Why is this interesting? - The Huntsman Edition

On bespoke tailoring, the human touch, and innovation in COVID.

Colin here. There are few industries that require more human touch than bespoke tailoring. It is truly 3D art. Tailors, many of whom have honed their skills for decades, are experts at eyeballing the nuances of a human body: a sloped shoulder here, a longer leg there. And when that trained eye is combined with the mechanical art of building a suit to exacting specifications, magic happens.

One of the most storied tailors, Huntsman on Savile Row, has been making suits since 1849. Once a client decides on fabric, a journey begins

...the fabric panels are handed over to the tailor specialising in your garment, be it trousers, waistcoat, skirt or coat. They will roughly stitch the pieces together so that at your first fitting the cutter can see how well the garment is working on you: how it fits, how it hangs, how it moves.

Adjustments are made and a second fitting planned, where the garment will be closer to what you might expect to see. There may be the need for more fittings, but generally we’re then able to take your outfit to the finishing stage. As many as 80 hours are dedicated to each garment over a period of 6 to 8 weeks for Bespoke100, after which you’ll receive your bespoke Huntsman commission

The house is known for a very structured style, almost military in bearing, as opposed to some neighbors on “The Row” like Anderson and Sheppard, with a softer and more fluid construction.

All the time and craft of a Huntsman suit comes in at a serious price. A bespoke suit from the tailor will clock in around $8,000 dollars, comprising over 80 hours of handmade artisanship. 

Why is this interesting?  

Bespoke tailoring has an image of a man or woman turning up into an elegant shop, or appearing in a nicely appointed hotel suite to look over swaths of fabrics and get measured in their first fitting. There is always a cocktail close at hand, and a cozy atmosphere. But obviously, the pandemic has taken away a lot of these in-person experiences. The vital connection between tailor and client has been momentarily torn away. 

Normally, Huntsman tailors take to the road and see well-heeled clients in hotels around the world. Doing fittings and delivering the final product. This is now not possible. 

A deep dive on bespoke in The Times highlights one of the more odd and sci-fi examples of high tech meeting old-school art:

One morning in early November, a tailor on Savile Row 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.

“I’m just going to come a little bit forward,” said Mr. Carnera, moving the robot a few feet to the left.

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

But can a visual rendered by a robot come close to the real, physical experience of a fitting? The brand seems like it has roots in the exact opposite: handwritten measurements in leather books, and a clubby feel. The Times describes, “There are entries for dukes, earls and many pages devoted to Queen Victoria, whose purchases included ‘2 Striped waistcoats with sleeves’ and ‘5 pairs Western Angolan trousers.’”

It’s too early to say if this approach will find wide favor. Thankfully, customers are still booking appointments given a slavish devotion (especially in finance) to the Row. And things like this can be an example of incredible resilience, turning to tech to help get through the pain of the pandemic. And when you cut out the flights and city to city fittings shuffle, the product turns into something that can be made in a shorter time. Surely purists will scoff, but any ingenuity that can keep a bastion of British sartorial culture and artisanship running is great in my book. (CJN)

Partner Post: WITI x Brightland

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Playlist of the day:

WITI contributor Sam Valenti runs the always excellent Ghostly imprint. Their “Ghostly: At Work” Spotify playlist is a constantly refreshed compilation of tunes suitable for the workday. Worth giving a spin, and also let it pull you into other archival rabbit holes. Start with Boards of Canada’s excellent Peacock Tail and work your way through their discography. (CJN

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Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

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