#1006 Trelise Cooper to design new Air NZ uniforms? UPDATED

Image /SMH

Remember the kerfuffle caused when Air New Zealand unveiled their new Zambesi-designed uniforms back in 2006? The staff liked the new look but weren’t quite sure how to wear it all, the colours were too light or too dark, the men’s suits too shiny… Talkback radio stations throughout the country had a field day taking calls from adulatory and disgruntled passengers alike. According to CEO Rob Fyfe at the time, it was “All part of a process that’s been going on for a couple of years to reposition the company from all the markets that we operate in, which we certainly hope will just add to our competitive position.” It was also the first major brand overhaul the company had undertaken in more than a decade. So why then (just two years on) has Air New Zealand been taking submissions from local designers to redesign their uniform once again? According to my sources Trelise Cooper has won the contract (for a rumoured price of $100,000 in Air New Zealand contra) and will begin working on the uniforms in the upcoming months.

Calls to Trelise Cooper and Air New Zealand for comment have thus far been unsuccessful but I will update as soon as I hear back from any of them.

UPDATE: Comment from Zambesi below.

Zambesi’s Elisabeth Findlay just called me, saying that they had not pitched for the uniform’s re-design:

“I don’t know too much about it all. Air New Zealand contacted us about six months ago to ask if we would participate in the running but we declined – not for any nasty reasons, but we just didn’t have the time to put into it. We have far too many distractions as it is!”

Her opinion as to why the uniforms are being re-designed:

“They’ve got a whole new marketing thing going on. It’s all about remarketing and relaunching. When we designed the uniforms we were going for longevity – something that would last. Times change – they want a completely new look. They contacted us and said ‘Look we’re going to market a new look, it’s about relaunching a new feeling.'”

And her feeling on Trelise Cooper winning the contract:

“I’m sure she’ll do a great job.”


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  1. Jo says

    I’m sorry, but they’re replacing a well-known, well-respected NZ designer with beautiful NZ-made clothes like Zambesi with a hack like Trelise Cooper?!

    Ms Cooper’s clothes, though often pretty and (sometimes) wearable, are terribly made (in China – way to support local industry!) and her recent controversy around the “ribbon jumper” appears to show exactly what kind of “designer” she is.

    Personally I really like the Zambesi uniforms for their practicality with flair (cute hats, sensible merino) and will be sad to see it changed so soon.

  2. Anonymous says

    Lay off Trelise! She should be admired for her success. Although her designs aren’t for everyone she has certainly done very well in capturing her market successfully in NZ and Australia.

  3. Anonymous says

    I tend to like an overhaul and refresh from time to time, but on this one I agree with Jo, I’ve travelled on over 20 international airlines and the current styling of the Air New Zealand crew is far and away the best.

    Although I appreciate Trelise as a commercial designer who has made a lot of money more from her love of the media limelight than her design skills. Her designs cater for a certain mass-market type who have little taste but enough money to want to make it show. Her designs often represent the worst in Australasian taste and won’t be appreciated by the majority of upmarket travellers that travel to New Zealand. Certainly when compared to Zambesi they’re in completely different class.

  4. Anonymous says


    A Hack? Are you insane?
    Trelise has put New Zealand on the world fashion map.
    The word is that most Air New Zealand crew have sweltered and sweated the past few years, in fear of raising arms to shut overhead storage only to reveal only drycleanable sweat stains and suffered the ashen coffin skin tone effect radiating off an incarcerated hue.

    The thunderbird hat was extinct before it was born as no staff have been spotted scuttling through the airport with it perched upon their heads.
    Everthing Trelise touches is class.Im sure all cabin crew would be delighted to sport anything designed by such a talented woman.

  5. Anonymous says

    Excuse me Jo,

    did you know that the current Zambesi-designed Air NZ uniform are made in China and Indonesia? The shirts and ties are made in NZ only after the update and a few complaints were made.

    The fabric was terrible, there was no colour (unless you call schist, and myst and stone colours), and they stain easily, they are not practical at work, and there are men and women of different sizes working for the airline and Zambesi seemed to have forgotten that Air NZ is NOT Singapore Airlines where they only accept staff with 2 sizes, XS and S.

    Try walking in that uniform through the rain, and you’ll end up smelling a like wet damp sheep with the so-called high quality 100% merino. And try wearing in the heat of the summer, too.

    Elisabeth Findlay from Zambesi is good what she’s doing, but leave the stylish airline uniform-designing to someone else please.

  6. Anonymous says

    A couple of points:
    I think that Zambesi unfairly gets the blame for the colour of the last uniform – but the colour was dictated by Ideaworks; a company that also designed the cabin interior colours, napkins, seat covers and more.
    Also the fabrics were dictated by politics – while most people generally applauded the use of merino fabrics, high quality merino fabric is expensive, especially when the criteria is that New Zealand grown merino is utilised. And it was specified to signify that Air NZ was devoted to presenting the best of New Zealand to the rest of the world.
    Way too much politics – it was bound to strike difficulties.
    Trelise will do fine – she knows how to cut a garment to suit the New Zealand woman.
    Made in China? Not a problem, all mass commercialised NZ garments are now made in China.
    Sad for Zambesi. This whole process has made them look bad, but they’re brilliant and will be better without the uniform blemish on their amazing record.

  7. Anonymous says

    Although Trelise Cooper has sometimes made us proud, I am afraid to say that she has done a terrible job of designing these uniforms.
    Air stewards/stewardesses are supposed to look smart, crisp and clean. In these uniforms, especially those ‘barbie-meets-drag-queen’dresses, she has made the workers look like they are about to go off to some fashiom show or the races.
    And what would these uniforms say to international passengers about New Zealand? They certainly wouldn’t be impressed. The colours don’t tell you anything apart from the fact that New Zealanders are flouncy and girly. Personally, even the men’s uniforms do not look professionally designed, they look as if they have been thrown together.
    As I am youngish (high school) and have not been flying often (or don’t remember it), I have had nothing to complain about with the Zambesi uniforms apart from once when I thought the hostess was pregnant. I hope and think she wasn’t.
    I think Trelise Cooper AND Air New Zealand should rethink their designs, as they have missed some key points: these uniforms will represent new zealand, they are supposed to look fresh and clean and that these people are in an airport, not a fashion parade.

  8. ex air nz worker says

    the new trelise unfroms are ugly and nothing matches. Even the pretty ones look weird and dowdy

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