At American Eagle Outfitters, we love fall for a number of reasons, but the main one is because it gives us an excuse to stock up on sweaters for the chilly months ahead. We spoke with Senior Sweater Designer Jason M. to learn more about the design process behind our favorite sweaters.
What is the design process of a sweater start to finish? How long does it take from concept to being available in stores?
We start developing sweaters about 14 months before they deliver to stores. We start by identifying the right yarns and stitches. This is a process that involves sourcing and development from all over the world. Then we start knitting! In our design office, Colleen, the assistant sweater designer, and I knit up small stitch development swatches ourselves. These swatches get matched to new and trend relevant silhouettes and we start the sampling and fitting process. During this process we are trying out different color combinations and development, such as the beautiful Fair Isle patterns you see in stores and online. These patterns are very important to the aesthetic of the store in that they really help to bring home the feeling of holiday spirit.
What are the different types of yarn used in our sweaters? Where is the yarn sourced from?
Almost all yarns we use at AEO are cotton based. We understand that softness and durability are important to our customers and we go through extensive research and testing when we develop our yarns. Our yarns are sourced from Asia but inspiration for yarn development comes from traveling the world.
What are the different weights of our sweaters and what type of look is each best for?
We have fine gauge sweaters, which are great for the versatility of dressing up or dressing down. Fine gauge means that a higher number of needles were used in the knit, which equates to a thinner, less bulky sweater. Fine gauge sweaters can be worn with our jeans for day or a bodycon pencil skirt or skinny trousers for night. Our chunkier sweaters give more of a casual and cozy vibe. We love the idea of layering our chunky sweaters over a jegging or the contrast of a chunky sweater with a feminine chiffon mini skirt.
What are the different types of knits used in our sweaters?
For holiday this year, we loved the idea of using the classic cable and turning it on its head. You can see this interpreted in a sweatshirt fit, the Cool Cable, which is a stark contrast to the super tight fits we have had in years past. We also created a chunky pullover—the Snowed in Sweater. This sweater is unique because the cable is actually knit on the diagonal, which is a very complicated stitch construction.
Can you explain two of our biggest trends in women’s sweaters—space dye and marled knits?
Marled knit is a very big deal for us. It a new way to present a higher contrast of color within a sweater by using two or more colored yarns twisted together throughout the garment.
Space dye is also a very, very, very big deal for us this season. Space dyeing is when yarn is dyed different colors, not one uniform color throughout as you typically see. With the space dyeing technique, the color changes from one color to the next, giving an ombre effect. We are reintroducing our slouchy cowl neck sweater in space dye colors. These color combos are custom and unique to AEO.
What was the inspiration behind the color palettes for this season?
When we approached color for this season we wanted to stand for new, bright color as well as compelling color techniques through novelty yarn. Marls and space dyes were our focus. We felt they were a new and trend-right way to update our color palette.
How do the sweaters fit in with the rest of the collection for Holiday 2013?
When we started to design our Holiday 2013 sweaters, we really focused on the outfit. In some cases the outfit is based around the sweater, like in the space-dyed cowl or the Fair Isle patterns. In other cases the sweater is the outfit completer, like the Party Cardigan. Because denim is such a huge part of our brand, we really focus on making sure that our denim fits and our sweater silhouettes work well together.
Which sweater for Holiday 2013 is your absolute favorite?
My favorite sweater for holiday is the Snowed in Sweater. It is such a fresh and new way of approaching a cable sweater. I promise you will have nothing in your wardrobe like it and the stitch was designed to be super flattering on the body.
What makes AEO sweaters awesome, on trend and a great value for Holiday 2013?
Every decision we make during the design and development process of our sweaters for the holiday season is intended to deliver the highest quality, fit and trend at a true value. We joke all the time that we deliver sweaters that at some department stores would cost upwards of $200 for less money that it costs to buy a pizza. We are constantly out in New York City seeing what girls are wearing and how they are wearing it. We understand that it’s our job to take that and give the consumer what is next and new. Our goal is to give the customer something they haven’t seen before. To entice and surprise!