The dents and scuffs on an aluminium RIMOWA luggage tell stories. Like unintentional tattoos (unless you’re deliberately exerting force on your RIMOWA, which isn’t something anyone in their right mind does), they are truly individual and unique. They’re natural markings of the physical journeys it has gone through every time you boarded a coach, train, ship or plane.
“We consider scratches and dents that appear as the suitcase’s patina,” expresses RIMOWA. It’s almost unheard of that a luxury brand encourages the wear of its products, especially given how the price tag of luxury pieces conjures up a sense of preciousness. Yet, it’s a testament to the craftsmanship that the German brand applies to its landmark hardwearing luggage designs, including the industry-changing polycarbonate innovations that it pioneered in 2000.
RIMOWA’s journey of materiality is a reflection of the centuries-long evolution of travel itself. Its founding in 1898—then named after founder Paul Morszeck—was centred on luggage made of hardwearing wood cleverly constructed to be stable and lightweight. In 1937, RIMOWA launched its first aluminium trunk, an innovation inspired by the use of duralumin (a hardy and lightweight aluminium-copper alloy) in German aircraft. And with baggage weight restrictions becoming a modern travel concern, its introduction of polycarbonate as an engineered solution was nothing short of revolutionary.
There is almost an obsessive need for the brand to constantly craft out designs to solve industry-specific issues. RIMOWA, in 1976, developed waterproof cases to give photographers venturing out into unpredictable environmental conditions a reliable means to protect their equipment. One of the brand’s most iconic creations, the Pilot Case, was specifically designed with a hinge that allows it to be opened from the top to make its contents easily accessible by pilots in the cockpit. Then there were cases for violins, cases to fit one or 12 bottles of wine, poker attachés, watch cases and a slew of other pieces made for very specific functions—all to make one’s journey more seamless and elevated.
The proof is evident in the scores of individuals who have made RIMOWA part of their journeys. Its recent Seit 1898 touring exhibition showcased a number of well-used RIMOWA cases (owned mostly by noted international creatives), each marked by the numerous memories and experiences shared. Dents, scratches and even scuffed up stickers on the luggage add character to otherwise cold inanimate objects, not to mention stand as testimony to RIMOWA’s durable craftsmanship.
So serious is its commitment to ensuring each RIMOWA luggage builds a lifetime of memories, that the brand began offering a lifetime guarantee earlier this year. Luggage purchased from 25 July 2022 are now automatically protected by the brand for the entirety of its lifespan. Any functional issues that arise throughout a luggage’s life, henceforth, will be covered under this new directive. This means that aside from any cosmetic wear and tear, misuse or abuse, RIMOWA is dedicated to making sure that your luggage functions as originally intended, for as long as possible. Items outside of the brand’s regular luggage catalogue—from eyewear to tech accessories to special edition suitcases—are protected in a similar capacity for two years.
A RE-CRAFTED programme has also been introduced. While it is a sustainability-driven initiative by the brand to extend the life of pre-loved RIMOWA pieces, it can also be considered as an adoption of someone else’s memories. RE-CRAFTED pieces retain most of the original façade (dents and all) and depending on the condition of its other elements, they’re either cleaned and fixed or completely replaced to ensure that the piece is fully functional and just as reliable as a new RIMOWA piece.
There is no definitive answer to what a RE-CRAFTED piece might have gone through—the places it’s travelled, situations it’s caught in, or perhaps the number of times it’s made its way to an unintended destination (it happens). Therein lies the beauty.
What is next for RIMOWA? There’s no crystal ball to read. But if history tells us anything, the brand is probably already cooking up the next evolution of travel—experimenting and perfecting every nuance before officially releasing it to the public. It’s perhaps a seemingly endless journey for RIMOWA with its destination unknown. But then again, as they say: It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey.