On Tuesday night, punk icon Debbie Harry partied with a crew of flight attendants to celebrate the launch of Dame Vivienne Westwood’s new collection of uniforms designed for Virgin Atlantic. Starting September 1, 7,500 staff members will receive wardrobe makeovers that airline owner Richard Branson calls “extremely glamorous.”
In the context of Westwood’s punk-chic oeuvre, these suits are relatively tame. But to be fair, these are flight attendants outfits and not the Sex Pistols getups Westwood designed in her rebellious ‘70s youth. The women’s collection is heavy on Virgin’s signature deep red. Jackets are nipped at the waist with high collars, inspired by Westwood’s early '90s “Bettina” jacket. Ruffle-front white blouses riff on the classic stewardess neck scarf, paired with a red darted pencil skirt. The outfit is topped off with an elegant double-breasted, draped red coat worthy of a '40s movie star. Westwood’s signature hourglass heels, glossy and crimson as candy apples, come in three heights--the lowest of which still might make tottering around on bumpy flights a drag.
Male flight attendants get decked out in three-piece suits of deep burgundy Oxford weave wool, worn over a wide-collared white shirt. A hand-drawn wing pattern accents many pieces in the collection.
Westwood, a committed political and environmental activist, crafted many of the pieces from sustainable materials, including a polyester yarn made from recycled plastic bottles. Every handbag was produced through the Ethical Fashion Initiative in Nairobi in collaboration with the United Nations International Trade Centre (ITC).
While this take on sky-high fashion doesn't bring back the truly daring flight attendant garb of the golden age of air travel--some ‘60s uniforms featured Pucci prints and sarongs by Pierre Balmain--the flattering silhouettes and bold red is, at least, refreshing change from today's usual boxy, starched navy suits.