Olha Tsaregradska: "The standard image of a flight attendant did not correspond to reality - as if you need to change into another person for work" · p. 462 - SkyUp Airlines
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Olha Tsaregradska: "The standard image of a flight attendant did not correspond to reality - as if you need to change into another person for work"

Olha Tsaregradska: "The standard image of a flight attendant did not correspond to reality - as if you need to change into another person for work"

13 Jul 2023
276

Fragile, but at the same time very strong women are often behind big projects. Women who change the rules and revolutionize the field in which they work. Women who do not stop before challenges, are not afraid of difficulties and pay attention to every detail in their work.

One such woman is Olha Tsaregradska, founder and head of Frame Fashion Consultancy. She discovers talented Ukrainian designers to the world, has helped to develop a new design of the mantle for the Supreme Court of Ukraine, and is the ideologist and project manager of the launch of a new uniform for flight attendants, which has already become iconic.

We spoke with Olha about the uniform update for SkyUp Airlines, the importance of researching and listening to the needs of the end consumer, as well as the resilience and support of Ukrainian business during the war.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF THE AVIATION UNIFORM

The history of the aviation uniform begins with military aviation, and then it had a very functional task - to protect the pilot from harsh weather conditions.  At that time, the cockpits of the pilots were not heated and were very small, so, for example, they created a jacket, which everyone now knows as a fashionable outerwear "bomber" - compact and short, but with a completely closed neck and made of warm materials - leather and fur.  Or a flying cap - it had to hermetically cover the ears to protect against frostbite.

Changes in the uniform began only with the development of civil aviation - sometime after the Second World War. Airplanes were already heated at that time, and instead of a utilitarian function, the uniform gradually began to perform a representative one - both for pilots and flight attendants. At first, they experimented a little, but essentially settled on the "office" version with classic suits, the cut of which was only slightly influenced by the trends of the time: in the 70s - a higher waist, in the 80s - more oversized, and in the 90s everything froze on a classic slim fit.  And since that time, the uniform has not particularly changed or been reinterpreted.

But many things around have changed - habits, pace of life, issues of gender equality, health care, desire for convenience.  And the attitude towards business style as well - because now even businessmen don't often wear classic suits or mix them with t-shirts and sneakers.

CHANGE TIME

Three years ago, SkyUp Airlines approached me with a request to develop a concept for a new uniform for flight attendants. I started my work with a big research - we studied international experience, how the flight attendants' working day goes and how the uniform can help them during work, we conducted interviews with flight attendants to understand their needs and problems.  And there was a whole bunch of insights!

First of all, flight attendants are young modern girls, and such a standard image of a flight attendant looked a bit like a masquerade, because it did not correspond to reality - as if you need to dress up as someone else for work.

Secondly, the clothes were inconvenient: the hat, which had to be fastened to the hair and which was blown off by the wind, was also a ballast - there was nowhere to put it, it was easy to forget it somewhere.  A shirt that fitted tightly and through which underwear showed, a pencil skirt in which it is impossible to bend down or squat comfortably and because of which you feel a little unprotected.  A neckerchief that was constantly twisting and coming off.  And the girls also complained about the shoes - that "classic" with square heels and a round toe, which was not only unattractive, but also hard to wear. 

All this led to the fact that the flight attendants adapted to the uniform, and not the uniform to their working lifestyle. And this is what gave us the understanding that they need a trouser suit in which it is convenient to move, and it is vital to replace shoes with sneakers.

Based on all this, I have prepared several uniform concepts, and this is how the image of a champion was born, representing a modern, athletic girl who values ​​her health, gets a lot of time, and enjoys life and her work.  This concept was very much in line with the spirit of the SkyUp airline in general, so it was a complete match.

We changed the image of the flight attendant girl, and not just changed her into sneakers, we transformed the world's perception of the flight attendant.  Before, it was always a sexualization of the image of a girl, a helper, an assistant, but at work you should feel comfortable and confident!

And then we, together with the SkyUp marketing team and designers, brought this concept to life: I invited the GUDU designer to create a sketch - the image of a flight attendant wearing sneakers.  We designed raincoats and took control of their production - because it is not an easy thing to sew, plus we chose a rather complex material.  And for the handkerchief that GUDU placed on the shoulders, a print was developed with GUNIA. This is how the image of the stewardess-champion was born, which everyone was raving about - more than 500 world publications wrote about the update of the uniform, the SkyUp uniform inspired others to begin some changes.  And most importantly, the flight attendants liked this form, because finally it began to help them in their work, instead of creating difficulties.

CHOOSE UKRAINIAN

My mission is the development of Ukrainian talents: designers, brands and companies in general.  That is why for the SkyUp Airlines project there was no question of which companies to work with - of course, ours!  Although at that time there was not yet such a significant trend towards Ukrainian as we have been observing for the past year and a half.

Now it is very important to choose Ukrainian, because during the war, when choosing our companies, we all help each other, support businesses and the economy.

It is very natural to invite Ukrainian designers to develop a Ukrainian uniform. The only thing is that I wanted such a collaboration where everyone would do what they do best.  And here everything turned out for us: the designer GUDU is a theatrical costume designer and stylist by education, and GUNIA are great masters of print development.  And these are two powerful Ukrainian brands that are known in the world.

DIFFICULT TIMES - IMPORTANT DECISIONS

Some time after the launch of the new uniform, we were approached again by SkyUp - the company chose materials and sewed the uniform according to our sketches and patterns by itself and encountered a problem fabric, so we had to update and sew a new uniform. The first thing I had to do was find the right fabric.

Our partner for professional suit fabric became a Turkish factory - a large conglomerate, a leader in the production of suit fabric in the world, which, for example, makes material for MaxMara, Zara, Massimo Dutti. We made a request and among a large number of fabrics we chose one that stretched in four directions, contained wool, polyester and viscose, and therefore was suitable for all seasons, and did not warp. We did fabric tests and worked out the color in the laboratory so that the thread was exactly bright orange, without any black-gray threads.  And when the desired result was achieved on the samples, the dyeing of the fabric began, which takes about three months. At the same time, at the TK-Style factory in Chernihiv, where raincoats were previously sewn, we began to develop a test model of the form, to select accessories. It was at this point that a full-scale invasion began and everything came to a standstill.

The impetus for resuming the project was... a call from the Chernihiv sewing factory on April 26, 2022.  Literally a few days have passed since the end of the siege of the city!  And then I hear on the phone: "Olya, we are ready to sew your order!"  I cannot convey all the emotions I felt at that moment.  But there were many moments - aviation in Ukraine was stopped, the company was looking for wet lease opportunities to save not only the team, but also the business in general. It seemed that the issue of tailoring a new uniform was not at the right time.  And choosing a partner in Chernihiv, where it was extremely dangerous at that time, seemed illogical.  We thought - big risks, additional investments, when the financial situation is already so difficult...

But by that time the fabric had already been ordered, the team needed a new uniform for work, so sometime at the end of May, Frame and SkyUp resumed the project - we started developing concepts for polos, aprons, men's uniforms, and I renewed negotiations with a Turkish fabric factory.  And here we faced a new problem: for the Turkish people, business from Ukraine became risky, so they decided to change the arrangements - from 30% advance payment to 70%, and also extended the deadlines, and we missed our production deadline. We ended up having three more rounds of negotiations just to get back to the original terms, but we have won that little battle.

So when we decided to invest in uniforms, we renewed negotiations with the factory in Chernihiv. Of course, it was a risk - it is safer and easier to sew a uniform in Turkey itself. But SkyUp decided to support the Ukrainian factory and order from TK-style.

We have worked with this factory before - then we chose them because they have experience working with international brands, a good selection, established communication and time management.  Actually, then they sewed us wonderful raincoats.  Now we chose them because they showed that they are ready to work even in extremely difficult conditions, we already had a relationship of trust and we knew for sure that they would do everything well.  Plus, this call in April is also an emotional connection.

And we were also "bribed" by common values ​​- just like for SkyUp, it was very important for the factory to keep the team, so they actively started taking orders again at the first opportunity, creating all the conditions for the safe work of employees - a bomb shelter with the Internet.  And continued to work.

Yes, our order was stretched over time - we missed our production window, to top it all there were complicated logistics of fabric delivery from Turkey to Chernihiv, power outages at the factory, alarms and shelling.  But we waited patiently and made every effort to do this project together, and thus prove that Ukrainians really are invincible, that Ukrainian business supports each other for a common goal, and that, united, we do incredible things.

NOT ON TIME?

Of course, SkyUp has given a lot of thought to whether it's worth investing in a uniform right now at a time like this. There seemed to be more pressing expenses.  But this kind of investment is really about care and support... I was with the team all this time from February to May and I saw that all the efforts of SkyUp were directed to keep the team, to restart the business in a way that avoids cuts. And this new form is about the values ​​that unite us, about the desire to live our lives, plan something, work and live in our native country.  It is about the fact that we are together both in joy and in grief.  Providing new work clothes is like a guarantee that there will definitely be new projects, there will definitely be flights from Ukraine.

KNOW YOUR CLIENT, CREATE TRENDS

My parents were engaged in retail, so I have been interested in this field since childhood. For a long time since university, I have been involved in the family business, developing and scaling a chain of stores, learning how to place orders, work with customers, because I was interested in how people buy, what they want, what they pay attention to.

And this has become my rule at work, which I never break - to carefully study what exactly the end consumer wants.  For example, I talked a lot with SkyUp flight attendants to understand their needs.  For me, the completeness of the cycle is important - the need of the end client, and then the concept and strategy.

After the family business, I was invited to develop the brand at the international level by the Ukrainian designer Litkovska, and that's how I got into the world of Ukrainian fashion designers. Later, I produced the designer Yana Chervinska.

Then there were various projects, for example, I was involved in the rebranding of the Supreme Court of Ukraine, where I developed a new design for the mantle. Their previous one was crimson in color with a gold chain around the neck – a kind of reference to crimson "new russian" jackets from the 90s.  And now the judges have a dark blue robe inspired by Valentino's cape with a white collar.

After this experience, 5 years ago I founded the Frame agency and started working with different designers - from creating concepts, strategies, market research before launching the brand, to working with the designer and the collection. After all, brands have various problems - it happens that there is a product, but they cannot tell anything about themselves, they do not know how they differ from others. And we help them with this - we highlight the DNA of the brand, its philosophy, what is authentic about it.

The main focus of the agency is to bring Ukrainian brands to international markets, so that they are successful and that we are known in the world and from this side.