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You know that optimism about airlines is higher when they start splashing out on new uniforms and high-quality talent to design them.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. has hired U.K. designer Vivienne Westwood for the first makeover of its scarlet uniforms in a decade, turning to the pioneering figure of punk fashion to spearhead a renewal of the brand.

The revamp of more than 7,500 outfits for cabin crew, pilots, lounge staff and Virgin Holidays employees will seek to combine a futuristic look with elements of 1940s French fashion and tailoring drawn from London’s Savile Row, the company said.

Virgin Atlantic has seen its trendsetter-status eroded by rivals including British Airways, which pioneered flat-bed seats, and Gulf and Asian carriers like Qatar Airways Ltd. and Singapore Airlines Ltd., which have won plaudits for their cabin service. The U.K. company has responded with innovations such as a cheese trolley and afternoon tea for its premium passengers.

“From a design perspective we continually try to challenge the norm and stand out from the crowd,” founder and majority shareholder Richard Branson said in a statement, adding that other airlines have begun to copy the existing uniforms.

The new designs from Westwood, who found fame with her punk outfits in the 1970s in a partnership with Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, will be trialed in July and rolled out in 2014.

The project unites two figures known for their freewheeling fashion sense, with Branson last month revealing pants with the words “stiff competition” under a Virgin-red kilt after a flight to Scotland, and Westwood photographed in 1992 twirling her skirt outside Buckingham Palace to show she wore no underwear.

The outfit to be worn by female flight attendants features an “extremely feminine” silhouette, according to Virgin.

“The jacket enhances the female form with the aid of cleverly placed bust pleats, a nipped in waist and a curved hip line,” the Crawley, England-based company said. “The pencil skirt, which looks deceptively simple from the front, then reveals a cheeky dart and double pleat at the back.”

Male cabin crew will wear a burgundy-colored three-piece suit. The airline said it plans to use recycled materials including a polyester yarn made from plastic bottles, and that a special nano finish will help the uniforms last longer.

Editors: Chris Jasper, Benedikt Kammel. To contact the reporter on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at [email protected]. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at [email protected]

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Tags: fashion, uniforms, virgin atlantic

Photo credit: Designer Vivienne Westwood and Virgin founder Richard Branson. Virgin Atlantic

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