This week’s unveiling of the uniforms for Air Canada Rouge, a low-cost carrier launching in July, promised a more approachable look befitting a family-friendly airline. The staff, whose average age is 28, looked squeaky-clean in chaste burgundy knits (vests for guys), slate-grey slacks and retro-printed neckties topped with pinstriped fedoras. To add to the wholesomeness, they’ll be trained at the Disney Institute in Orlando.
But sporting jaunty hats alongside body-grazing cardigans and enduring Mouseketeer classes sounds more like the recipe for an early-aughts boy band than a cabin crew. The uniforms – like vacation packages to Cuba and Disney alum Selena Gomez – are meant to appeal to the masses. (The only high-fashion element here is the footwear, designed by Canadian John Fluevog, which is mostly obscured by voluminous trousers.)
It is a smart approach to make flight attendants less intimidating, however, especially when patrons are families with raucous children in tow. And the move definitely makes sense when compared with recent announcements from the more moneyed Virgin Atlantic and Nippon Airways, who will employ Vivienne Westwood and Prabal Gurung, respectively, to design their uniforms. Can you expect the man who dresses Gwyneth Paltrow, as Gurung does, to create an outfit kids can spill their inflight meal on?
That said, Rouge could have aligned with a like-minded Canadian designer or brand, as Porter did with its Pink Tartan uniforms. Joe Fresh or Le Chateau would have been great accessible alternatives. Instead, the design was overseen by Milene Vaknin of VF Imagewear who, according to the Toronto Star, went to her 20-year-old son for suggestions. Well, at least we know where those fedoras came from.
Tiyana Grulovic is the fashion editor of The Globe and Mail