Rimowa’s Emelie de Vitis on its exhibition Seit 1898, and latest Never Still campaign
Rimowa rocked up in New York this week with an exhibition entitled Seit 1898, a cleverly staged expression about arty durability and brand burnishing.
Unveiled in Chelsea, Seit 1898 (meaning 'Since 1898' in German) is crammed full of battered and bruised suitcases and wheelies belonging to the rich, artistic and famous, lent by fans of the brand for this exhibition.
Billie Eilish offered her see-through wheelie, inside of which one can see a half dozen T-Shirts, marked with the singer’s name. Others to make an appearance via their wheelies include Roger Federer (with Milan and Cologne cathedral stickers), Spike Lee (very much the least abused), Martha Stewart (she hand-wrote all her destinations), Adwoa Aboah (covered in cartoon stickers), and Tom Cruise from Mission Impossible. Most humorously, there is even a case covered in the face of designer Pierre Cadault (AKA Cardin) from Emily in Paris.
Rimowa was owned by the founding family, the Morszeck family until March 2016 when LVMH acquired an 80% for €640 million. At the time, the brand had estimated revenues of €400 million, and since entering LVMH has not published annual sales figures.
Seit 1898, referring to the brand’s foundation date, also explains Rimowa’s name – from Richard Morszeck Warenzeichen, which is German for trademark. The son of the founder, Richard introduced the signature grooved aluminum cases, inspired by the all-metal Junker F13 planes produced in Germany, a model of which hangs in the opening section.
As an exercise in brand building, Seit 1898 is exemplary, and fun. One hyper-sized display shows the 220 components in a classic aluminum wheelie floating in the air. While a huge wall panel shows another Rimowa pathbreaker - polycarbonate cases shown in a rich color palette and scores of hues. Hailing from Cologne, the brand incorporates the spire of its famous cathedral into its design, seen as a logo on all wheels.
Customization is also key – like a 12 Apostles case commissioned by wine lover LeBron James which can carry two six-packs of Möet and Dom Perignon. Plus, the brand’s impressive roster of co-branding cases – Supreme, Fendi, Porsche, Moncler or Dior – are highlighted.
Other installations include a celebrated ad where a crocodile gnaws on an aluminum case; a series of Rimowa art works by the likes of Yue Minjun and Daniel Arsham, and one gloriously abused case. It was seemingly owned by a sportswriter, which includes a stamp from the Italian Open of tennis in Rome’s Foro Italico in 1984, which the author of this piece also reported on in his youth.
The expo in New York opened the same week Rimowa opened the fourth edition of its Never Still campaign, which stars Sir Lewis Hamilton, Kylian Mbappé and Rosé of Blackpink.
So, FashionNetwork.com sat down with Emelie de Vitis, Senior Vice-President Product & Marketing, for an in-depth take on the exhibition and where Rimowa is heading.
FashionNetwork.com: Why are you staging this event in NYC?
Emelie de Vitis: We kicked off in Japan – where we are a cult brand. Now we’re in New York City where the brand is extremely cool. The exhibition’s name gives it away. We are a German brand hence the name Seit, or Since. German engineering says a lot and is at heart of brand. And we wanted to show we are 125 years old. Not many luggage manufacturers can claim that. We have accompanied the evolution of travel – we were early in aluminum and the first brand to work with polycarbonate.
FN: What is the goal of Seit 1898?
EDV: We wanted to capture the emotional side of our brand – like travelers lending us their cases. Personally, I always like to play the game who owns what? And I believe we struck the right balance between some serious facts – materials and archives - and more tongue in cheek moments. Like our references to campaigns like the crocodile case. And we capture our diversification - from cigar box to violin case.
FN: What is the thinking behind your latest campaign Never Still?
EDV: This campaign is the fourth Never Still, and it’s about working with authentic users of Rimowa. We asked ourselves, post pandemic, what’s your new outlook in travel? And, as Sir Lewis Hamilton likes to say, Rimowa is about purposeful travel. Rosé is part of Blackpink, and as any fan knows the whole band uses Rimowa suitcases. Rosé does a huge amount of travel and is now based in Paris. Home is where you make it – but when she travels, she likes to take something from home, and that’s her Rimowa.
We gave each of them carte blanche to showcase their vision. Lewis travels everywhere in his career – but each location makes him more curious. He sums up Mark Twain’s famous saying that travel is fatal to prejudice. So Never Still is about purposeful travel. We know it comes with a carbon footprint so if you do travel it should be for a purpose, a real enrichment. That is the opposite of wanderlust travel.
FN: Define the DNA of Rimowa?
EDV: It’s German engineering, which is huge. It’s durability, as we offer an unconditional lifetime guarantee. A key component is design, which is why we have created a design prize to honor that heritage. And Rimowa is quite a maverick brand – we don’t like to take ourselves too seriously.
FN: Where do you see growth coming for Rimowa in the next five years?
EDV: In the diversification of our offer – small cross body bags, back packs – and developing smaller aluminum products. Not clothing.
FN: A Rimowa hotel maybe?
EDV: No, but maybe a first café. I don’t want to say too much, but there is something in the pipeline.
FN: What do you want people to think when entering a Rimowa store?
EDV: That they are entering and purchasing the best and most durable travel company. And that their luggage will last a lifetime. And that they will form an emotional bond through scratches and dents on their luggage that tells their story.
FN: How many stores do you have?
EDV: We have 125 stores – mostly directly owned, though with a few franchises, like in Thailand.
FN: What have been the benefits of joining LVMH?
EDV: We have moved from wholesale business to a directly operated and full retail model – and LVMH’s influence in making that happen was huge. Today, we still have a few wholesale clients, like Bloomingdales in the US, but 95% of our revenue comes from our own retail network.
FN: Describe your typical day?
EDV: Well, I have three teenager children who keep me quite busy (she laughs). But, what I mean is I oversee both marketing and product. So, my jobs are about making sure product and marketing work hand in hand and to keep innovating and presenting that in the best light.
FN: What did you learn at Tag Heuer and Dom Perignon that you apply at Rimowa?
EDV: I’ve been with LVMH for 20 years – and I have learned that our brands are our biggest assets – and that they must be constantly nourished. Dom Perignon taught me humility as it’s 300 years old. There is the realization that it will be there before and after me. It’s pretty amazing to work for a brand like that!
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