Ah! My eyes are set on fall! I’m working on a secret “nerdy knits” project for a fall publication, while brainstorming and swatching ideas for a new menswear design for H+W Autumn/Winter 2020. Things are percolating! I’m hoping to develop a new nubbly fabric for a lightweight menswear design in Weld.

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