Flight attendant uniforms have historically been problematic, to say the least. They tend to lean too far toward one end on the matron-to-sex-kitten continuum—and at their worst, they can even provoke a cultural outcry. Just ask Turkish Airlines.
So it’s a bold designer that would take on the task of outfitting the modern flight attendant, and Vivienne Westwood is exactly that. Her full redesign will put a dapper twist on the signature bright red uniforms worn by 7,500 Virgin Atlantic pilots, cabin crew, and ground workers. Having outfitted early English punks from the shop she co-ran with Malcolm McLaren, Westwood’s signature style is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, led by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibit PUNK: Chaos to Couture. Branson is no stranger to Westwood or punk culture—the two met in 1977 when Branson organized a boat trip for the Sex Pistols.
Westwood’s new designs include so-called "body conscious" cuts for women, with the men in burgundy wool three-piece suits. The sketched costume renderings currently available would not be out of place on the set of Mad Men, meaning that Westwood is likely leaving her devilish aesthetic behind this time. The designs are modern in one key way: They’re eco-friendly, made from recycled materials like canvas, scrap leather, and polyester yarn produced from plastic bottles.
The new Virgin Atlantic uniforms debut in July, and designs will officially take flight in 2014.