British Airways has turned to London designer Ozwald Boateng to design new uniforms for its 32,000-person staff.
The OBE-honored designer, who launched a women’s collection earlier this year, will have his work cut out for him shadowing British Airways employees to get a better understanding of the demands of their various jobs. Boateng will be figuring out just how the uniforms need to hold up and will have booking agents, pilots, in-flight crew and other employees wear test the uniforms before final designs are approved. The airline’s new look is being ironed out in advance of the airline’s centennial next year.
In addition to its employees, the company is looking to make passengers more comfortable by investing nearly $5.3 billion in improved Wi-Fi, new interiors in long-haul aircraft and 72 new aircraft, among other things. Boateng has plenty of archival material to draw from, including 400 British Airways uniforms from the Thirties to the present day, and a library of thousands of historical images. British Airways’ chairman and chief executive officer Álex Cruz said, “Our uniforms have been an iconic symbol of our brand throughout our 100-year history and our partnership with Ozwald will take us forward to the next chapter in our journey.”
Over the years, Paul Costelloe, Roland Klein, Baccarat Weatherall and Hardy Amies have each designed the airlines’ uniforms. Julien Macdonald created British Airways’ current attire for staffers.
The airline isn’t the first British icon that Boateng has suited up. In his early days as an independent designer on London’s Portobello Road, he dressed such notables as Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page. In a 1987 profile for The Face magazine, he described his Savile Row tailoring as “Structured Classics,” as opposed to the roomier fit Italian designers were favoring at that time. Other milestones include Ozwald acting as creative director at Givenchy Homme from 2002 to 2006.
Executives at Boateng’s company did not respond immediately for a request for comment Wednesday. In a statement, he said, “It is important for me to create something that makes all of British Airways’ 32,000 uniform-wearing employees across the world excited, at the same time as enabling me to really demonstrate my skills as a designer.”