How Rimowa Got its Groove

The heritage luggage brand's first-ever retrospective is a window into its visual evolution, and century's worth of innovation in travel.

Much has happened in the 121 years between German designer Paul Morszeck’s first piece of luggage, a seven-foot wooden cello trunk produced in his Cologne saddlery, and Rimowa’s latest release, the compact polycarbonate Essential Cabin Lite in Pearl Rose. Milestones along the way range from the brand’s now-iconic grooved aluminum suitcase inspired by the world’s first all-metal plane, the Junkers F13, to modern collaborations with artists Daniel Arsham and Alex Israel, to forays into fashion with Off-White and Dior. Now, for the first time ever, the public can glimpse the German luggage maker’s evolution in one setting with “RIMOWA Archive Collection 1898–2019” (through Sept. 25), at the Sotheby’s Fall 2019 Contemporary Curated exhibition. Below, a chronological journey through the brand’s aesthetic and technological evolution reveals the past century’s changing attitude toward travel.

Wardrobe Trunk No. 803.

Wardrobe Trunk No. 803 (1927)
The Roaring Twenties were extra—Rimowa’s upright wardrobe trunk proves it. Reflecting the heyday of ocean liner travel, the miniature closet came equipped with everything from wooden hangers and shoe compartments to interior dust curtains.

(FROM LEFT) Pieces from the archive. Wardrobe Trunk.
Wardrobe Trunk (1950s)
When accidental form meets function. Through a contemporary lens, this custom hand-painted monogram is a stylish status symbol, but in the halcyon days of the 1950s it served an even higher purpose: identifying your luggage.
(FROM LEFT) Suitcase No. 602. Tropicana.

Suitcase No. 602 (1956)
Lighter than aluminum and tougher than leather, this vulcanized fiber piece debuts at the dawn of the Jet Age.

Tropicana (1970s)
Photographers and filmmakers rejoice when the founder’s grandson, Dieter Morszeck, develops the first camera case that can withstand water, extreme temperatures, and, yes, tropical humidity.

(FROM LEFT) Women’s Wardrobe Trunk. Cabin Trunk. Topas Suitcase. OFF-WHITE x RIMOWA. Industrial Custom Cases. Aluminum Cabin Trunk. Wardrobe Trunk No. 803.

Topas Suitcase (1970s)
The era of liberation bequeathed the culture with Marvin Gaye on the 8-track, indigo macramé patterns, and heavily stickered suitcases. In honor of its longevity, Rimowa published the sticker-clad aluminum piece on the cover of its 1977 catalog.

(FROM LEFT) Essential Cabin in Saffron. Dior x RIMOWA Hand Case. Dior x RIMOWA Backpack. Supreme x Rimowa Cabin. Gold Attaché. Attaché. Rimowa x Daniel Arsham Erroded Suitcase.

Gold Attaché (Mid-1990s)
The Attaché became a pop culture phenomenon, making appearances in such spy flicks as Mission Impossible and the Robert De Niro–led Ronin. The special-edition gold version debuted in the ’90s and injected a little flair into laptop transport.

(FROM LEFT) Trunk, Cabin Trunk, Supreme x Rimowa Cabin cases.

Supreme x Rimowa (2018)
A marriage between heritage and hip, craft and cache, Rimowa unveils a capsule collection donning the signature red-and-black logo of streetwear’s most hype label.

(FROM TOP) Dior x Rimowa Hand Case. Piccolo. Dior x Rimowa Backpack.

Dior x Rimowa (2019)
Kim Jones, Dior Men artistic director, unveils a monogram collection on the S/S 2020 runway that spotlights smaller travel accessories, resulting in a backpack, clutch, hand case, and Champagne carrier. 

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