Written for the Airline Passenger Experience Association – APEX.aero
APEX Insight: Aviation photographer Laird Kay’s new clothing line, Very Plane Clothes, celebrates aircraft as art with designs that are anything but plain.
How does a successful aviation photographer make the leap from snapping aircraft shots for major airlines to launching a collection of aviation-themed clothing? If you’re Laird Kay, it’s about style.
Kay began, like many other AvGeek plane spotters, taking photos of aircraft at his nearest major airport, Toronto-Pearson International (YYZ). “People on social media were looking at my photos and saying ‘that would make a great t-shirt – I would love that,’” says Kay. He looked at ways to commodify his photos, and thought about the style that was associated with flying, back in the day. “Years and years ago, my grandparents, when they would travel, would dress up and try to look their best. That’s gone by the wayside,” says Kay. “So why not bring back that association of style and travel in a different kind of way? But instead of needing to fly on the plane, now you can just wear it.”
There are over 100 items in Kay’s Very Plane Clothes collection, with about 20 different aircraft photos used throughout the line. Rather than using low-quality lamination to transfer the images, Kay has embraced new technology that prints the photos directly onto the garments, named after airports he’s visited, from AMS to YYZ. Kay’s design sensibility has resulted in unique graphic treatments, from a jacket that features the view from a cabin window to a Boeing 747 that’s printed onto a long-sleeve t-shirt, with the airplane’s wings extending down the sleeves. “It’s the plane giving you a hug,” says Kay.
While Very Plane Clothes is aiming to bring aviation into mainstream fashion, other companies are also catering to the AvGeek fashionista. Skybelts couples a wide range of colorful and patterned fabrics with aircraft seat belt clasps to create unique fashion belts, and Portland, Oregon-based Looptworks has partnered with both Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines to repurpose leather passenger seat covers into a stylish line of leather accessories.
Kay says that the response to Very Plane Clothes “has been fantastic.” The collection is currently only available online but Kay says retailers have shown interest in the clothing line.
Although Kay might celebrate his AvGeek roots, Very Plane Clothes goes beyond a simple aviation-themed image on a t-shirt. “I wanted to create a line that wasn’t just for the plane nerd. I wanted to highlight the beauty of the plane, and the elegance and the grace, and the wonderful engineering that goes into these flying sculptures.”