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Richard Tyler Collection for Delta Takes Off

Airline uniforms have taken a stylish turn lately, and nowhere is this enhancement more evident than at Delta Air Lines, the nations third-largest airline in terms of passengers carried. World-renowned clothing designer Richard Tyler recently made fashion waves with a new line of airline apparel exclusively created for Delta and introduced to the public last spring.

Deltas customer service professionals are ambassadors of the Delta brand and will embody confidence and professionalism in their sophisticated new attire, says Paul Matsen, Deltas chief marketing officer. Richard Tylers extraordinary fashion vision and attention to quality has resulted in a uniform design that complements Deltas product, brand and image transformation strategy.

In May, Deltas nearly 20,000 flight attendants, customer service agents and Crown Room club representatives donned the fresh new look dreamed up by the Australian-born clothing designer. Gone are the light gray uniforms of Deltas past. The new uniforms, which use the Delta color palette of navy blue and red supplemented with gold, platinum and red accents, are designed to reflect timeless elegance and style, according to Tyler.

The signature Red Dress wrap is easily the most eye-catching piece in a collection inspired by the bygone era of glamorous air travel. The fabrics are largely a mix of wool, polyester and Lycra to maximize comfort and durability. All fabrics, including any linings, are breathable.

Female employees may choose from blazers, blouses, skirts, a pea coat, felt hat, silk scarves and pocket squares. Designs for Deltas male employees include blazers, regular and French Cuff dress shirts, a reversible all-weather coat and a reversible black bucket hat. Employees from warm areas can choose lighter-weight clothing, while those in the colder climates have a selection of heavier apparel. Employees may also purchase such Tyler-designed uniform accessories as shoes and luggage.

Our employees look absolutely amazing in Richard Tylers Collection for Delta, said Joanne Smith, vice president of marketing at Delta. We hope our customers will enjoy our new look just as much as we do.

Delta offers its employees a set of points they can cash in to build a clothing collection, according James Craven, program manager for in-flight service. Once the points are exhausted, employees may buy additional clothing items and accessories with their personal funds. With each year of employment, additional points are issued.

When commercial aviation expanded from mail flights plus a few extra spaces for passengers to airliners aimed exclusively at transporting people, uniforms materialized to denote the position of those employed to assist passengers. Boeing Air Transport led the way in 1930, when it hired eight nurses who wore sensible black shoes and a modest suit, topped with a jaunty beret. Nursing requirements eventually were dropped, but professional air hostesses continued at most airlines to maintain a formal look in form-fitting suits, white gloves and high heels.

By the 1970s, stewardesses were flaunting hemlines and necklines and convention in general with colorful outfits created by such designers as Emilio Pucci (Braniff International), Dior (SAS) and Ralph Lauren (TWA) that reflected the freewheeling styles of the times. By the 1980s, airline fashion had reverted to a more conservative uniform style.
The challenge of designing a uniform for air travel is to ensure that it is practical as well as stylish, and Im proud to have met that challenge, working with Delta to create a look that blends modern comfort and wearability with refined style, says Tyler. My goal with the design of the new uniforms was to evoke the time when air travel was glamorous and sophisticated, yet with a contemporary look and feel.

Delta employees were invited to attend a style session held in eight cities last fall, where they were given the opportunity to try on all the uniform pieces and place orders. The response has been enthusiastic: To date, Delta employees have placed 42,187 orders for a total of 348,291 items, according to Lion Uniform Group, which tracks inventory for Delta. Of the total orders, 29,243 were made with allowance points, 9,902 were exchanges, and 3,043 were personal money orders. In May alone, there were 9,912 total transactions; 5,249 made with allowance points, 2,552 of these were exchanges and 2,110 were personal money orders.

Lion Uniform Group has created an online sizing tool to aid employees in choosing their correct sizes. The airline uses ordering windows to keep inventory low. Uniforms are delivered to the employees homes. Each item has specific laundering requirements, outlined in a style guide provided to each employee.

Not only employees have responded positively to the new look so have travelers.

The new uniforms have been well received by the public, says Craven, who has received positive comments through the companys Customer Care emails.

Despite a valiant effort to stave off bankruptcy through major restructuring, Delta Air Lines succumbed on Sept. 14, 2005, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the first time in its 76-year history. After being forced to cut jobs, sell off aircraft and close a major hub in an effort to cut $3 billion in annual costs, the airline added the Tyler line of airline apparel to its new initiatives as a much-needed and highly visible morale booster.

Delta spokesman Patrick Childress, quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, recently said, When companies are in the position that Delta is right now, you need to differentiate yourself in the market. The new uniforms, he added, are part of a rebirth for the airline and a morale booster for employees.

It seems that airline employees across the board could benefit from a morale boost. According to an article in the New York Times in May, the summer of 2006 is expected to be a brutal one for the airline industry. Planes are expected to be packed, weather delays will very likely cause a cascade of flight delays and cancellations throughout the country, and years of pay cuts and added work have demoralized airline workers. In addition there are 70,000 fewer employees this year than in 2002.

Delta will be among the airlines crowded with travelers, especially during the summer vacation season. This year, the airline has switched to smaller 757s that seat 183 each for its U.S. cross-country routes. The four 767s seating 252 previously used for this purpose have been moved to overseas flights and reconfigured to seat 204 passengers. Delta is expected to have 81,692 fewer domestic seats to sell each day. Though with business travel in particular roaring back, according to the New York Times, Delta expects all aircraft will be crowded.

Delta CEO Gerald Grinstein says that the company is on track to meet its goals of increased profits and better, more efficient service. In early June, Delta recalled between 60 and 70 furloughed pilots to meet customers domestic and international travel needs and to improve revenue.

Were pleased that Deltas network and revenue improvement initiatives are affording us the opportunity to bring furloughed pilots back to Delta, says Gary Beck, senior vice president of Flight Operations.

Richard Tyler is best known for his tailored suits, elegant gowns and eveningwear. Since 1988, his Richard Tyler Boutique in Los Angeles has been retailing his designs for men and women. Included in his lines of clothing are Richard Tyler Couture, Richard Tyler Shoes, Richard Tyler Bride, tyler. (a sophisticated yet casual line), and Richard Tyler Eve, a more accessible cocktail line. The designer won the fashion industrys highest honor, presented by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, each year from 1993-95. Tylers clothing lines are developed and chiefly manufactured in the designers studio in Los Angeles.

Above story first appeared in MADE TO MEASURE Magazine, Fall & Winter 2006 issue. All rights reserved. Photos appear by special permission.
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