During our recent trip to New York for RIMOWA SEIT 1898 exhibition, we speak to RIMOWA Senior Vice President of Marketing and Product, Emelie De Vitis on engineering new innovations, the art of collaboration, and how RIMOWA is diversifying its footprints.
If memory serves me right, my experience with RIMOWA started many years ago when I bought my first Salsa. It was through word of mouth, a sense of security, and assurance from a fellow RIMOWA user that reassured me that the suitcase would be one that would last a lifetime (or at least for the next ten years).
Back then, it wasn’t about aesthetics but a sort of pragmatism that allowed for excellent durability. As someone who travels frequently, a suitcase that provides peace of mind would be what you’d be looking for when you invest in a good piece of luggage. Having been a RIMOWA user for the past decade, I’ve witnessed the evolution of the brand throughout the years. It is no longer just serving its aluminum case appeal, but a diversification that now reaches out to a much wider audience.
The brand enters its 125th year with nothing short of great storytelling — a solid narrative of its heritage and history, steeped in innovative and creative ethos. Above all, the people are at the core of its commitment to innovation and quality.
At the SEIT 1898 exhibition, RIMOWA captures the imagination of the brand through excellent narratives from Cologne to the world! Riding on the recent high of the exhibition’s second stop in New York together with the launch of the latest Never Still 4 campaign featuring Sir Lewis Hamilton, Kylian Mbappé and Blackpink’s Rosé – alongside the celebrated collaboration with Tiffany & Co., the message of purposeful travel remains at pertinent to the brand moving forward.
The morning after the opening night of the SEIT 1898 exhibition in New York – graced by global phenomenon and RIMOWA’s latest ambassador Rosé – I find myself at the attic of Chelsea Factory with Senior Vice President of Marketing and Product Emelie De Vitis as she sheds light on the reimagination, innovation and diversification of RIMOWA.
What are your personal travel habits and how has it changed post-pandemic?
I travel a lot for work and RIMOWA is a travel brand – so that’s one way we align (chuckles). I’m passionate about travel and that’s the reason why I enjoy working with RIMOWA so much. Yes, I love to travel to the various regions where we have the most fantastic teams and personally, I enjoy travelling. But what has changed is that I try to take shorter distances to limit the carbon footprints of my journeys where possible.
If you were to be featured on the next ‘Never Still Campaign’, what would your narrative be?
Travel is about opening my horizon – always enriching the soul and staying very curious. And I think I can picture myself with a battered aluminum case with stickers.
And where would it be shot at?
My country of love is Italy… I think it would be in southern Italy where my husband is from – in Puglia!
With the shift in travellers’ behaviour and lifestyle, how has that impacted the way RIMOWA innovates and refashions its codes?
RIMOWA is always a brand focusing on purposeful travel – we’ve never been about those wanderlust trips. But coming out of the pandemic, the notion of meaningful trips and enriching experiences resonates more with the travellers. It’s the idea of progress and being emotionally connected is that we’ve been promoting on our latest campaign.
In terms of products, the pandemic has been a challenging time to navigate. We reacted quite quickly… understanding that long-distance travel was no longer possible, we came out with short-distance solutions like backpacks, personal crossbody bags, and weekenders. Yes, it is more lifestyle driven and that’s when we ventured into new categories while speeding up our diversification. It allows us to position RIMOWA as more than just a suitcase brand.
RIMOWA has gone through many changes in the last decade – changing the way we perceive the brand entirely. In your opinion, what is the turning point for the brand?
One of the examples that we felt was very important for us was when we introduced the unconditional lifetime warranty. When clients are investing into a suitcase, it needs to be for life. And the fact that we are able to repair your suitcase around the world through our client care centres is something we feel extremely proud of – it defines what we genuinely believe in.
I love the Patek Philippe commercial that says “You don’t own a Patek Philippe, you just pass it on to the next generation”. I love to think that we are the ‘Patek Philippe’ of suitcases.
The Rimowa suitcase is like Lego, and that is what we try to illustrate with the blown-up structure (in the exhibition). We will be able to repair your suitcase and you can continue with your journeys – that for us is a strong commitment. We are the only suitcase brand to manufacture all of our suitcases ourselves and we are able to make that claim. As a customer, knowing that you can buy a product that will last you a lifetime is definitely a strong statement.
How big is the Gen Z market for RIMOWA? Can you share with us the strategies targeting this group of aspirational crowd?
We have a very balanced age group of clientele. I wouldn’t say it’s completely strong but I think it’s pretty comparably normal for now. What resonates with the younger audience is the commitment to sustainability – that’s something that we feel really connects them with the brand.
We are investing into channels like TikTok to speak to the younger crowd. Furthermore, we always collaborate with various partners – allowing us to go into different categories like automobile with Porsche, fashion with Dior, as well as hype brands like Supreme and Off-White. Obviously, working with the right ambassadors also further boosts the appeal to a different audience.
Like any luxury brand, we want to rejuvenate our audience group but we are staying true to what makes RIMOWA the icon – keeping to its cult status. It is the notion of German engineering, minimalistic design and working closely with art.
We give artists the carte blanche to come out with their own interpretation of the products… being playful and explorative. I believe that RIMOWA is a maverick brand that resonates with the younger audience.
We’ve seen many collaborations from RIMOWA throughout the years. Speaking of collaborations, who would you like to collaborate with next?
You’ve seen RIMOWA’s latest collaboration with Tiffany & Co. – that’s something we’ve never done before that in itself is interesting and that’s the role of collaborations. It is to develop products that we haven’t ventured in before.
The art of collaboration is a tricky exercise – there is an evident fatigue. We are doing less but working harder to have a joint artistic collaboration. It’s no longer about putting a logo on the suitcase anymore but a superior storytelling developed with the brand.
You already see with the Tiffany & Co. collaboration – it is really working with their heritage and our engineering; coming out with a solution together. That’s all I can say for now… the PR in the room looking so worried right now. (laughs)
What makes a great collaboration?
I can only say that for us, collabs are about surprising and delighting our audience. It is the element of surprise and the idea of two brands coming together for a very rich storytelling.
For us, it is not a commercial exercise or about producing tonnes of products from the collab. It’s about generating buzz and getting positive responses from our fans. There’s also an element of fatigue and about almost selling out before it hits the stores. We have to find the balance in that.
What’s next for the brand?
Further diversification of course… we are investing a lot in innovation. Throughout the history, innovation has always been the core value for RIMOWA. We aim to be at the forefront of innovations with new materials as well as further advancements to make RIMOWA unique – the best wheels, durability, lightness, and more. It’s going to be exciting!
(All images from RIMOWA)