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Eddie Parsons Headshot

Aircraft Carrier Fashion

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Working and selling fashion, we always discuss function vs fashion. The concept can be rather chicken and the egg...does the functionality of a garment influence the design or the fashion trend of the design influence the function? I'm sure it's a sliding scale of both but if you've had a hood that can turn into a collar that can turn into a cowl neck that can zip off and turn into a bag...then you know what I mean. I had a discussion recently about garment design and function with a colleague and we came upon an interesting observation...what about military fashion? Sure, every designer has had a military design influenced collection...bomber jackets, epaulettes, camouflage, olive green; all obvious nods but in no way comparable to the real thing.

I grew up a "navy brat" and spent countless hours on aircraft carriers, air fields, military bases and had a first hand account of military fashion...of course being a kid you never think of it as fashion but the divisions between rank, job, performance are all reflected in the design of these uniforms. I specifically remember spending a week on an aircraft carrier with my father and noticing the different outfits for each person or occasion.
The complex craftsmanship of a flight suit or the attention to detail of an officer's dress uniform. All these details that have developed over the years to provide the best insulation or visibility for team distinction. Who does it better than the designers of an aircraft carrier's wardrobe? An aircraft carrier is a skyscraper of the sea and all the specific jobs need their own unique thought process. Uniforms must be able to function as visual aids for the air boss and other team members during blinding winds and rough seas or constructed with life saving devices such as flashing lights or dye that is released in the case they are blown overboard and have to be plucked from the sea...all the while keeping them warm and able to react at lightening speed to the dangerous operations that are coming at every direction.

Pierre Cardin recently staged a show on an aircraft carrier in China and Jeffrey Fashion Cares has been held on the USS Intrepid in New York City. An aircraft carrier is an amazing backdrop for these events to introduce the fashion crowd to a world so far from theirs but I wonder if anyone thinks about all the fashion that lives and works on these vessels? For all the fame and fortune that fashion designers are showered with in the current market place wouldn't it be interesting if they honored the military designers and showcased the complex work that goes into those designs? How about a runway show on an actual runway celebrating the unsung hero's of design: military designers!