She’s the grande dame of anarchy who indelicately named her King’s Road shop SEX and elevates her environmental agenda whenever possible; he’s the brash poster boy for consumerism, all private islands and high-octane travel. And together, they’re reinventing the face of airborne fashion.
If you thought Vivienne Westwood and Richard Branson were an unlikely pairing, join the mile high club. But we’re excited to learn that the iconic designer is collaborating with Virgin Atlantic to redesign the staff’s uniforms. In true Vivienne style, it’s a redesign of clashing extremes: reportedly referencing futurism, 40s couture and Savile Row.
Politically they might be polarised, but there’s a certain kinship of spirit between Westwood and Branson, both of whom regularly stick two fingers up at authority. Branson’s playboy attitude is expressed in the brand identity of Virgin Atlantic: while BA is nice but navy – all rictus grins and lacquered bobs – Virgin Atlantic is a little saucier. Its lounges look like casinos, and its cabin crew sometimes have lipstick on their teeth. It’s OK. Viv won’t mind.
Westwood often rejects practicality (this is the women who eschewed underwear when she went up to collect her OBE at Buckingham Palace) but she insists that the designs pay attention to form and function, acknowledging the physical demands of a job that may require you to simultaneously restrain a drunk bachelorette while assuring a pensioner that you’ll certainly find out whether the mid-flight treat is organic.
Many items in the uniform will be created using recycled materials and suiting fabrics will have a nano finish that extends the life of the garments, retaining that proud red hue for longer. Silhouettes will be feminine and intuitive: bust pleats, curved waists and craftily-cut pencil skirts will sashay up and down the aisles. For men, crew will wear tailoring inspired by Savile Row in shades of burgundy. The uniforms will be on trial from July 2013 – the crew will report back to Westwood so that any necessary tweaks can be effected before the full launch in 2014, when more than 7500 employees will be suited and booted in new season Westwood.
And while Necker Island might represent the pinnacle of barefoot luxury, his airline has always retained sartorial standards. The first uniforms were designed by the very English couturier and author, Arabella Pollen, who wouldn’t be seen dead in a jacuzzi. She was succeeded by treasured designer, the much-decorated John Rocha – who famously reintroduced the cravat to the crew’s style weaponry. Vivienne Westwood and Virgin Atlantic: it’s simply the latest catwalk coup. And what a coup. But quite how this squares with Vivienne’s very vocal Climate Revolution campaign, of course, we don’t quite know… C