A few weeks ago I was headed away on vacay and got stuck in Pearson Int’l Airport due to a delayed flight and it gave me some time to engage in my fav past-time, people watching. Before I knew it, I had become obsessed with checking out airline crew uniforms and was astonished at what some airlines are forcing their employees to wear today – hello Air Canada! I mean, I would rather kill myself than wear that tragic poly blend monstrosity. However, not all airlines are failing in the style department. I would like to assume there is a reason why fashion show catwalks are called “runways”. I’ve always maintained that just because you are traveling 35,000 ft in the sky, sometimes for over 20 hrs, doesn’t necessarily mean that passengers and flight crews cannot look fabulous and comfy at the same time. So…I’ve rounded up a few of the best (in no particular order) aircrew uniforms that make a fashion statement while flying the friendly skies.
Banana Republic for Virgin America
Banana Republic agreed to team up V.A. and produced a uniform re-design to mark the airlines fifth anniversary with simple separates the employees can wear in the galley or on the street. With clean lines, comfortable cuts, and covetable fabrics, I’m sure the flight crew and customer service representatives are proud to put on their uniform everyday. The company described the new uniforms as “utility chic” and it includes 13 women’s pieces and 11 pieces for the men in the airline’s red, black and grey colour scheme. Among them are trench coats with removeable linings for various climates, silk charmeuse scarves, a fitted shirt dress, trousers with rubberized grip tape in the waistband to ensure shirts stay tucked in, pilot shirts with an added crest pocket for sunglasses, passports and pens. And it wouldn’t be a quintessential Banana Republic line without accessories, would it? Enter gold aviator sunnies, black leather gloves, a reversable slim belt and a gorge tote bag, that is of course “check point” friendly.
Pink Tartan for Porter Airlines
Canada’s newest airline, Porter, took to the skies with a full collection of shift dresses, trenches and even a pill box hat giving a nod to the epic PAN-AM days, designed by the Toronto and NYC based label, Pink Tartan. Designer Kim Newport-Mimran (wife of Club Monaco and Joe Fresh founder, Joseph Mimran) fully understood the Porter brand and took inspiration from an era when traveling was elegant. The uniforms are uber classic styles that have been re-worked to maintain a modern aesthetic, making sure to take every detail into account.
Gianfranco Ferre for Korean Airlines
Korean Air’s fabulous robin’s-egg blue uniforms with neck scarves tied identically at a gravity-defying angle, so much so that one end resembles an outstretched wing, were designed by Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre and have been worn on board since 2005. The colour of the jacket, similar to Tiffany blue, is inherently calming, approaching some of the hues employed strategically by Apple to give users a pleasant experience. The coolest part of the uniform is the blouse worn underneath which is made from a shiny fabric that resembles water under bright light. It was the first time Ferre designed an airline uniform but he seemed to have kept his promise of providing clothing that guarantees performance, comfort, and practicality, while being simple, uncomplicated and informal. If airline uniforms are supposed to capture an airline’s identity, I think they did a superb job in conveying the quiet elegance that has always distinguished Korean Air.
Christian Lacroix for Air France
So it comes as absolutely NO surprise that France’s flag carrier airline stepped up their uniform fashion game and chose to work with Christian Lacroix. Home to some of the world’s most talented designers and stylish women in the world, Air France was bound to recruit a suitably stylish designer for it’s national carrier. In 2005 Lacroix took over the design reigns from from Nina Ricci and followed in the footsteps of Carven and Louis Feraud. Lacroix is the first designer to do both the women and men’s uniforms, roughly 100 items in total ranging from the dresses, pumps, knit scarves, bob hats, and tie clips. The female cabin crew dress has a distinct Chinese upward collar and a pop of red appears in small doses like in the high waist band belt and gloves. The outdoor wear has some of the designer’s signature use of lace and print in the coats and jackets with the interior lining has the airlines winged seahorse symbol and the company logo.
Julian MacDonald for British Airways
Dating back to the early 2000’s, British Airways had short listed approximately 15 international designers to potentially take the responsibility of re-designing the airlines image and it was British designer Julian MacDonald who won the job based on his interpretation of what he believed was British Airways future identity. MacDonald, previous Artistic Director for Givenchy created a dedicated outfit for female pilots, which was the first time female staff was given the option of trousers instead of only skirts. British Airways brought on board Brit milliner Stephen Jones, who has created headpieces for both rock stars and royalty, to design a stylish version of the traditional aviation hat. A huge focus has been put on accessories; a handbag that matches the hat box, belts and gloves designed by Brit leather goods creator Tanner Krolle.
Pierre Balmain for Singapore Airlines
Introduced back im 1968 by French couturier Pierre Balmain, the colourful “Sarong Kebaya” is still worn by Singapore Airways flight crew. Balmain, being very particular and detailed orientated, insisted that every single Kebaya be specifically tailored to fit each individual stewardess to ensure a feminine fit. Like, who wouldn’t want a custom Balmain outfit, even if it’s in the form of a uniform?! The standards are rigorous – and the airline always expects nothing less than perfection, in regards to presentation. The company even employs grooming consultant/experts to tailor a make-up colour guide for each employee to compliment her skin tone and features. And if that’s not enough, fittings are done at least every month.
Check out this video of the Banana Republic design team tackling the “utility chic” uniform re-design for Virgin America Airlines…
One of my favourite travel blogs Savvy Traveller has posted their “Best of 2012” nominees list which includes; Best Dressed Airline Crew (which is sure to have some of my picks above), Best Airport Wine Bar, Best Curbside Dining, Best Airport Lounge, etc. If you are looking for savvy travel advice on hotels, destinations, airlines, tips and wine, be sure to add it to your bookmark list.