On Thursday afternoon in the Alaska Airlines hangar in Sea-Tac, the airline unveiled its new look for its front-line employees in the first major uniform upgrade since 2011.
“Luly’s designs perfectly capture our fresh, West Coast vibe and we’re absolutely thrilled with the collection,” said Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing.
“Like our refreshed brand, launched in early 2016, our new uniform collection includes bright pops of color, clean lines, and stunning finishes, creating a stylish yet approachable look,” she continued.
Echoing Woerner’s remarks was Justin Fitzgerald, a flight attendant who worked for Virgin America and now Alaska Airlines. “The Virgin America uniform has been such a sleek and modern look that I thought it would be so hard to top,” he said.
“Seeing Luly’s designs brought to life has been super exciting! Ms. Yang has taken a lot of our input and has created a very cool, classic yet modern, West Coast vibe!” Woerner added.
Alaska partnered with fashion designer Luly Yang who spent two years working on the design that will begin with a rollout to 130 employees starting next week for a 60-day wear testing on the various uniform pieces across all platforms from inflight to on the ramp. Following the test, and the pieces having no issues in service, uniforms will begin distribution to the 19,000 Alaska, Virgin America and Horizon Air beginning in 2019.
Alaska began the project by surveying thousands of uniformed employees; following up with focus groups and worksite visits to understand the features different workgroups wanted to see in their new uniforms.
Overwhelmingly, the top requests from employees were more pockets and designs that look great on all body shapes and sizes, as well as performance over a range of climates.
The collection is designed to be layered so that employees can self-regulate comfort while working in the freezing temperatures of Barrow, Alaska, to the balmier weather of Mexico.
Using this research and information she gathered from face-to-face interactions with employees across the system, Yang spent two years designing and creating a signature silhouette for the Alaska program. Her focus on fit and function enabled additional touches including water-resistant materials, activewear fabrics, longer shirt tails that don’t untuck from skirts and trousers, and flexible textiles that move with the body.
“Working on the Alaska Airlines custom uniform program has been one of the most complex and rewarding challenges of my career,” said Yang.
“With 45 sizes per style and 13 very distinct workgroups, this was the ultimate puzzle to solve. My hope is that employees feel that they were heard throughout this process, love the collection and wear their uniforms with pride.”
Before the designs, before the first stitch, and before the first button sewn, Alaska took steps to ensure that employee uniforms were safe and high in quality following issues with the last uniform that was launched in 2011 and had reports of flight crews getting sick.
Alaska Airlines, in partnership with Unisync and OEKO-TEX, will ensure that every custom uniform garment receives STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® certification.
This standard was developed in 1992 by the International OEKO-TEX Association, a consortium of 15 textile research and testing institutions in Europe and Japan with offices in more than 60 countries.
Throughout this process, Alaska’s leadership team has demonstrated a firm commitment to producing a high-quality uniform that adheres to an industry-leading safety program, the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®,” said Michael Smith, Unisync’s senior vice president of service and supply chain. “Unisync is proud to be a part of helping Alaska achieve such a rigorous standard.”
In total, Alaska’s new custom uniforms will incorporate over 100,000 zippers, over 1 million buttons, over 500,000 yards of fabric and will use well over 30 million yards of thread in the final program.