What happens when the runway and catwalk collide? Virgin Atlantic will find out in July when giving sneak peeks of new uniform designs (set for an official 2014 launch) from iconic British fashion designer, Dame Vivienne Westwood.
The uniform redesigns, the fourth in Virgin’s 30-year history, will be the first update in over 13 years. What both companies are striving for via the collaboration – glamour. Indeed, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, has said of the company’s primary goals, “We wanted to bring glamour back to flying.”
The pairing of the two teams seems natural, with Virgin’s eye-catching and often-emulated uniforms stepping up a notch with Westwood’s take. Of the partnership, Branson said in a statement, “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.”
Memorable is a term often attributed to Westwood, known for everything from her influence on the 70s punk/new wave era and BDSM fashions to new millennium designs featured in the first “Sex and the City” film and those outfitting royals for the 2011 wedding of William and Kate. What she’ll be bringing to Virgin – futuristic designs with 40s French couture-cutting techniques and Savile Row tailoring.
Westwood has described the Virgin designs as having a “strong dynamic rapport with the body.” Female cabin crew uniforms will be silhouette designs aimed at pronouncing an hourglass shape with a jacket enhanced with bust pleats and a fitted waist jacket paired with a pencil skirt accented by darts and double pleats at the back. Male crew members will wear three-piece suits in burgundy wool with grey wool details under the lapels and pockets.
An element not easily discernable to the eye – the use of sustainable fabrics. Environmentally friendly business practice is a passion shared by both Virgin and Westwood, who said of the collaboration, “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.” Some of the products of this research are the use of recycled materials and technologies such as nano-finishing and closed loop recycling.
A mainstay in the new designs – which will outfit Virgin’s 7,500 staff members including cabin crew, pilots, clubhouse staff and Virgin Holidays employees – will be Virgin’s trademark red. “I liked very much having to play with this red color,” says Westwood. “You get different colors of red together and the most exciting thing is the result.” Perhaps an apt description of what travelers can expect to see when the uniforms roll out in 2014.