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Garuda Indonesia’s one-off uniform swap to kebayas: Will the investment take off?

27 September 2019 4 min read

Garuda Indonesia has recently switched flight attendants’ uniform to traditional kebayas on a special flight service titled “Kebaya Pertiwi Special Flight”. The kebaya, designed by renowned designer Anne Avantie, is said to signify the airline’s appreciation for Indonesia’s cultural heritages. Passengers on the Jakarta-Semarang GA 238 flight were also given a special batik scarf designed by Avantie and an opportunity to take a photo with the designer herself.

Creative interpretation

The move by Garuda Indonesia, in Sedgwick Richardson managing director for SEA Dominic Mason’s perspective, seems to be an “authentic signal of cultural heritage that evokes genuine national pride”. He explained that the special flight’s name Pertiwi (or Ibu Pertiwi) means motherland and aligns with the airline’s position as a national brand.

“While Frenchman Pierre Balmain’s take on the Singapore Girl’s sarong kebaya has stayed unchanged for 50 years, the same success cannot be said for VietJet’s impromptu “bikini hostesses”, whose cabin frolics seem out of step with the spirit of our times,” said Mason.

Citing Peninsula Hotel’s immaculate pageboy and the batik elegance of the Singapore Girl, he said uniforms are a valuable source of brand iconography, enhancing a brand’s visual equities. Brand marketers in the service industry can also leverage uniforms as part of a curated brand experience and bring a sense of gravitas to customer-facing roles.

If a brand’s purpose and personality are well-defined, then there should be freedom to play with one-off uniform expressions without diluting brand meaning

Dominic Mason
Managing Director, Southeast Asia

According Garuda Indonesia direktur utama (president director) Ari Askhara in a press release, the kebaya has become the identity of Indonesian women and is more than just women’s clothing. The move is part of the company’s ongoing “the new flight experience” campaign. Meanwhile, designer Avantie explained that the motifs with soft colours on the kebayasymbolise the gentleness and elegance of Garuda Indonesia’s flight attendants as they serve their passengers.

Original image from: Marketing Magazine

However, Mason pointed out that the baby pink creation may appear “visually incongruous” to some elements to brand design puritans when juxtaposed against the tail fins of the Garuda fleet. Nevertheless, the real question is whether the uniform integrates compellingly with the brand experience that Garuda Indonesia is promising through the campaign.

Click here to read the full article written by and originally featured in Marketing Interactive.

Dominic Mason
Managing Director, Southeast Asia
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