In air travel, every millimetre matters. And, we’re not just talking about leg room for Zac Posen has redesigned every inch of Delta new uniforms.
For most of us, not least airline staff, travelling isn’t a very fashionable experience. Between carefully packed baggies of miniature liquids and sharing elbow space with strangers for 15-hours straight, that tiny sliver of glamour that may have once been the starting and ending point of a holiday has near but disappeared. However, Posen has turned Delta’s runways into a catwalk. Literally. Yesterday, as the American company took to the air in their new uniforms designed by the New York couturier, one Minneapolis flight was treated to a new type of in-flight entertainment: a fashion show. As the air hosts and hostesses strutted and twirled down the galley the unsuspecting passenger were one of the first to see what Posen has been slyly designing with Delta for the last three years.
For every employee from in-flight to technical, mechanic and ground team, Posen has designed a host of outfits in 'Passport Plum', 'Cruising Cardinal' and 'Groundspeed Graphite'. It's not just the names that are a little quirky, behind the seams Posen has included little details that make these pieces a little special. 'There are nuances to airline uniforms that you don't find at Saks Fifth Avenue, like hidden pockets for a passport, a slot to put in a radio or sweat guard shields on the inside of blazers in case you're working in a super-hot climate,' reveals Delta's Uniform Director Ekrem Dimbiloglu adding, ' We added spill repellency on the fabrics because in our 85-plus focus groups around the country flight attendants warned of that rogue tomato juice that explodes and that chocolate sauce from the dessert tray that gets everywhere. A lot of the features you can't really see.'
He adds that many of these little touches, like four-way stretch materials and personalised galvanized buttons on the trousers of below wing employees, like mechanics and technicians, that are always hidden behind belts are there to add morale. Likewise, a set of sunglasses and handbags for female staff aren't essential, but make the employees feel cared for. One air hostess on a flight from Paris bragged of these new Posen-designed bags that they are a nifty way of transporting back six bottles of French wine, while another said the new neckties are something they'd wear off-duty. 'From a customer point of view, we want them to look slick and beautiful and set apart from our competitors. But for our employees it's about function, breathability and comfort', Dimbiloglu says.
A flight attendant’s needs for 11 hours at 30,000 ft is very different from a red carpet attendee’s for an hour in LA but that was something that excited Posen. ‘I love the apron because when we played with the pattern we designed it to mimic the idea of a plane taking off and the horizon changing,’ Posen gleefully reveals at a launch event in Los Angeles. 'I also love the button design and the changing of the wing name tags.'
‘I love the signature dress most’ said Posen of the purple sheaf that’s already the most popular style with the in-flight teams. This new accolade for the designer adds another bow to his CV, which already includes TV-star, cookbook author and CFDA winner. He’s certainly clued up on what it means to design for a crew as he researched every airline uniform from every carrier ever (!) before putting pen-to-drawing pad for Delta.
‘From the beginning, I wanted to create that “wow” moment,’ Posen explains, ‘Delta wanted to create a specific impact that if you see the crew walking through an airport you see unity.’ Yet, these days Delta’s staff come in all shapes, sizes and ages, which proved to be one of the more interesting sticking points for creating a vision of unity in the face of diversity. How did he do it? A tight edit of colours but with a choice of specific streamlined shapes that can be mixed-and-matched by the crew. There are skirt and trouser options, different suits and waistcoats and two dresses to pick from.
‘I think it harks back to the romance of travel but feels totally contemporary.’ As flights take off and Posen is added to the annals of airline designers, alongside Mary Quant, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Emilio Pucci, he says what unifies his own label and his latest Delta designs: ‘Making somebody beautiful never goes out of style’.