On July 4, Hainan Airlines put out a press release for their new uniforms. This kind of news doesn’t often pop. Hainan’s not exactly a famous airline, either – heck, it’s only the fourth-biggest in its native China. However, these new air steward uniforms are turning heads after debuting as part of Paris Haute Couture Week Fall/Winter 2017.
Analyzing the Hainan Uniforms
The designs of Laurence Xu, commissioned by Hainan, are complex, symbolic, and aesthetically pleasing. Just check out what the official press release says about the imagery on the dresses. The lower hem has “a pattern alternating sea and mountains which contrasts with the collar’s clouds and sky.” This evokes the unique birds’-eye view of the world one can only get from the window seat of an airplane. Speaking of birds, also featured on the design is a roc, described in the release as “a mythical bird denoting strength.” The implication is that Hainan planes embody the awe of the legendary beast in real life. It also symbolizes the airline’s desire to grow into one of the world’s best.
Hainan Airlines and Laurence Xu seem to be a natural fit, and the styling is inherently elegant. Stylish, sophisticated, with a hint of fun, the airline uniform feels like it’s been taken out of the Jetset era and plunged into the modern world. #flyhainan #aviationgeek #aviationlovers #airlines #cabincrew #flightattendant #aviationphotography #fly #cabincrewlife #fashionaddict #fashionblogger #fashiondesigner #fashionista #flight #flightlife #designers
Both male uniforms eschew this pattern in favor of a simpler, still stylish grey trenchcoat and a snazzy suit. Hainan considers grey one of its signature colors, and it even made its way to one of the stewardess uniforms. This plain, one might say drabber color stands out with the bright, light shades of the aforementioned pattern.
More interestingly, “East meets West” seems to be the guiding philosophy behind Xu’s designs for the uniform structure. The uniforms, says the press release, “highlight the combination of traditional Chinese features and internationally popular elements.” For example, stewardesses will wear a cheongsam, a traditional Chinese one-piece. But this version will actually be a two-piece, as Xu pairs it with a grey vest not unlike what people wear in North America and Europe. Another example is the use of the roc, which first appeared in Arabian mythology. Perhaps Xu was aware that ancient traveler Ibn Batuta and 16th-century explorer Antonio Pigafetta both claimed the roc lived in China.
It only makes sense for a growing international airline to base their attire on this. After all, air travel made the world far smaller. Planes don’t just facilitate the transport of people, but also the spread of culture and ideas. Xu freely remixes these styles into something bold, unique, and fitting. Small wonder, then, that an up-and-coming airline’s uniforms could appear at a French fashion event.