Delta’s New Uniforms To Be Designed by Zac Posen

Filed Under: Delta

Just your friendly neighborhood SkyTeam correspondent here, bringing you news about Delta free from Ben’s shade and side-eye.

I’ve written in the recent past about how Delta focuses on style to distinguish itself from its frumpier domestic competitors. And Delta, for the most part, succeeds: with Tumi amenity kits, Westin Heavenly bedding and pillows, snappy safety videos, restaurant-quality food and wine, and a well-curated in flight entertainment system, Delta feels “premium” where American and United don’t.

Case in point: uniforms.

Delta's existing uniforms
Delta’s (and Virgin Atlantic’s) existing uniforms as shown in a United Colors of Benetton ad university admissions viewbook promotional release

Delta’s existing uniforms are actually not so bad (in fact — they’re pretty snazzy relatively speaking), but Delta just announced a partnership with designer Zac Posen of “Project Runway” fame to design new uniforms for Delta’s flight attendants and airport customer service agents, with an “advisory” role in designing uniforms for the airline’s ramp, cargo and ground support agents and maintenance crew.

Delta's current uniform
Delta’s current uniform

Per Delta’s press release:

“Through challenges and triumphs, the Delta uniform has been a source of great pride for generations of Delta people and continues to serve as a symbol of our values and the world class service for which we’re known,” saidTim Mapes, Delta’s Senior Vice President – Marketing. “With Zac’s talent and expertise, and in partnership with Delta people worldwide, we look forward to creating a timeless, fashionable and functional new collection that will continue to be a point of pride and symbol of our brand for the 170 million customers who fly with us each year.”

Known for his fresh and innovative designs, Posen’s brand of modern American glamour pairs well with Delta’s brand attributes, and he will be personally engaged throughout the multi-year project. His designs are favored from the White House to the red carpet in Hollywood.

“I’m thrilled to partner with this classic American brand and look forward to collaborating with Delta employees to understand their wants and needs for the new collection,” said Zac. “Together, we will bring everyday elegance and style innovation to the ground and air alike, while making employees look and feel their best.”

Over the next few months, Posen will work with Delta employees to better understand the specialized needs of Delta’s active workforce. The prototypes will then undergo intensive wear testing to ensure functionality and fit before the final collection is produced. Consistent with Delta’s culture, employees will drive the project and be heavily involved in every phase along the way.

The new uniform program is part of a larger brand transformation and investment as Delta works to ensure its thoughtful, reliable and innovative brand attributes imbue all areas of the customer experience, including airport facilities, technology and global products and services.

The new collection is expected to launch in early 2018.

Per Women’s Wear Daily, Posen can be expected to earn somewhere between $400,000 and $1 million for his efforts.

It should be noted Delta’s had celebrity uniform designers in the past: Hollywood costume designer Edith Head designed Delta’s flight attendant uniforms from 1959 to 1965, and Kate Spade designed uniforms for Delta’s failed experiment, Song Airlines (womp, womp) in 2004.

Delta's Edith Head-designed uniform from the early 1960's
Delta’s Edith Head-designed uniform from the early 1960’s

Of course, not every Delta uniform has been a winner.

From the "Rural Milkmaid" collection
From the “Rural Milkmaid” collection
Not just unflattering, but potentially seizure-inducing!
Not just unflattering, but potentially seizure-inducing!

While Ben might argue this is just style over substance, we all know how much Ben likes style (well, at least, Style), and I’d argue as I have in the past the “substance” part of the equation is stronger than ever.

As for American?  Its new uniforms appear to have been designed by a half-asleep intern at Gap, Inc., since they’re giving me Banana Republic Outlet clearance bin realness.  Even the pilots hate them.

Alaska Airlines has entered into a partnership with Land’s End to design its new uniforms (after the old uniforms were found to have induced “rashes, headaches and hair loss and respiratory problems”).  I mean, at least that one is on brand?  “Utilitarian, durable, frumpy and popular with people in the AARP — that’s us!”

And don’t forget, Cathay’s uniforms are, ahem, “too sexy.” (Too sexy for a Mormon sister wife / Saudi mixer, maybe?)

Obviously, Zac Posen will have some challenges to work with (durability, safety, creating a look that flatters all body types, and pleasing fickle naysayers), but I fully expect that this will add another notch in Delta’s “stylishness” bedpost, and kudos to Delta for looking somewhere other than Bland City for inspiration.

  1. let’s face it… if they want to improve flight attendants, they don’t need to work with designers… they need to team up with weight watchers.

  2. To be fair, while Delta does have a red dress as part of their uniform, the picture you showed above is from the announcement of the DL-VS joint venture, and the FAs in red are all VS flight attendants, who definitely have a far more fashionable uniform than anything Delta will ever have.

  3. @Bgriff: Oh, I didn’t know – my bad. Thanks! I’ll correct, though I wanna keep in the DL-VS photo for the sheer “obviously staged”-ness of it all.

  4. Hey Ben,
    How do I post links in the comment for some reason every time I paste a link it doesn’t appear in the comments.
    For example I wanted to tell you about a recent article I read which mentioned that Boeing had discovered hairline cracks in 40 of its dream liners
    With things like this happening should I reconsider flying on the 787?

  5. @wwk5d: Fair point, though I figured the definition of “shade” had been watered down so much by Ben over the years that any use of it on OMAAT was fair game.

    (See, now that is shade.)

  6. The picture you posted as “Delta’s Current Uniform” is actually the current uniform of Virgin America.

  7. @Dave D: Really? AGH GOOGLE IMAGES YOU’RE THE WORST. It really does looks like the Delta uniform, though. I will fix…

  8. *nene voice* READ HUNNY READ!!! Yassss Nick!! I see you giving these US airlines tha bizness….lol!!
    The regular readers will have a hard time understanding the lingo, oh well, lol!!!
    Am loving every bit of this post…yasss hunty, come thru!!
    Congrats to Zac Posen on his new $$$ venture but am concerned about the population that he will be designing these clothes for tho, cos chilllee Zac Posen does not make clothes for senior citizens or size 15 ladies….(was that shadeeeeee??? Oops)

  9. 1. What Lantean said. These uniforms are lipstick on a proverbial pig. Or maybe literal pig. Sometimes it’s hard to tell with American carriers.

    2. American carriers have way too many variations of the uniform because they seemingly have to provide a uniform that’s muu-muu like (ill-fitting slacks and sweater vest) to FAs that don’t want to wear an outfit that accentuates that they’re not fit and are likely well past any part of their life wherein an A-line skirt or slim-fitted suit was even remotely appropriate, let alone they were young and nimble enough to actually aid in the evacuation of a plane in an emergency. I don’t think I’ve EVER been on a flight of a U.S. carrier, save maybe Virgin, that there was uniformity of uniforms. I always count the variations to denote how little give-a-shit there is on my flight. And there are usually about three combinations of shirt, slacks, and track-suit-looking ensembles. Basically every day at a U.S. carrier looks like it was laundry day and they pulled their shittiest uniform from the hamper.

  10. The articles quotes someone at Delta as Delta giving world class service? Really? Where? Surly cabin crews, inattentive, dowdy, unfriendly, dour faces. No thanks.

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