Better Sweaters and Beyond:
Soyer’s Modern Knitwear Dressing
Written by Marc Palatucci
Photographed by Charlotte Wales
As she prepared to launch her label six years ago, Soyun Shin was confronted with the increasingly demanding schedule of the fashion calendar, the relentless churn of seasonal collections, and trend cycles. She was unfazed. “The attitude I have about it is—and I said this when I started—with all due respect to the fashion system, I want to do it my way,” says the Los Angeles-based designer. “I will make it what I want it to be.” Shin speaks these words with no hint of arrogance, but rather a matter-of-fact determination to pursue that which inspires her. It was in this spirit that she created Soyer, a refined collection of distinctive knitwear, all meticulously structured to her exacting standards.
Her smile widens and her eyes ignite as she relates the challenging intricacies underpinning her work. “Knitwear design is different from cut-and-sew—there are more parameters and limitations, a lot of math and geometry,” says Shin. “This is the part that I’m really attracted to. Every spec is a turn-on.” To the uninitiated, designing sweaters may seem an inexact science, but Shin’s approach dispels this myth. She describes her process as deceptively complex, one in which “each stitch has to be accounted for.”
The result is a suite of pieces that deliver the sensory richness one would expect from luxe knits, but with a nuanced form that is attuned to the body. “On the hanger you may not see it. You won’t see it until you put it on—once it drops, and gravity takes, it will hang a different way.” With a knack for spatial dynamics, Shin is as much an engineer as she is a designer. “I’ve been known to actually cut miniature patterns out of muslin, like little origami,” she admits with a laugh. “I’ll literally staple the seams together and send it to the sample room, just so they know exactly what I’m thinking.”
Because of the focused vision upon which Soyer was founded, it began as something of an anomaly among fashion brands. “We’re predominantly sweater-based, and when we started, we were just doing cashmere,” Shin recalls. “As a warm yarn-based company, we weren’t even doing Spring.” Thus she had the freedom to develop only those designs about which she was truly passionatel; however, without a clear designation—it wasn’t a full seasonal collection of ensembles, nor a true line of separates—Soyer initially “hovered in that middle ground” between categories.
On the hanger you may not see it. You won’t see it until you put it on—once it drops, and gravity takes, it will hang a different way.
Eventually, as the fashion landscape gradually shifted to accommodate the growing number of modern brands unbeholden to conventional expectations, Soyer settled into its role and began to transform and mature. “Instead of just doing cashmere, we started expanding the yarn offering, sourcing from Italian mills, testing out different blends like alpaca,” explains Shin, “and it really took off.” The gradual growth has given Soyer a stable foundation from which to venture into new styles.
“I took a chance this year and put together a really tight spring  collection, and the reception was amazing,” says Shin. The introduction of lighter yarns and blends has allowed her to adapt Soyer’s styles for different times of year. “You can actually be more body-conscious. There’s a sexier sort of feel to it, and we incorporated a lightweight cashmere for essentials that are closer to the skin.” She even hints that there may be a collection in the works for the transitional seasons. “It’s evolving, so we’re getting quite ambitious.”
Soyer has now carved out an identity all its own, in a category Shin has dubbed “knitwear dressing”—a term she thinks just a few years ago might have felt too “retro,” but a concept that now reflects the way modern-day women dress. And as for how knitwear has maintained relevance among a widening range of modern materials, and how Soyer has rendered it so compelling in its current form, she offers a simple, satisfying explanation: “It’s just different.”
Styling Vanessa Traina
Hair Bok-Hee at Streeters
Makeup Daniel Martin at The Wall Group
Model Lena Hardt
Explore another chapter in The Stories:
The Holiday Table: A Festive Feast with Athena Calderone