If you are familiar with air travel, you definitely will agree that there is symbiotic relationship between fashion and air travel. Commercial air travel has been tagged a new-age novelty defined by champagne cocktails, luxurious lounging and glamourous air hostesses because of the class of people associated with it. In fact, some have termed it the elitist sector.
Every aspect of it, including what the crew and airline officer wear, is supposed to be glamorous as air hostesses were considered on par with the models and movie stars of the era. While on duty, they are part of an in-flight beauty pageant, donning immaculate uniforms, hair and make-up while providing a luxury service to those privileged enough to fly.
But these days it’s less about dolling up and more about dolling out packets of peanuts, while repeatedly telling passengers to switch off their mobile phones and put their seat belts on.
Richard Branson, president, Virgin Atlantic Airways, definitely plans to renew its airline wardrobe by effecting a complete change of the uniform. No wonder he was dressed in a female cabin crew uniform some weeks ago. He was seen wearing skirt, make-up and trotting on high heels like a female cabin crew would.
Branson has vowed that he ‘wants to bring the glamour back to flying, as it has been lost,’ and the new uniforms will inevitably ‘capture the glamour and style that the Virgin Atlantic cabin crew are renowned for.’
“Our partners at Westwood have disclosed how the collaboration has been going for over a year, and that they have been able to be more adventurous with the uniform for the lounge staff who work on the ground.
“For cabin crew, the uniforms will be slightly more understated yet a key theme which will run throughout the range is the use of ethical ‘friendly’ fabrics, as Branson believes that nowadays ‘every company should be thinking – how can we make things sustainable?’
As more and more passengers opt for budget airlines, major airlines are having to offer something more than just a safe flight to entice passengers. With so many airlines operating nowadays, it is impossible to tell one from the other. As branding has become diluted, a striking uniform which was dreamt up from the imagination of a renowned, native designer could do wonders for an airline’s credentials.
Branson has got the right idea in wanting to offer his customers an in-flight experience, and that begins with resurrecting some of that forgotten aviation glamour through the medium of fashion.
Vivienne Westwood, leading British designer, is set to change the look and face of things at Virgin Atlantic Airways with her new plans of using recycled materials from polyester yarn made from used plastic bottles.
The collaboration between the two British brands is long-term partnerships that will see a total re-design of the uniform across all areas. With original design and sustainability being vital factors to both Richard Branson and Vivienne Westwood, this project aims to bring these ideals together in an exciting and innovative collaboration.
For the new uniforms, Vivienne Westwood wanted to create a futuristic look that references her enduring interest in 40’s French couture cutting techniques as well as the Savile Row tailoring heritage. The new designs will capture the glamour and style that the Virgin Atlantic cabin crew are renowned for.
According to Branson, “Virgin Atlantic has a distinct spirit and from a design perspective we continually try to challenge the norm and stand out from the crowd. Our current uniform has been around for more than 10 years and we have seen other airlines start to copy it. When we were choosing the designer for this project, we wanted to work with a group of people who share our spirit of adventure, who believe in challenging the status quo and creating something truly memorable.”
Vivienne Westwood commented: “My clothes have always got a very strong dynamic rapport with the body – they are very body conscious, they help you to look glamorous, more hourglass, more woman. I design things to help people to hopefully express their personality. I am always trying to find fabrics that are more friendly to the environment – working with Virgin Atlantic they managed to research into this and find more eco fabrics.”
For the female cabin crew uniform, the design process began by looking at cuts that encompassed function as well as form. The suit is, of course, in the iconic Virgin red and the silhouette extremely feminine to fit all shapes and sizes. The jacket enhances the female form with the aid of cleverly placed bust pleats, a nipped in waist and a curved hip line and the pencil skirt which looks deceptively simple from the front then reveals a cheeky dart and double pleat at the back. For the men, a sharp Savile Row inspired three piece suit in rich burgundy wool is subverted with shadow details in grey wool under the lapels and pockets. The effect is of a very traditional British look which is given a contemporary feel.
Over 7,500 staff including cabin crew, pilots, clubhouse staff and Virgin Holidays employees will receive new uniforms from the iconic designer and employees have been involved throughout the design process. Passengers will receive a sneak peek of the new uniforms from July 2013, when cabin crew and ground staff try the uniform at the airports and on board. Crew will provide feedback on the design, practicality and wearability so tweaks can be made ahead of the full launch in 2014.
Many items of the new uniform will be produced using recycled materials – in particular working with recycled polyester yarn made from used plastic bottles. The suiting fabrics will also have a nano finish applied, which extends the life of garments and enables clothing to retain its colour and finish for longer. Virgin Atlantic is also developing all items with Closed Loop Recycling in mind. This new technology takes worn polyester clothing and turns it back into fibres that can be woven again into new fabrics and in turn new clothing.
Westwood has also introduced recycled bags for the ground staff, which will be produced for Virgin through the Ethical Fashion Initiative, in collaboration with the International Trade Centre. The bags will be created using recycled canvas, reused roadside banners, unused leather off-cuts, and recycled brass, produced in the Kibera slum, Nairobi, where discarded metal like padlocks and car pieces are collected then melted down.