The tailor is someone we’ve always trusted to make us look good. Suits that fit like gloves made from materials that keep our style game on point. But increasingly around the world the measuring tape is quickly becoming a tool of the past, while body scanning measures us quicker, and better than sure trained hands ever could. Or so the story goes. As robot tailors begin to infiltrate the best tailoring studios in New York, London, and Hong Kong, the tailoring industry wonders what will happen to the traditions of the trade.
While we aren't certain what the future holds for the tailoring industry we can certainly bring you up to speed on what some of the most advanced companies are doing to shake up the industry.
New York: Acustom Apparel
Located in the SoHo area of New York City on West Broadway, Acustom Apparel is reaping the benefits of the most up to date digital measurement technology. A quick visit to the store location will give a man looking for his newest, and potentially best-fitting suit or wedding tuxedo ever, the chance to be measured in seconds, and personalize his garments to suit his taste and style. Acustom uses its version of contemporary 3D body scans, which it calls Digital Bespoke. The company describes this technology as proprietary algorithms, and assures customers that having their personal scan and fit data gives them the best option to create patterns personalized for any products sold.
The basic premise is that the typically expensive and time consuming process of using a traditional pattern maker is replaced by measuring technology. The 3D scans use more than 200,000 data points, producing a personal model of each client’s body within seconds. Traditional processes would have required numerous fittings to make a custom garment. The traditional pattern alone would have cost hundreds, but Acustom offers it as part of their Acustom Experience for free.
The company reveals that its technology for making patterns uses lights and is completely safe. The lights are compared to home light bulbs. Acustom Apparel’s co-founder, Charles Tse is credited with developing the proprietary technology.
Though the process is said to be revolutionary, and body scans do qualify, some interesting bits of information are important to note. The company promises that items desired will be available in three to six weeks of time. It is also necessary for clients to try on their order once it arrives so that alterations can be made as necessary. This will put the final touches on the pattern to perfect it, and then the entire scan information and pattern is saved as a personal profile for future use. Once this part of the overall process is completed, clients are welcome shop for new items online, if preferred. With the emphasis on perfect fit and less in-store fittings, perhaps a few alterations is preferable to multiple in store measurement sessions.
Digital Bespoke is said to custom fit every item of clothing to each client’s scan measurements. In addition, clients are described as designers of their own wardrobes because colors and design elements can be personalized. The image of perfection and personal style is very enticing.
For less than confident consumers, second opinions are available. Stylists are available to help each person develop his own style. Once all is said and done, the completed garments can be picked up in the store or shipped to a home address after the three to six week waiting period is over.
Alterations are always available. Repeat body scans are conducted if the client changes. Unsatisfied customers can return items for tailoring review within 21 days of receiving their garments if unworn. While store credit is offered, monetary refunds are not offered. Anything past the 21 days is done at the customer’s expense. Checking the store’s return policy for all the details is probably a good idea.
The three to six week waiting period? It is due to the fact that the company sources fabrics worldwide, but the garments are sewn by hand in Guangzhou, China, in factories considered to provide the best products. The average cost of a suit is between $950 and $1150.
The company also uses body scans and style preferences for shirts, jeans, blazers and other garments. The one stop shopping promises convenience as well as style. Personal information gathered from the body scans is kept private. It is not printed or kept in the store, but sent directly to the factory where the garments are made.
All of these details prompt the curious to consider that pattern makers and skilled traditional tailors may be having less opportunity to work professionally, but seamstresses and factories are having that chance at some point during the three to six week waiting period. There is also still a need for some tailoring work to be done in store when alterations must be made.
London: Tailor Made
Tailor Made is the London tailor advertising that it is the “first and only” English professionals to “pioneer” the new 3D body scanning technology for garment fittings. The company also promises to forgo the lengthy, traditional methods of measuring clients by hand over multiple visits. Their version of the robot tailor is the 3D Body Scanner. With British precision, it is said to complete measurements in ten seconds. Thousands of measurements are scanned, and said to be extremely accurate…right down to one tenth of a millimeter.
There is no longer any need for tape measures, as algorithmic software prepares an exact model of each client’s body in 3D. After that, the measurements are used to laser cut the chosen fabric to create a garment which fits perfectly. All of this without any physical contact, as the scanner is completely automatic.
