For the first time in two decades, British Airways has refreshed its uniform, and in following tradition, had selected British designer of Saville Row fame – Ozwald Boateng to shape the new look for the 30,000 front line crew who are customer facing. The collection was shaped by Boateng shadowing various crew members from engineering to pilots to crew, as well as the additional input of 1,500 colleagues.

Sean Doyle, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: “Our uniform is an iconic representation of our brand, something that will carry us into our future, representing the very best of modern Britain and helping us deliver a great British original service for our customers. From the very start this has been about our people. We wanted to create a uniform collection that our people are proud to wear and with the help of over 1,500 colleagues, we are confident that we have delivered this.”

The uniform is sharp and tailored perfectly, and is certainly a refreshing update on the previous Julien Macdonald threads from 2001. The collection features a tailored three-piece suit for men with regular and slim fit style trousers and dress, skirt and trouser options for women, as well as a modern jumpsuit – which is an airline first. A tunic and hijab option has also been created for the global carrier.

There’s one element we really like, and thats the introduction of the airwave pattern, which is a subtle replacement of the herringbone. Boateng took great care in designing a truly original collection, taking inspiration from the airline, its people of the art of flying. The airwave pattern that features across the entire uniform collection including jackets, t-shirts, buttons and ties was inspired by the movement of air over an aircraft wing. The jacquard fabric across all of the tailored garments features a variation of the airline’s iconic Speedmarque.

You might think Boateng had already revealed the uniform, and that’s because his partnership was announced several years ago, and that’s because sometimes uniforms can take this amount of time to design, refine and deliver.

To make sure that each garment is fit for purpose, the airline has been putting the uniform to the test over the last six months in secret trials. Cabin and flight crew uniforms have been put through their paces on cargo flights across Europe while engineers have been secretly wearing the new uniforms while maintaining aircraft out of sight in Manchester and Cotswold Airports. Many of the outdoor garments have also been tested in deluge showers and freezers at -18 degrees Celsius to ensure they’re water resistant, durable and fit for extreme weather conditions, like some of those seen recently.

Sustainability and quality have been front and centre throughout the uniform design process. More than 90% of the garments are produced using sustainable fabric from blends of recycled polyester. As part of British Airways’ BA Better World commitment to work with sustainable suppliers, the airline is only working with manufacturers that are members of the ‘Better Cotton’ initiative, the world’s leading sustainability initiative for cotton, whose mission is to help cotton communities survive and thrive, while protecting and restoring the environment. 

The airline’s engineers and ground operations agents will be first to wear the new uniform from Spring 2023. All British Airways’ cabin crew, pilots and check-in agents will have a switch over date from their current uniform to the new one in Summer 2023. As they pick up their new items of uniform, they’ll hand in their Julien MacDonald garments, which will be donated to charity or recycled to create toys, tablet holders and more, with a number of items gifted to the airline’s museum.

Our take: But what of brand identity?

The uniforms are hard to fault. They are smart, elegant and perfectly suitable for a carrier of 2023, but interestingly that’s the feeling we are left with. If you are to remove the Speedmarque, the uniforms could be for any carrier. In fact, they seem to have a closer resemblance to American Airlines or Iberia, somewhat merging the lines between the group.

But, that said, British Airways has a difficult job in encapsulating British influence and design, as by its sheer nature, the nation is a melting pot of international influences. Britain’s heritage and culture is now of a modern, international country, and any reference to ‘British’ design globally drums up stereotypical images of the Union Jack, Big Ben and fish and chips. So Ozwald has done exactly the right thing here in reflecting a modern Britain, however unlike Virgin, the design palette of the carrier could fall into the ‘sea of blue’ trap once more, and will need some greater signature elements across the passenger experience to truly stand out from the competition.

www.britishairways.com

As I do every year, I ask on your kind support to keep things going. If you are able to donate – whatever amount – it all gets funnelled back in to the site, to keep the site full of content. And I thank you personally for your kind support.

As I do every year, I ask on your kind support to keep things going. If you are able to donate – whatever amount – it all gets funnelled back in to the site, to keep the site full of content. And I thank you personally for your kind support.

Posted by:Jonny Clark

2 replies on “British Airways unveils new Ozwald Boateng Uniform

  1. Much Ado About Nothing.

    A dark, nondescript look that reminds me of the three-piece suit I wore as a flight attendant over 30 years ago. (And what man wears a VEST anymore?) This is hardly a uniform that will turn heads in airports, or garner appreciative stares in hotel lobbies. Instead, it’s a slightly more sinister version of the typically drab apparel that airline employees have been outfitted in for decades.

  2. I watched the promo video, and if the designer has to use so many words to describe the point of this change then it has failed. The design, cut and colour should speak for itself. The current design is uniquely BA whereas this new collection could easily be AA or Delta. Not really sure what message is being sent with this. Sorrow but it’s a fail for me, and I’m not even British.

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