Air France: Flying chic for 70 years

Air France: Flying chic for 70 years

On show this week, the outfits and back stories of arguably the world's best dressed airline
The summer pale blue uniform created by Balenciaga in 1969.

The French pride themselves on a number of things, style being a key badge of pride.

For Air France, they've taken this aspect rather seriously, calling upon a list of illustrious designers such as Carven, Nina Ricci, Balenciaga, Louis Feraud, Christian Dior, Gres and Christian Lacroix, to help create its chic cabin crew look for the past 70 years.

This evolution of the Air France uniform is now on show at “Elegance in the Skies,” staged through to November 11 at the Alliance Française de Singapour.

The exhibition provides a glimpse into the development of the airline as well as the country’s changing times.

In the 1930s, when Air France was born, and commercial air travel was just beginning to take off, the airline saw its first cabin crew serve passengers in uniforms extracted from the personal wardrobes of former waiters of luxury hotels and transatlantic liners.

After the war, cabin crew uniforms took on a more military look.

The Air France summer uniform by Christian Dior, imparting an air of haute couture to the art of travel in the 1960s. That later softened in the 1950s with a narrow-waisted, figure-hugging skirted uniform by Georgette de Treze, inspired by the look created then by Christian Dior.

The airline was so taken by Dior that in the 1960s, they turned to his fashion house for their next uniform. And his designer, Marc Bohan, delivered an ultra-feminine yet functional piece with chic details -- stitched flat bows and white kid gloves.

The 1970s hailed the arrival of the Concorde, and with that a totally new approach to what the cabin crew wore.

Using three design houses, Carven, Nina Ricci and Gres, Air France produced different garments and accessories, which they could then mix –and-match according to their personal style.

So instead of having a uniform, Air France crew now had a wardrobe.

Dress it up, dress it down, Christian Lacroix's 'individualized' uniform. Another major change in this era was a departure from the airline’s corporate colors of blue and white, with the introduction of red.

This new palette and wardrobe concept remained in place without much further change, until the 2000s, when Christian Lacroix came into the picture.

Lacroix took Air France’s uniform to a whole new level.

He expanded on its wardrobe, creating more than a 100 items, ranging from pumps to bob hats to gloves, coats and dresses, that front line staff -- not just cabin crew -- could draw from.

Lacroix also implemented prints for a softer, more varied, look, and reduced the use of red to just highlights for contrast, maintaining a primary palette of navy blue and light gray.

Allowing staff to put their own personal stamp on their uniform was typically Lacroix. As he famously said once, “The idea of seeing everyone clad the same is not really my cup of tea.”

 

Elegance in the Skies

Alliance Française de Singapour
1 Sarkies Road
Till November 11

Elaine Ee writes about Singapore, the city she lives in, covering the arts, events, personalities and social issues. Her stories have appeared in Time Out SingaporeTatler HomesFood & Travel and Jetstar Asia. She’s also an editor at publichouse.sg, a Singapore community-driven website run by socially conscious denizens. When she’s not at her laptop, she practises Bikram yoga, spends time with her three kids and makes it a point to keep trying something new. 

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