PARIS — Having collaborated with brands including Fendi, Supreme and Off-White on high-profile limited-edition models, German luggage-maker Rimowa has focused its efforts in-house for its first collection of colored suitcases since the introduction of its new visual identity last year.
One year in the making, the polycarbonate cases in four Millennial-friendly hues are scheduled to launch on Wednesday at Japanese department store Isetan in Tokyo, before a worldwide rollout on June 6 in Rimowa flagships, department store corners and online.
It’s the latest step in the reinvention of the 120-year-old company under chief executive officer Alexandre Arnault, who engineered its acquisition in 2017 by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Having drastically cut back its wholesale network and revamped brand communications, Arnault turned to the product itself.
“The first couple of years of what we did really was focusing on collaborations. That was a way for us to bring excitement to buying a suitcase,” he told WWD in an interview at the brand’s new offices at the LVMH headquarters in Paris, where visitors are greeted by a Supreme-branded pinball machine.
“This is the first time in a while where we’ve actually innovated on our own core product. We’re not collaborating with anyone. We’re not having a celebrity or an artist or whatever do this for us. We really decided that we wanted to have a seasonal animation of super exciting colors on our suitcases,” he added.
The brand settled on four shades inspired by aerial views of the planet: the slate gray of Indonesian mines; sage green of Britain’s Lake District; saffron of Tuscany’s fields of canola flowers, and coral inspired by the Pink Lake in western Australia. They’re expected to remain in stores for six months.
“We’re very proud of them, because we think they fit well within the existing collection and they’re products that can allow our clients to think about coming back to the brand,” said Arnault, noting the products are designed to pop against the sea of cases in Rimowa’s existing palette of black, white, red, blue and green.
Part of the Rimowa Essential range, the cases are available in three sizes, with prices ranging from $700 for a cabin trolley to $1,120 for the trunk model. The company matched every element of the cases for a monochrome look that seems tailor-made for Instagram — though Arnault protested otherwise.
“We don’t try to make product for how it photographs, it’s more a consequence of what we’re making. I think it was also a way for us to introduce a bit of fun in what we do, because we’re a very German brand,” he insisted.
“When you see them all together, they look really cool, really appealing. Compared to what exists in the market, it’s kind of new also,” the executive remarked. “The stores are going to look a bit more like candy stores and not just black, white and silver.”
The new collection is dropping at a time of rapid growth for Rimowa, which is about to open a new flagship store on Via Sant’Andrea in Milan, with further units planned for Dubai and Shanghai in the coming months.
“The first three years of the adventure were years of right-sizing of the business…and we were lucky to have LVMH as a shareholder and majority owner so that we were allowed to make these choices,” said Arnault, who said the turnaround point came last September.
“We’re the fastest-growing brand in the retail space at LVMH. It’s growing very, very fast and sustainably also, because it’s growing with our own clients in our stores, online, in the good geographies, in the right way, so we’re very excited with that. It’s triple-digit retail growth, high, high, high-double-digit overall growth,” he said.
Rimowa is also investing online, with a web site available in seven languages that delivers to more than 55 countries worldwide.
“We’re trying to measure performance in a way that’s different from other luxury or fashion brands, in a way that’s closer to start-ups, where we look at lifetime value and how to acquire clients,” Arnault explained.
“It’s been a good exercise with people coming from different universes and trying to keep it more agile, and that’s been working super well for us. We’re growing very, very fast,” he added.
In the third quarter, the brand plans to introduce a line of travel accessories and small leather goods to complement its existing offer of iPhone cases and charms, belts, wheels and handles designed to personalize cases.
“While we have the competencies and the capabilities of 120 years worth of building suitcases, we have zero in bags and accessories, so we had to build the competencies in-house which took a bit of time — and iterate, iterate, iterate,” Arnault said.
Also in the works is a new advertising campaign featuring brand ambassadors including Kim Jones, the creative director of Dior Men, who appears on billboard images shot at the Aman Tokyo hotel posing with his signature grooved aluminum Rimowa case.
Arnault added that following recent tie-ups with artists Alex Israel and Daniel Arsham, further collaborations are in the cards. “There’s so many things we haven’t done, and there’s so many brands that need us to help them with luggage,” he said. “We’ll continue going down this route for sure.”