High fashion: air crews go couture

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High fashion: air crews go couture

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Airlines have a long tradition of tapping high-end designers to craft their uniforms. British fashion icon Mary Quant teamed with Court Line Aviation in 1973 to give their brand a trendy, mod identity.


In 1991, Italian designer Giorgio Armani gave Al Italia an updated look. The staff modeled his creations on board until 1998.


Julien Macdonald -- formerly the artistic director of French fashion house Givenchy -- redesigned the uniforms for British Airways in 2004. The outfits (depicted far right) are still the standard uniform for the carrier. Milliner Stephen Jones designed the headpieces.


In 2005, Société Christian Lacroix spruced up Air France's look with his haute couture cabin crew uniforms. His designs are still worn on board today.


Dutch fashion designer Mart Visser created a new look for KLM's 11,000 stewardesses in 2010.


Juli Grbac, the first winner of Project Runway Australia, harked back to the '60s for inspiration when crafting the new uniforms for Virgin Blue. Elle Macpherson modeled the outfits when they were unveiled in 2011.


Australian designer Martin Grant redesigned the uniforms for Qantas Airways cabin crew. The outfits launched April 2013. Grant tried to imbue the outfits with the type of old-world glamor once associated with flight.


Vivienne Westwood is designing the new uniforms for Virgin Atlantic. Currently, the outfits only exist in sketch form, though cabin crew will start trialing the new designer items next month.


















Al Nippon Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Qantas Airways are just a few carriers who've recently tapped fashion designers to overhaul their uniforms.
Martin Grant, who designed the new staff outfits for Qantas, says he's trying to bring "old world glamor" back to flight.
Air France, whose uniforms are designed by Christian Lacroix, says many designers don't like working with airlines.



(CNN) -- If your air hostess seem better suited to a fashion runway than an airport runway, it may be because her uniform has a designer label.
Recently, there's been a rash of cabin crew going couture. Last month, Japanese carrier Al Nippon Airways tapped Prabal Gurung -- whose designs have graced the backs of celebrities ranging from Michelle Obama to Lady Gaga -- to revitalize the staff apparel. Vivienne Westwood is currently doing the same for Virgin Atlantic (stewardesses will start wearing the uniforms on trial next month).
"It could have something to do with the changing of the airline industry. Everyone is having to approach the business differently, and everyone is having to put an emphasis on look," says Australian designer Martin Grant, who in addition to clothing the likes of Emma Stone and Heidi Klum crafted the new uniforms for Qantas Airways last April.
High-end airlines put an emphasis on excellence, Grant says, and Qantas is no different.
"They apply the principle to everything: the food, the design of the interiors, the lounges. It's the same with the uniforms," he explains.
The updated outfits feature a haute take on Qantas' red triangle logo. Grant referenced the graphic in the uniform tops, which are navy blue with ruby red and fuchsia pink diagonal stripes across the shoulder.
"The uniforms have to be identifiable and easily seen. You want to be able to see from afar the staff you're looking for. When you're running around an airport, you're constantly looking for the logo of the aircraft," he says.

Passengers and flight attendants alike say they miss the old world glamor associated with flight.Martin Grant, designer

Moreover, Grant's design has an on-trend retro feel to it. The ensemble includes a trilby-style hat made from recycled bottle tops and trench coat.
Read more: The man with 1,000 stewardess uniforms
"Passengers and flight attendants alike say they miss the old world glamor associated with flight," says Grant, adding that security controls and low-cost carriers have taken some of the luxury out of the industry.
"[The accessories] very much came from staff feedback. They said, 'we want the glamor back. We want hats, gloves, the whole kitten caboodle.'"
Though Westwood's designs have not been unveiled yet, sketches suggest that the female staff will have gloves. Some of the items will also be made from a polyester yarn made from used plastic bottles. In a statement released by Virgin, Westwood said the uniforms would be in keeping with her "enduring interest in '40s French couture."
Some airlines have been sporting designer threads for years. British Airways had Julien Macdonald -- previously artistic director of French fashion house Givenchy -- overhaul their uniforms in 2000. Air France staff, meanwhile, have been wearing costumes crafted by Société Christian Lacroix since 2005.
"Because we have 'France' in our name, we're an ambassador for the country," explains Sylvie Tarbouriech, the vice president of branding for Air France. "The idea is that we should give our customers the best France can bring them, and when you're thinking about France, you're thinking about food, you're thinking about wine, and you're thinking about fashion."
Airlines have a long tradition of collaborating with designers. Emilio Pucci notably crafted some space-age-style uniforms in 1965 for the now-defunct Braniff International Airways. Still, Tarbouriech maintains it's actually quite difficult finding people willing to take on such a limiting project.
Read more: Airline uniforms recycled to make bags
"A uniform is the sum of many, many constraints," she says. "It has to be comfortable, it has to be in materials that are not flammable, it has to be flattering to everybody -- blonde, redhead or brunette, thin women and not so thin women. And it has to be in keeping with the brand colors. It's very challenging for a fashion designer to work under these constraints, and that's why it's not always easy to find one willing to do it."
Still, Grant says for him at least, it's long been a fantasy.
"I've loved the essence of flight since I was a child," he says. "I love the idea of groups of people looking smart, looking tailored and being part of a team."

Source: High fashion: air crews go couture
 

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