PARIS — Suitcases covered in hair, embroidered with trompe l’oeil stickers or laser tattooed with hip-hop lyrics are just some of the more unusual products to come rolling off the Rimowa production line in time for the holiday season.
Following highly successful collaborations with the likes of Supreme, Off-White and Fendi, the German luggage brand is giving back with a collection of customized pieces designed by 10 buzzy brands, which will be sold to benefit COVAX, a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The participating labels are 3.Paradis, About Dreams, Ashley Williams, Clot, Doublet, Enfants Riches Déprimés, Hood by Air, Market, Pizzaslime and Pleasures.
Collectively, they have created 26 one-of-a-kind pieces to be unveiled at an event in New York City on Nov. 18, before going on sale on Hypebeast’s e-commerce platform HBX on Nov. 22 at 9 a.m. EST.
“We specifically don’t want people to think these are 10 collaborations,” Emelie De Vitis, chief marketing officer at Rimowa, told WWD.
“It’s very different from what we’ve done in the past, with the idea of giving carte blanche. Usually a collaboration is 50-50. This time, it’s really about letting those artists — some quite established, others that are really at the beginning of their careers — have the opportunity to express themselves,” she added.
Some were chosen because they had an existing relationship with the brand. Others submitted artworks showing how they embellished their Rimowa suitcases as they sat idle during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think everyone had been standing still for so long, that they probably got lots of inspiration of looking at their suitcase going nowhere at home,” said De Vitis. “It’s a symbol of going back into travel.”
The company provided a selection of products to be used as blank canvases, including Original and Classic suitcases, as well as pieces from the Personal and Never Still collections, which include backpacks, totes and crossbody bags.
“I love the fact that they embraced the project with all those pieces. For us, it’s important to show where we’re not just suitcases, but we’re catering to all forms of mobility,” De Vitis noted.
Rimowa had just one requirement — that each piece still be able to function as it was intended to, no matter how fanciful the surface treatment. In fact, De Vitis hopes buyers will take theirs out for a spin.
“The more people will travel with them, the better, actually,” she said. “One of the creations is a backpack that also turns into a hoodie. I personally would love to imagine that the person who purchases this piece is going to go out there and be using it.”
She was referring to Hood by Air’s backpack and suitcase with covers made from sweatshirts. “An oversized French terry hoodie is the perfect comfort item while trying to navigate transportation environments for humans, so why not extend that comfort to your luggage?” designer Shayne Oliver said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based streetwear brand Pizzaslime, known for tracksuits that are popular with celebrities like Miley Cyrus and The Weeknd, stitched 10 real wigs onto a carry-on suitcase to make it look “cool and weird as hell,” according to founders Nicholas Santiago and Matthew Hwang.
Japanese label Doublet’s Masayuki Ino, winner of the 2018 edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Designers, punched 10,000 holes into a suitcase in a series of intricate designs mimicking Rimowa’s signature stickers. A team of three embroiderers then spent 10 days hand-stitching the motifs.
Not to be outdone, Edison Chen and Kevin Poon, the founders of Hong Kong-based streetwear brand Clot, enlisted renowned tattoo artist Dr. Woo to help create a folding Modernica seat engraved with hip-hop lyrics. It fits on top of a carry-on case in order to create “a new rendition of a throne,” they said.
Emeric Tchatchoua, whose 3.Paradis label has fans including Justin Bieber and Billie Eilish, printed his pieces with his trademark bird in flight. “During the pandemic, we were like caged animals, because we couldn’t go anywhere,” he told WWD. “We’re celebrating our renewed freedom and the fact that we’re able to travel.”
Prices range from 1,014 euros to 3,925 euros. As the lead delivery partner of COVAX, UNICEF aims to supply up to 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to the 92 poorest countries in 2021.
“It’s great to be working on a brand that can give room for creativity and expression like this. It’s also very nice to be able to give back to a charity. We obviously don’t know what will be the appeal of those pieces, but definitely we hope that they sell in a heartbeat,” said De Vitis.
The name of the collection, “Vol. 1,” raises the prospect that there will be further installments. “If we’re going to be this platform of visibility for some artists, I think it would be lovely that there is almost that repetition year-over-year, and they try to outdo the creativity,” De Vitis said.