FLY ME TO THE MOON Martin Grant is putting style in the skies with his new Qan­tas pi­lots’ uni­forms.

Martin Grant is putting style in the skies, says Ali­son Ve­ness.

VOGUE Australia - - News -

Martin Grant is a bit of a pro. Well, he should be: he has been de­sign­ing since he was 16. There is an ele­gance and swift un­der­cur­rent of Aus­tralian en­ergy meets French la-la at play in his work. There is the orig­i­nal strength of his sketches in the sweep of a long wool coat and lush col­lar. There is a dark swag­ger in his faille and flou. His clothes are for se­ri­ous diplo­mats’ wives; for mé­nage a trois. Char­mant. He lives in Paris. He is the de­signer who has re­vamped the Qan­tas cabin uni­forms, ad­ding sen­su­al­ity and bounce to the kicker of kan­ga­roo with hot red and pink. Now he has been charged with the pi­lot uni­forms.

The orig­i­nal mood board in­cluded Catch Me If You Can stills. “Film is so iconic for pi­lots and that whole glam­our of air travel, so this was kind of my step-off point if you like, be­cause we wanted it to be a bit sexy as well.” Rugged/sexy/heroic. “Yeah, ex­actly. I’ve learnt so much about pi­lots, ob­vi­ously, it’s one of the top five re­spected pro­fes­sions in the work­force and it’s one of those things that ev­ery­body re­sponds to. Chil­dren, adults, women, men … ev­ery­body has some sort of re­ac­tion to pi­lots and it’s al­ways pos­i­tive. And it’s that thing of re­spect and I think there is some­thing sexy about it.”

The spe­cific pi­lot cul­ture is, he says, quite con­ser­va­tive. “I thought that it was re­ally in­ter­est­ing that they talk about that them­selves. And you want that con­ser­vatism in that role be­cause you don’t want risk-tak­ers. Ev­ery­body wants to feel re­as­sured that whomever is fly­ing that air­craft is sta­ble and solid and so that’s what came through in the meet­ings. I’ve met some­thing like 50 to 60 pi­lots through the whole process. I’ve tried to meet as many as pos­si­ble to get as much in­for­ma­tion.”

He dis­cov­ered that Qan­tas has a grow­ing num­ber of fe­male pi­lots. “It’s the first time their uni­form has been ad­dressed, be­cause up un­til now they has been sort of squeezed into men’s uni­forms.”

The women will be wear­ing pants and jack­ets, be­cause they’ve got such a spe­cific work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. “I mean, the flight deck is re­ally quite small and they’re of­ten there for 12 hours and they have a three-point har­ness to wear as well. They ac­tu­ally don’t mind hav­ing a uni­form that’s very close to the men’s and so I’ve just fem­i­nised it in the cut, the jacket is more fit­ted. Ev­ery­thing is more stream­lined and tai­lored, the pants more nar­row. And then we’ve in­tro­duced a spe­cial tie for women, a plain tie which is some­where be­tween a cra­vat and a tie, with a metal tie pin, which has the Aus­tralian coat of arms on it.”

“FILM IS SO ICONIC FOR PI­LOTS AND THAT WHOLE GLAM­OUR OF AIR TRAVEL”

“I SPENT HOURS WITH THEM BE­ING TAUGHT HOW TO FLY AN AIR­CRAFT”

The women wanted to be aligned with their male coun­ter­parts rather than set apart. “If we had cre­ated some­thing too fem­i­nine and they sud­denly looked girlie-girlie, they wouldn’t feel as com­fort­able. And so it is prac­ti­cal and I think also a lit­tle bit about as be­ing as good as the guys,” he adds. “There are fe­male pi­lots who have been there for a long time, and then new re­cruits, women in their early 20s – these gor­geous fresh-faced girls be­ing in­tro­duced into the work­force.”

And so he has rev­o­lu­tionised the black to night­time navy blue, tai­lored in 80 per cent wool sourced from Aus­tralian grow­ers, nat­u­rally. “The pi­lot’s uni­form is mil­i­tary-based and it’s got very spe­cific codes, which are im­por­tant. The gold braid is gold bul­lion braid and so on the sleeves, for ex­am­ple, it de­fines the rank, and then we also used it on the trim of the hat and on all the em­broi­dery for the wing badges and the hat badges. I’ve kind of taken it back to more of the clas­sic mil­i­tary style. I wanted it to have that real rich­ness, be­cause some­times I think those uni­forms can look like dress-ups.”

He re­searched pi­lots uni­forms across the board, across his­tory and then specif­i­cally Qan­tas. “The ori­gin of the uni­form is ac­tu­ally naval-based, be­cause when air­craft were in­vented the only thing that they had were naval uni­forms, so they just wore the same kind of uni­form, more than the fighter pi­lots’ leather jacket and cap,” he ex­plains.

“It’s so sub­tle the changes that we could make, but re­ally cool is the new white top of the hat, be­cause in the last 30 years I think the ma­jor­ity of air­line com­pa­nies switched to a black or a dark top. Qan­tas had the white top up un­til the 70s. So I wanted to take it back to a slightly more nos­tal­gic feel, back to that ground-roots travel.” The em­broi­dery on the edge of the hat had a generic de­sign, which he has ad­dressed. “His­tor­i­cally, it al­ways re­lated to the coun­try of ori­gin, so it might have been olive or oak – so I’ve taken it away from what was generic and in­tro­duced the wat­tle on it.” And so while Leonardo DiCaprio, the star of Catch Me If You Can, was on Grant’s mood board, and Amelia Earhart, Aus­tralia’s own feted fe­male pi­lot Nancy-Bird Wal­ton was there too. “She was the first Aus­tralian fe­male pi­lot to get her com­mer­cial li­cense; I mean she got it when she was just 19!” His­tory-mak­ing.

This lat­est part of the Qan­tas project has been an epic jour­ney for Grant. “It’s been fas­ci­nat­ing to walk into the lives of a whole dif­fer­ent group of peo­ple and learn about them – and have the ex­pe­ri­ence of the flight sim­u­la­tor as well. I spent hours with them be­ing taught how to fly an air­craft, so all of that stuff is bril­liant.”

Could he fly an air­craft now, I ask him. “No way! No way!” he says, laugh­ing. “Not in a mil­lion years.”

Clock­wise from above: gold bul­lion thread was used to sew iconic em­blems; Martin Grant in his Paris ate­lier; a navy coat bear­ing the de­signer’s name and Qan­tas liv­ery.

Clock­wise from left: Grant’s mood board; bolts of fab­ric in the Paris stu­dio; Ken dolls used by Qan­tas to model mini uni­forms for an ex­hi­bi­tion.

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