Tailor Made London seeks to bring fine quality craftsmanship to the masses. Offering bespoke tailoring that is affordable without sacrificing style and traditional tailoring craftsmanship are key to the company’s work. By cutting out repetitive fittings, and meeting for one consultation only, Tailor Made offers to save time and money for its customers. The quicker technology makes it possible to deliver garments within four to six weeks of time.
Affordable pricing with high quality tailoring is possible, as Tailor Made London seeks to commit to passionate tailoring with a hand from modern technology. The company uses Savile Row quality fabrics for its 2-piece suits. The starting price for a personally designed and custom 3D fitted bespoke suit is £660.
As digital advances continue to pop up in the very traditional tailoring world, current tailors are wondering if customers will lose interest in being fitted in store. The scanning process is very simple compared to the lengthy traditional measurements once conducted over multiple sessions. But complex software allows for inputting basic body measurements online to purchase garments from online stores. The fit isn’t always perfect, but often good enough for many to be satisfied.
It can be much easier to give an online algorithm data points, such as height and weight, to buy items. Even though the very best fit comes from tailoring, customers are relying more and more on the digital options. Many who have never had the experience don’t realize what a great difference a properly measured and tailored suit can make in terms of a man’s appearance. This is part of the problem, as the new industry players make it easier to avoid traditional tailoring experiences. Men may be exchanging price for quality, but it will be more difficult to maintain this argument as time goes by.
Hong Kong: Gay Giano
Matthew Lee, owner of Gay Giano, observes that robot tailors became popular because younger generations were out of touch with traditional tailoring and were not likely to participate in the trade. He feels that the traditions can be revived with technology. The robot tailor, which is the 3D scanner used to capture multiple measurement points and provide a digital image of each customer’s body shape, may revitalize tailoring with younger customers.
Gay Giano advertises itself as the first Hong Kong shop to use the robot technology to create custom designed suits. But, other tailors also are making this claim. In addition, companies which make lingerie and clothing for women are adding the technology to their business dealings.
The process of using 3D scanning and imagery is saving time and money for both Gay Giano and its customers. The demand for formal wear is increasing in Hong Kong, so the company fills the gap of missing skilled craftsmen with the technology. Coupling precise measurements with fine fabrics has kept the business flowing through the modern tailoring studio. Gay Giano uses technology to give customers sneak previews of what their garments will look like when completed, and that is a popular draw. The company has been developing software that will provide a suit rendering in just 15 minutes. The Israeli firm that is collaborating with Gay Giano currently has the 3D Tailor using 14 sensors for scanning 120 specific measurements.
Matthew Lee, Gay Giano owner, seeks to refine the company’s abilities to create precise patterns, measurements, records, and algorithms. He acknowledges that the crucial information used to be the sole territory of the tailor, but the computer is gradually taking over that role.
Hong Kong is home to many gifted and famous tailors who originally came from Shanghai and the regions nearby. In particular, Suzhou is famous for its silk. But modern businessmen use Italian fabrics and this is another change from tradition which is shaping a new course for the Hong Kong tailoring industry.
The store has invested $100,000 US for the scanning and software required to render designs. It has used 3D measuring since November 2014, when it first opened. The company tailors network with the Israeli firm to understand how fabrics drape and hang when cut and sewn, using new computer software.
Lee has the desire to see Hong Kong’s traditional tailoring industry preserved. Young talents are not filling the spots of skilled traditional professionals, and the dropping numbers are discouraging to him. Tailors are still needed to make corrections and final fittings. The body scanners have replaced only the pattern making step in tailoring.
Younger, tech savvy customers are interested in using the new technology to create their clothing. Many feel it provides better fit and gives them a better price for high quality items. In Hong Kong, the technology may help to revive the tailoring trade. For now, the famous Hong Kong tailoring industry may be losing its business to mainland China where less costly labor can be had.
The final issue in the battle between the robots and the human tailors, at least in Hong Kong, is time. Younger consumers often prefer the quick and accurate measurements made by the robots, even though the traditional tailoring process feels more personal.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker