One morning in early November, a tailor on Savile Row in London took the measurements of a client 5,500 miles away with the help of a robot.
The tailor, Dario Carnera, sat on the second floor of Huntsman, one of the street’s most venerable houses, and used the trackpad on his laptop to guide the robot around a client who stood before mirrors in a clothing store in Seoul. Mr. Carnera was visible and audible to the client through an iPad-like panel that doubled as the robot’s face.
He was collecting the roughly 20 measurements that are standard in a first Savile Row fitting, the initial step in the fabrication of a made-from-scratch suit that starts at about $8,000 and can reach as high as $40,000 for the priciest material.
“Twenty-seven and a quarter,” said an assistant in Seoul, through a translator, holding a measuring tape.
This system, up and running since September, wouldn’t work without a pair of living, trained hands on the client. As robots go, Huntsman’s is primitive — essentially a camera and intercom on wheels. It doesn’t have arms, let alone the fingertips to find an inseam.
The point of the gizmo isn’t to eliminate the need for the human touch. It’s to eliminate the need for Mr. Carnera to travel, which, because of the pandemic, he can’t.
This grounding is a fiasco for Savile Row tailors. They typically spend nearly as much time flying around the world, fitting clients, as they do cutting and sewing. For many houses, 70 percent of revenue comes from these overseas trunk shows. With tailors stuck in their shops, and London tourism in free-fall, the most famous men’s clothing street in the world is gasping for life.