Like all businesses globally, tailors have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Huntsman & Sons is a traditional English bespoke Saville Row establishment in Mayfair and it is expecting to finish 65 per cent down on last year.
"Just on our chart, the falloff from March 23rd was instantaneous. It was like a light switch had been turned off," said Taj Phull, the Head of retail at Huntsman & Sons, London.
However, the 171-year-old tailor has come up with 21st-century technology to overcome the situation. A customer in South Korea can be measured-up using a telepresence robot named Mr Hammick. Someone trained still has to hold the tape measure but Mr Hammick is guided by the London shop using a touchpad from a laptop.
Its screen and high-resolution camera let the cutters communicate with clients. Mr Hamick was a famous Huntsman cutter in the 1970s and created by California-based OhmniLabs.
"What's been very helpful, even more, helpful than actually being there,” said Dario Carnera, Head Cutter, Huntsman & sons, “is being able to take still images of what you're seeing. So, rather than trying to remember what you saw, you've got an actual image there."
Normally, having a bespoke suit made means several fittings for a perfect fit. However, with the new technology, the tailors can be more reactive without having to fly to another country.
"If you're, for example, in Seoul, we'd be there generally four times a year. With the robot on-site, if somebody's got a particular occasion they need to, rather than wait for us for our next trunk show, we can set that up so we can see them immediately, almost," added Carnera.
The cutters were rather sceptical at first but have been won over by the robot. It is only available in Seoul but the company hopes to start this service to other cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore.