When Virgin Voyages takes its maiden trip next spring, Gareth Pugh plans to be one of the first passengers aboard. “I might have to bring my steamer and some safety pins to do some live alterations!” he jokes over the phone from London, where he is preparing to debut the uniforms he has designed for the 1,000-person staff of Sir Richard Branson’s new cruise line. In Virgin red and black with a touch of navy, Pugh’s creations offer a subversive take on nautical style. “We get asked to do quite a few things of a similar ilk, and over the years we’ve had to say no to a lot,” Pugh begins, “But I like the idea of Virgin. As a brand, it represents a lot of the things that we represent ourselves.
Branson, reached over email, agrees. “There was something rebellious about Gareth’s work, and that really spoke to what Virgin is all about,” the founder explains. “Gareth and his designs didn’t feel forced to fit in with the Virgin Voyages look—it was a natural fit. We wanted to make sure that Virgin Voyages’s crew uniforms were unlike any other and truly original.”
For the core uniforms, Pugh approached the design process as he would making a small collection, thinking about the function of each employee’s uniform as well as the setting—in this case, Virgin Voyages will be taking passengers into the tropical Caribbean. “We have tailoring, and it’s very sharp and very slick, but we also have a bit of fluidity in there. The details have a very abstract nod to the brand; I didn’t want to do something that had a logo slapped everywhere. Pugh says.
For the designer, the opportunity to flex a new creative muscle was welcomed. “It’s nice to show the skills we’ve learned from 14 years of showing and making clothes and apply those skill sets to different projects,” Pugh says, noting that the process of planning the launch event—with a very special surprise performance—has allowed him to explore new creative energies. Branson seems quite excited that Pugh is on board too: “There are so many exciting on-board experiences that we have yet to reveal, and now I can see how the uniforms will help bring everything to life.” Anchors away!