Virgin Atlantic has begun showing its new uniforms, designed by Vivienne Westwood. Wearer trials began earlier today at airports, Clubhouses and on board Virgin Atlantic aircraft.
The company says 180 staff, including crew, pilots, ground staff, Clubhouse employees and Virgin Holidays staff will trial the uniform over the next few months, ahead of the full launch in 2014.
Virgin Atlantic’s existing uniforms are already highly regarded in the industry. Luke Miles, head of design for the airline, says they are ‘some of the most envied’. Change, therefore, is not something the airline takes lightly.
With Vivienne Westwood designing, the uniforms are expected to remain eye-catching. ‘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,’ says Miles.
Sustainability and original design were priorities for Dame Vivienne Westwood and Virgin Atlantic’s Sir Richard Branson and marks the beginning of a long-term, innovative collaboration.
The designs must also work in different climates, from New York in the winter to St Lucia in the summer.
The trials will ensure the uniforms are comfortable and practical, and allows the airline to gauge staff reaction. Assessment areas are, say the airline, ‘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.’
Constant wear-and-tear means that fabrics must be durable, and the colour and finish must be retained over time. Vivienne Westwood has chosen fabric with nano-technology that meets these aims: that regardless of the work done, the uniforms remain pristine.
All items are developed with Closed Loop Recycling, where worn clothing is turned back into fibres that can be woven into new fabrics.
Many uniform items use recycled materials, especially recycled polyester yarn made from used plastic bottles.
Ties and scarves are quick-release for health and safety reasons. Shoes are also part of the consideration: crew walk an average of seven miles on each flight. The shoes must be SATRA- (Shoe and Allied Trade Research Association) tested and approved, and feature a non-slip sole. Male shoes have laces but are designed to be slip-on in case of a slide evacuation.
Following any exercise in rebranding, the airline has to ensure things work internally before a proper launch that involves an external audience.
Once the feedback from trial staff is gathered and any changes made, the new uniforms will rolled out to all 7,500 staff globally.
A Pinterest board is open to the public to examine, at pinterest.com/VirginAtlantic/New-Red-Threads/, while public feedback is welcome on Twitter, hashtag #newredthreads.