Flying, for most of us, is not an especially fashionable experience. Overstuffed overhead racks, ten-abreast coach seats on 15-hour flights, à la carte this—à la carte that: these are the realities of air travel in economy in 2016.
But, even as drink carts pummel your elbows and your seatback TVs flicker and go dark, there's still a tiny sliver of glamour when airborne: the clothes. Airlines have a long history of tapping designers to create their staff uniforms, and the tradition, of late, has yielded some noteworthy and chic results (even when those airlines have not used quote-unquote "famous" names).
Here, Condé Nast Traveler details some recent mile-high hits:
Stylish flight attendant uniforms
Stylish flight attendant uniforms
Zac Posen is no stranger to versatility: The former Project Runway judge has dressed Rihanna, First Lady Michelle Obama, and even David’s Bridal customers. Stepping away from the red carpet, his new collection for Atlanta-based Delta features mix-and-match separates in a sleek palette of purple, grey, and red, with alliteration-happy names like Groundspeed Graphite and Passport Plum—though we’ve seldom seen a purple passport. The new collection, which Posen says is all about "form and function," will be tested on the job in December, and adopted by the airline’s 60,000-some employees in 2018.
Photo by Chris Rank/Rank Studios
Vivienne Westwood’s glamorous crew uniforms hark back to 1940s French couture designs, with a narrow cut silhouette (a classic Westwood look) in the airline’s iconic red hue. Women's uniforms comprise a white ruffled blouse—first seen in her Red Label spring/summer 2005 collection—tucked into a pleated pencil skirt, and a structured jacket nipped in at the waist. Meanwhile, the gents sport Savile Row-inspired three-piece numbers—quintessentially British. The uniforms are eco-friendly, too: the polyester yarn comes from recycled plastic bottles.
Courtesy Virgin Atlantic
Taipei’s China Airlines uniforms have a space-age and slightly retro quality, and, in a way, they remind us of Balenciaga Spring 2008, which is always, always a good thing.
Courtesy China Airlines
Tigerair Australia–a subsidiary of Virgin Australia–recently introduced new uniforms. The look? Coolly color-blocked shift dresses and long-sleeved tops in white, pewter, silver, and tangerine. They’re quite sporty.
Courtesy TigerAir Australia
Vueling is a Spain-based low-cost carrier, but, just because it caters to the leisure and budget markets doesn’t mean its “look” isn’t sophisticated. The company recently debuted new uniforms, after working with its staff to perfect the designs. We’re particularly fond of the dove-gray wrap coats with contrasting edges, and the clean, double-band stripes on the scarves.
Courtesy Vueling Airlines
The house of Christian Lacroix designed Shanghai-based China Eastern’s latest uniforms, which feature simple navy shirt-dresses closured by contrasting, bright-red belts.
Courtesy China Eastern
Japan’s ANA (All Nippon Airways) revealed its latest uniforms in 2014, designed by the Nepalese-born, New York-based designer Prabal Gurung. Having made waves on the red carpet and with VIPs (Michelle Obama is a fan), Gurung’s airside wares retain a touch of that paparazzi-ready shine–with graphic racing stripes down blouses and pretty, flowery neck-scarves.
For Qantas, Australia’s own Martin Grant—a past favorite of both Tilda Swinton and Lady GaGa—opted to design bold and punchy uniforms that invoke the same diagonal linearity and swoosh as the airline's world- famous kangaroo logo. With red-lapeled trench coats and dresses in red, navy, and fuchsia, the uniform aspires to timelessness. “I tend to look toward simplicity: nothing too complicated or tricky,” Grant says.
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This gallery was originally published in 2015. It has been updated with new information.