Emilia Wickstead, Air New Zealand’s new uniform designer, on her inspiration for the airline’s fashionable new era

Written by Travel Adventures

Fashion and flying have gone hand in hand since the first commercial passenger flights took to the skies. From the nurse-inspired uniforms of the early 1940s to the pillbox hats, navy suits and white gloves donned by Delta airline attendants in the 1960s, each era of commercial air travel has had a distinct aesthetic.

Today, uniforms are not just instantly recognisable – they’re a statement. British Airways unveiled new uniforms designed by British-Ghanaian Savile Row designer Ozwald Boateng in early 2023, an ode to great British tailoring. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic used a uniform overhaul to promote inclusivity, championing individuality by allowing all staff to dress according to their gender identity.

Now, Air New Zealand is following suit – and celebrated Kiwi designer Emilia Wickstead is leading the way. On Monday 6 November 2023, the national carrier announced the London-based style guru to the stars and social elite; the Princess of Wales and supermodel Gigi Hadid have donned the designs over the years.

Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty says Emilia’s concepts blew away the selection panel.

Models walk the runway during the finale at the Emilia Wickstead show during London Fashion Week September 2023

Models walk the runway during the finale at the Emilia Wickstead show during London Fashion Week September 2023Getty Images

“We received expressions of interest from more than 40 New Zealand designers and heard pitches from the country’s leading design talent, showcasing the depth and breadth of New Zealand fashion, making it an incredibly tough decision. Ultimately, Emilia stood out as the perfect partner. [Emilia] presented outstanding initial designs that were creative, unique, [and] will set Air New Zealand apart on the global stage. She also demonstrated her understanding of the importance of creating a uniform that is both functional and comfortable for our people.”

Following the announcement, Emilia said, “I could not be prouder, or more excited, to have been selected as Air New Zealand’s next uniform designer. This is a true passion project for me, one that further connects me with my homeland Aotearoa, and the community and places that I love. My approach to the uniform centres around a deep respect for New Zealand’s cultural heritage. First and foremost, it is inspired by people. I’m a big believer that clothing can be transformative, uplifting and empowering, and my hope is that the new uniforms will instil a sense of pride and purpose in Air New Zealand’s incredible, world-class team.”

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