This story is from Stuff
Royal favourite Emilia Wickstead has been announced as the new designer of Air New Zealand’s uniforms.
The airline revealed the news this morning, with the New Zealand-born, London-based designer flying in for the announcement in Auckland.
The designer said designing a uniform for Air New Zealand had “Always been a dream of mine.”
”It’s where I’m from, it’s where I was born and raised and it’s a real passion project for me.”
Wickstead was chosen to lead the uniform refresh for pilots, flight attendants and ground crew, beating out more than 40 New Zealand designers in a competitive pitch project.
Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty said the selection panel was ‘blown away’ by Wicksted’s concepts.
“Emilia presented outstanding initial designs that were creative, unique, will set Air New Zealand apart on the global stage.” Geraghty said “She also demonstrated her understanding of the importance in creating a uniform that is both functional and comfortable for our people.”
The current Air New Zealand uniforms, designed by Dame Trelise Cooper, were introduced in 2011.
Announcing the search for a new designer in May, Geraghty said the uniform was one of the airline’s most important brand assets, recognised around the world, and as such it needed to "reflect the diversity of their workforce today."
At the announcement, Wickstead said the people who will wear her creations are her ‘top priority’.
“To think about how it’s going to make them feel, and how it’s going to impact the way they travel around the world, how they work with different people and how they stand out in a crowd – that is the most exciting part for me” she said.
Today Geraghty said that Wickstead’s selection came down to the fact that her ‘modern yet timeless pieces’ fit perfectly with “what we were looking for in a design partner – someone who could create a uniform that our people can wear with pride now and into the future.”
In a video released in time with the announcement, Wickstead said she cried when finding out her design pitch had been successful. “I'm so proud of my roots and where I'm from, and for me to be able to tell the story presenting a beautiful, powerful, incredible new uniform... yeah I'm very excited.”
London-based New Zealand fashion designer Emilia Wickstead has been announced as the new designer of Air New Zealand’s uniforms.
Wickstead is internationally recognised, and high-profile, having launched her namesake brand in London in 2008. Ladylike elegance, expert tailoring and a playful use of colour are at the heart of her designs.
A favourite with celebrities, Wickstead’s designs have been worn by multiple members of the royal family, including the Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan Markle, and earlier this year she collaborated with Gwyneth Paltrow on a range for the actor's own brand Goop.
Wickstead was born in Auckland and attended Baradene College of the Sacred Heart i Remuera, before moving to Milan, Italy at 14, with her fashion designer mother Angela Wickstead.
Her collections are sold in some of the most high-profile luxury fashion retailers in the world, including Net-A-Porter, Selfridges, and Harrods, alongside her flagship store which opened in 2014 on London’s Sloane Street. In Aotearoa, a small selection of her designs are sold through Auckland boutique Simon James.
Announcing the search for a new uniform designer in May this year, Air New Zealand said the sustainability of the workplace wardrobe would be a key consideration when selecting the winning pitch, particularly ensuring the fabrics used had a low environmental impact. The airline also signalled they would be looking at solutions for the existing uniform, to minimise waste to landfill.
Wickstead’s yet to be released designs now enter a phase of design refinements, onboard trials, and uniform wearer consultation before the final designs are revealed to the public in late 2024. They replace the current uniform designed by Dame Trelise Cooper and introduced in 2011.
Hinting at what can be expected from her designs, Wickstead shared “Print design will play a big part.”
“Even design details will have a meaning. Small little details that you might not even recognise will play on New Zealand heritage.”
Wickstead Aotearoa influences ‘everything I do’, not just her upcoming designs for the airline.
”I’d like to think that everything that I own today is because of how I was born and raised here... It all started from a dream here in New Zealand and I have, you know, taken it abroad.”
Air New Zealand expects to roll out the new Wickstead designed uniforms to its more than 5000 customer-facing staff “over the next few years.” It will also be revising grooming standards as part of the update.
Stuff Masthead Publishing style editor and Ensemble co-founder Zoe Walker Ahwa wrote in March that the uniform upgrade was well overdue, saying the Cooper designed garments should be replaced with “something that really does reflect Aotearoa today”.
Air New Zealand first announced plans to update its uniforms in 2018, and had hoped it would be adopted by 2021. However, the project was delayed shortly after then put on hold due to the pandemic. They put out a call for ‘expressions of interest’ from NZ designers in May, with the airline then selecting designers to be part of a competitive pitch process.
The uniform refresh comes as the airline updates other features, including onboard amenity kits featuring local skincare company Aotea and new jets set to arrive next year.