Delta’s $20 million designer uniforms draw mixed reviews

Delta Air Lines has debuted new uniforms for 64,000 employees working in its airplanes, airports and hangars at a reported cost of $20 million — an investment met with mixed reactions on social media.

On May 29, the Atlanta-headquartered carrier at last rolled out a whopping 1.2 million clothing items designed by Zac Posen and produced by Lands’ End — a collaboration three years in the making, according to a press release.

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The new uniforms have been a long time coming.

The new uniforms have been a long time coming. (Delta Air Lines)

In preparation for the launch, Delta conducted over 80 employee focus groups and polled over 1,000 employees over three months — and across five continents — on their thoughts about the uniforms. Reviewing over 30,000 employee survey responses, the design team then made over 165 changes before landing the final looks.

Posen, an acclaimed women’s wear designer known for modern designs, as well as his role as a judge on Lifetime’s “Project Runway,” even shadowed Delta employees across various departments to fully immerse himself in their employee culture, and to prpperly design clothing for employees from Sydney to Honolulu.

Zac Posen himself shadowed Delta staffers through the design process.

Zac Posen himself shadowed Delta staffers through the design process. (Delta Air Lines)

Furthermore, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the new uniform rollout cost was “probably in the $20 million range,” but that all the effort was worthwhile, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“The new Delta uniform collection offers unity between all workgroups like never before. We are one proud Delta team and it really shows,” Bastian said in the release.

“Zac is bringing fashion and glamour back to the airlines. It’s a sophisticated look, it’s elegant, it’s much more international in orientation. Our aspirations are to be a top global carrier, not just a top U.S. carrier,” the exec later mused to the Journal-Constitution.

Touting the uniform’s innovative, high-tech fabric featuring “ripstop, high-stretch, wrinkle-and-stain-resistant, water repellant and waterproof, deodorizing, windproof, anti-static and moisture-wicking properties,” the redesign also introduced Spanx compression undergarments for female employees, and "male and female flight attendants will also receive compression socks,” Fast Company reports.

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Most notably, the carrier has embraced a new signature hue with “Passport Plum,” shattering a 30-year tradition of blue and red looks in the hopes of standing out among the domestic competition, Bastian said.

"One of the things that we talk to our employees and customers about is our uniforms, while they're very traditional, very professional, don't stand out. They couldn't identify the Delta uniforms from the other competitors because they all kind of were in the mix," Bastian told CBS.

Various carriers including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airlines and United Airlines largely outfit their employees in blue and navy uniforms.

“Now, with the "passport plum"-colored uniforms, "no one will miss the Delta people," he added.

Naturally, the Twitterverse reacted to the news with mixed opinions.

Though the reactions to the new designs were mostly positive, others had some harsh words to share.

“I'm a big @delta fan, but these look awful. They don't look user or female friendly. And the tie with a short sleeve shirt never looks good either,” one critic said.

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“Delta would have been much wiser to spend $20 million on the myriad customer service issues and stop trying to rip off all the customers,” another moaned.

“This is where our ticket money is going to...designer uniforms. Ugh...” one agreed.

“Yep ties with short sleeves isn’t a good look. Love Delta. But purple when your colors are red, blue, and white???” asked another.

“Passport Plum is a combination of Delta’s red and navy heritage. It complements a diverse range of skin tones. This compliments Delta's brand and allows our employees to stand out for excellence, just like our service,” the carrier tweeted from their official account.

Others, however, were thrilled with new look for the carrier.

“You guys look absolutely amazing!!! #DeltaProud,” one fan cheered.

“Love the new Zac Posen uniforms, and the plum really stands out!” another exclaimed.