As our national carrier Pakistan International Airlines recently held a fashion competition to design new uniforms for its air staff, there were a lot of criticism about whether the window dressing were really the need of the hour for the airline. There was an insightfully written piece about the illustrious history of uniforms worn by PIA staff in Dawn Newspaper that everyone should read. And yes I don’t think we have come a long way because the progress made in 60s 70s took a U turn somewhere.
Everyone I mean practically everyone was tweeting about the winner and the various options they thought should have won and obviously I had my own favorites. Its delicate balance where you have to be up to the International standards yet maintain the outlook of a professional and progressive staff of an airline(that too of an Islamic Republic).
Costume and fashion history books I have read tell me that uniforms in airline industry came in from air force and military pilots so even when the WW1 was over and civilians began to fly aircrafts their clothing emulated that elements from those armed forces so that people feel more secure. The black double breasted jackets, black trousers with braids on sleeve, peaked/combination cap which is the quintessential elements of airline uniform were introduced by PanAm in 1930s because this uniform closely resembled uniform of naval officers . As for the stewardess uniforms, they were nurses first that convinced Boeing Air Transport that airline needed a nurse for passengers to overcome their fear/discomfort while flying. Those ladies wore green wool capes quite similar to the one that won in PIA competition.Later becoming air-hostesses.
Throughout 1940 and 1950s all airline uniforms across the world looked more or less same. Cliff Muskiet, curator of Uniform Freak, an online museum of flight attendant uniforms reports that the only colors used were navy blue, dark green and brown for winter uniforms and light blue, light green and beige for summer uniforms. It was in the mid 1960s that air travel really grew and airlines across the world hired designers Emilio Pucci was hired by Braniff in US and we in Pakistan had Pierre Cardin. Later in 1980s and 1990s everyone pretty much went in their own ways some wanted to showcase their own cultural others wanted a more global outlook with hot pants, cigarette pants, pencil skirts and what not. In our PIA Showcase there were some good and some bad,
What was Amir Adnan thinking with those Valima suits? And those nurse uniforms? He makes respectable menswear in retail don’t know what happened here with FnkAsia either.
Shamael and Sonya Batla showcase was vibrant but I don’t think they had enough structure and strength to be uniforms, they could be sold as their high street options or PIA souvenir store who knows those prints could be next streetstyle statement.
HSY has lost the plot, and you can quote me on this. His pieces resembled shaadi outfits with the embroidery going on, I would wear these to my shaadi .Even the choice of purple, magenta had little connection to our national imagery.
The pieces that Maheen Khan’s sent down the runway were impeccably-finished but they lacked excitement. They were stuck in the 80s and 90s vision of bland grey minimalist future.
Fahad Hussayn presented beautiful options but missed out on some inconspicuous elements. There wasn’t the usual spark and detailing that he is known for . I liked the pleats and architectural detail on the piece worn by Iraj.
Ali Xeeshan with those graphic stripes cutting across the body and the on hem and sleeves referenced wartime uniforms a little too much, it lacked the seriousness of Uniform aspect.
Khaadi with its paisley and floral motifs won my heart. It was fresh and happy. Only if there were amalgamation of western silhouettes, he would have been a sure winner.
Misha Lakhani’s ensembles were pretty rudimentary, those could be uniform of a hotel staff and you won’t even know. It didn’t exude air travel let alone PIA.
Maheen Karim’s faired the same fate, the only saving grace were the two embroidered motifs on the waist and the jacket with embroidery on the back. But how are they uniforms?
Sania Maskatiya was my 2ND favorite. The printed lining, the scarves, the caps, the layering it was the right amount of excitement and that too quite discreet. The silhouettes I feel would suit most women. I sincerely hope they retail some of it too.
Yasmeen Sheikh’s Shaikh Studio was heavy with vintage influences be it the outerwear, the sixty’s necklines and 1980s shalwar kameezes . The cape coat of hers that won should have had more structure/lining otherwise it will make full figured stewardess of ours look like butch shuttlecocks.
Nomi Ansari the won because of his no nonsense silhouette with the longer blazers that streamlined the figure and his choice of working with one dark color in the whole ensemble helped in that. The concept worked because it was slimming. I hope the contractor constructs these in the same way.
The Omar Farooq’s Republic was robustly suave in blue, the double breasted round necked vest was quite revolutionary it would be great to see such pieces on real men if the fit is that impeccable. I liked that he incorporated stripes on sleeves as the traditional aspects of naval uniforms.
Ismail Farid wasn’t far behind. His grey black color palette was stern and attention to detail such as the wings insignia on the jackets, the darker under collar and the green pocket squares/ties was commendable. His double breasted construction was also relatively slimmer and with a higher stance. My winner for menswear!
If you are interested in exploring uniforms of other airlines do visit this website which curates costumes of stewardesses do visithttp://www.uniformfreak.com