Thursday, August 16, 2007

Balmain's iconic uniform for Singapore Airlines voted design classic

Airline stewardesses uniforms have always been a bit hit and miss, (SouthWest's leather boots & hotpants or EasyJet's hideous orange sweatshirts spring to mind, although I've always had a soft spot for Braniff's Pucci bubble helmet).

But the distinctive uniform of Singapore Airlines' air stewardesses has always been a success and the September issue of Wallpaper* has voted it a Design Classic, dedicating a whole section to the uniform, designed exclusively for the airline by French couturier Pierre Balmain in 1968.

With just a minor tweak in the collar in 1974, Balmain's design, based on the traditional Malay sarong kebaya costume, has been worn by Singapore Airlines flight stewardesses for 39 years. It's a brilliant design: neatly encompassing the requirements of Singapore's multi-cultural, religiously-mixed population.

Wallpaper* notes that part of the allure of the uniform is down to Balmain's insistence that it was fully tailored, not off the peg. To this day, a team of tailors carry out a minimum of two fittings per year and each crew member is provided with four new uniforms per year. Approximately 20,000 kebayas (for all ranks) are tailored annually.

Singapore Airlines are not the only flight crew to wear designer outfits: British Airways, whose staff previously wore Irish designer Paul Costelloe, unveiled Julien Macdonald's pin stripe suits in 2005, along with rather fabulous vintage inspired Stephen Jones hats and Tanner Krolle handbags.