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Sky High Fashion: First Look at Vivienne Westwood Designed Uniforms

by Moderator July 2013 - last edited July 2013

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Virgin Atlantic passengers will get a sneak peek of the airline’s new uniform designs when wearer trials of the Vivienne Westwood uniform begin on 12th July at airports, in Clubhouses and on-board the aircraft.

Over 180 specially selected staff including our crew, pilots, ground staff, Clubhouse employees and Virgin Holidays staff will trial the uniform for a number of months to ensure it is both comfortable and practical before the designs and fabrics are finalised and sent to the manufacturer.

Staff will provide feedback after each flight or shift so adjustments can be made ahead of the full launch in 2014. The uniform will be assessed on fit, comfort, breathability, ease of movement, creasing before and after the shift, look and feel of the uniform after laundering and how the uniform handles marks and stains.

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For the female cabin crew uniform the design process began by looking at cuts which 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.
 

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The white jacquard ‘Frill Blouse’ takes inspiration from a design originally seen in Vivienne’s Red Label Spring-Summer 2005/06 collection and is developed here with asymmetric button placements to create a voluminous & feminine frill that sits nicely under the low-cut jacket.
 

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The red jacket enhances the female form with the aid of cleverly placed bust pleats, a nipped in waist and a curved hip line. The jacket took inspiration from Vivienne’s ‘Bettina Jacket’ from her Gold Label Spring Summer 1995 and Autumn-Winter 1995/96 collections and is developed here with a modern twist.
 

Globally renowned

"Our staff, and particularly our cabin crew, are some of the most envied in the airline industry when it comes to uniforms," said Luke Miles, our Head of Design. "Our iconic red outfits are globally renowned and when we make changes to the design, it isn't something we take lightly. These wearer trials are a key part of the feedback process we engage in with our teams around the world. The uniforms have to look sleek, all the while being practical and easy to wear – it's a challenging design brief but means so much to our staff and customers so we have to make sure we get it right. We're confident our Vivienne Westwood designs will continue to turn heads in the airport and in the sky."

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A sharp Savile Row inspired three piece suit with a traditional British look and contemporary twist.
 

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The ‘Shadow Waistcoat’ comes in a classic grey to compliment the Burgundy suit. The back panel has been designed with a contrasting colour lining & cinch belt.
 

Working with Vivienne Westwood

Earlier this year we announced our partnership with leading British designer Vivienne Westwood to redesign the airline’s uniform across all areas of the business. With original design and sustainability being vital factors to both Richard Branson and Vivienne Westwood, this long-term partnership aims to bring these ideals together in an exciting and innovative collaboration.

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The female pilot's uniform compliments the male suit, yet the jacket has been designed to emphasize a feminine shape. Along with the tapered leg trousers it is modern with a feminine edge.
 

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The male pilot’s suits have been designed to mirror the male cabin crew, yet have a different edge and wider lapel shape.
 

Vivienne Westwood and her team had a number of practical challenges to consider when designing the airline’s new look. Approximately 7,500 staff wear the Virgin Atlantic uniform in different climates around the world. The designs of the garments need to cater for staff working in New York during the winter to high summer season in St Lucia. Staff also carry out a variety of job roles, all with differing levels of movement, and the uniform must be comfortable to wear for everyone with a degree of flexibility. 

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Originating from various 90s Gold label collections, the tunic is made of two mirrored panels to create an interesting drape & garment shape. Worn with jeans and ballerinas, the uniform is feminine yet practical.
 

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The ‘Salon Blouse’ is a modernised creation of the ‘Bettina Blouse’. The bust darts and V-neck shape worn with colourful scarf create a feminine & free-spirited look.
 

Fabrics must be durable in order to withstand constant wear and tear. For the suiting garments the team have used fabrics with cutting-edge nano-technology which repels stains and enables clothing to retain its colour and finish for longer, therefore the fabrics keep their shape over time and look pristine. 

With sustainability a key factor in this new design, all items are being developed 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.

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The men’s clubhouse uniforms were built around the Victorian inspired waistcoat. Originating from old Victorian menswear drawings this waistcoat can be seen in many Vivienne Westwood collections. The fake bow tie detail shirt adds some playfulness, along with the black jeans & leather sneakers which create a contemporary look.
 

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The female clubhouse collection was built around the design of the waistcoat. The inspiration originates from the medieval pourpoint undergarment, which was worn under armour & constructed to enable good movement & flexibility. Paired with dark jeans & leather sneakers for a modernized and more casual look.
 

Virgin Atlantic uniform facts

  • All ties and scarves must be quick release for health and safety reasons
  • Crew walk an average of seven miles on each flight so it is important that shoes are comfortable
  • Many items of the new uniform will be produced using recycled materials – in particular working with recycled polyester yarn made from used plastic bottles
  • Crew must go through a five and a half week training course to earn their Vivienne Westwood designed wings and uniform
  • All crew must carry a torch and spare batteries in their handbag
  • All shoes must have a non-slip sole and be SATRA (Shoe and Allied Trade Research Association) tested and approved
  • Although male shoes have laces, we have designed them so they can be slip-on in case of a slide evacuation – it also makes it much easier for the crew to go through security!

To explore the Virgin Atlantic uniform project, visit our Pinterest board at http://pinterest.com/VirginAtlantic/New-Red-Threads/  and join the conversation on Twitter using #newredthreads.


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About the author: Maxine

Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.