Air New Zealand’s uniforms take off: what to expect from the unveiling of the airline’s new designer

Air New Zealand’s uniforms take off: what to expect from the unveiling of the airline’s new designer

Air New Zealand’s flight crew have designed different uniforms over the years and in 2004, it appointed New Zealand fashion designer Zambesi to create its new uniform. Photo/Getty Images

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New Zealand style is in the spotlight this year, with the return of New Zealand Fashion Week. But some of the most anticipated fashions of 2023 are tied to a different kind of runway.

Air New Zealand has revealed that in 2025 it will update the colorful uniform designed by Dame Trelise Cooper, which was first launched in 2011, and has invited New Zealand designers to submit expressions of interest in sky valet clothing.

Today the designer will be revealed.

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New Zealanders are a patriotic people, and although Air New Zealand employees are our national carrier here and abroad, what they wear matters a lot. A lot of people have an opinion about this, so all eyes are on the big reveal of its new designer.

To fuel our expectations and hedge our bets, here’s everything we know about the uniforms and what to expect from Air New Zealand’s biggest uniform reveal yet.

What we know

says Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand says “haere rā” for its Trelise Cooper uniform.

When we were first notified of the arrival of Air New Zealand’s new livery, it was a simple, to-the-point press release that got the ball rolling.

The simple date “06.11.23” written on what appeared to be layers of purple silk didn’t leave us much to think about – but we connected the dots anyway.

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We can only assume that based on the announcement, the Air New Zealand crew will still be wearing the familiar purple, but perhaps it will include a touch of silk.

In the press release, Air New Zealand wrote: “We’ve been looking for someone to bring our future livery to life, and we’ve found a perfect fit.

“We can’t wait to introduce you,” he concluded.

This begs the question: Who is the great designer? Were they born and raised Kiwi? Have we heard about them before?

Whoever they are, they will be the latest in a long line of design talent to design clothing for the airline’s high-ranking employees. Will they look to the past for inspiration? Or to current competitors in the industry?

A look at the past

Air New Zealand employees design the Zambesi's uniform at the launch in 2005. Photography/Greg Booker
Air New Zealand employees design the Zambesi’s uniform at the launch in 2005. Photography/Greg Booker

In the past, Air New Zealand has enlisted the help of a few big-name Kiwi creatives to help brainstorm ideas for the brand’s message.

In 1973, Auckland-based designer Vinka Lucas introduced the koru logo into Air New Zealand’s uniform designs, a landmark moment for the brand and Aotearoa.

More recently, of course, Dame Trelise Cooper has taken the design and fabric reins at Air New Zealand. Air NZ’s current uniforms are full of nods to Kiwiana, from obvious kuru swirls to hidden pop culture details, such as the “pie-blow” lining in men’s uniform waistcoats.

The 2005 Zambesi design was a more classic take on flight attendant clothing, paying homage to when air travel first took off. Subdued gray and blue colors, combined with clean designs and a Pan Am-inspired cap, were the main uniform details of the early 2000s.

The 1970s: Call it "jelly bean" or"sucker"This vibrant uniform saw female employees wearing short A-line dresses in a range of pastel colours.  Photo/Air New Zealand
1970s: This vibrant uniform was called “Jellybean” or “Lollipop,” as female employees wore short A-line dresses in an array of pastel colors. Photo/Air New Zealand

When it comes to style, the Air New Zealand uniform has certainly been everywhere.

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From “Jellybean”, a brightly colored kit from the 1970s designed to show that the airline was fun and funky, to “Hibiscus”, the comfortable kaftan-style uniform that took off during the hippie movement of the 1960s, Air New Zealand’s uniforms have always evolved and changed with the times. Time, as with future airline crews.

Look at what everyone is doing

The scarlet outfit designed by Virgin Atlantic's Vivienne Westwood will now be worn by all genders.
The scarlet outfit designed by Virgin Atlantic’s Vivienne Westwood will now be worn by all genders.

Last year, several airlines sought to break this situation with gender-neutral uniforms or flexible dress codes for crew members.

Virgin Atlantic has made a statement not just by updating its Vivienne Westwood-designed red uniform, but on gender identity politics as well. The UK-based airline said it will update its dress code to allow crew to wear skirts or pants, and have visible tattoos.

Other airlines have relaxed uniforms further. Ukrainian airline SkyUp Airlines attracted attention by ditching dresses and high heels for its female cabin crew, opting instead for a gender-neutral uniform of orange jumpsuits and white sneakers. But it’s not just SkyUp that has embraced this trend in aviation sportswear.

Korea’s Aero K and Icelandic Play Airlines have also jumped on the gender-neutral white trainer trend.

Bonza, the budget airline newly launched in Australia, has a look more suited to Asos’ back catalog than cabin crew.

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“The world has changed, and so have we,” was the airline’s comment on the “no rules” casual dress code. A commendable goal but woe betide the riders who chose the wrong shirt to wear.

what are you expecting

Air New Zealand is about to have a new wine in its premium cabin.
Air New Zealand is about to have a new wine in its premium cabin.

When it comes to the ever-changing airline uniforms, both globally and nationally, there are clearly two directions of travel. There are those who rush towards casual looks, and those who give a second wind to much-loved traditional trends.

But what do we want to see from our national carrier?

When looking for potential designers to lead the airline’s clothing, Air New Zealand said it wanted someone to bring “fresh design that reflects not only Air New Zealand, but Aotearoa today and the future”.

Colour, shape and style will, of course, be in the hands of Air New Zealand’s capable designer – who will know in just a few hours – however, the uniform will, without a doubt, include nods to our beloved. Aotearoa.

Our nation’s heritage, history and culture are always prioritized in the design process at Air New Zealand, whether it’s through the iconic kuru print or the little quirks of the popular Kiwiana culture we know and love. One thing is for sure: the Air New Zealand uniform will be proudly Kiwi.

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Our only request is: Please, please do not return the jellybeans.

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