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The history of Rimowa’s iconic aluminium suitcase

Not many luggage brands have a look as distinctive as Rimowa’s, whose iconic suitcases have been a cult favourite amongst the well-heeled and well-travelled. Those in the know can easily recognise Rimowa’s sleek design and grooved rides across a first class airport lounge.

In fact, A-listers such as Olivia Palermo, Cara Delevingne, Cameron Diaz and Diane Kruger have been photographed breezing through airport security with the distinctive yet stylish luggage — further adding to the brand’s desirability.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the German luggage manufacturer’s classic aluminium luggage, celebrating its evolution and successes throughout history.


While Rimowa’s signature grooved aluminium suitcases has become the epitome of luxury travel culture today, the first few suitcases produced by the manufacturer haven’t always looked the way they do now. In fact, Rimowa’s first chests and trunks were made from wood, and became the choice of sophisticated globetrotters in the 1920s.

Rimowa's iconic aluminium suitcase
Hand-made trunk from 1927

In the 1930s, the brand’s original factory burst into flames. The only surviving material? A light silver-grey, fire-resistant metal. It was then that the revolution started, as this provided inspiration for Rimowa’s iconic aluminium suitcase. The German-based company started the production of a lightweight luggage made of aluminium in 1937, revolutionising the travel industry forever. The rest of it is history.


Over the years, the case sizes, interiors, corners, handles and wheels of the aluminium suitcases have been continuously improved and adjusted according to a modern customers’ needs.

Duraluminium, a copper and aluminium alloy discovered in 1906 by Alfred Wilm, replaced the traditional material in 1950. This was also the year the brand’s now iconic grooves were applied to the brand’s new line of aluminium cases, putting the Rimowa design on the map. As this coincided with the turn of the century for travel and luggage, Rimowa helped spark the modern-day movement to lighter yet stronger suitcases with the advent of its first aluminium case.

The signature grooves

One of the defining qualities of a Rimowa suitcase is its signature grooves, that have become synonymous with quality. This has enabled the brand to stay ahead of the competition with its unending pursuit to create premium luggage that is stronger, lighter and easier to handle — without comprising on style.

It is this range of suitcases with the legendary grooved design that became a status symbol for stylish cosmopolitans and globetrotters in the mid-20th century.

Rimowa's iconic aluminium suitcase
Rimowa’s range of iconic suitcases throughout the years.

Iconic designs

Rimowa is a brand that is always evolving. Throughout the years, many of Rimowa’s aluminium cases have represented the milestones of the past 80 years.

Another innovation followed in 1976 with the development of the first waterproof camera cases, which protects delicate photography equipment from water and humidity. Until this day, it’s still manufactured in Cologne as part of the Tropicana range.

The latest change happened this year, with a new generation of the Topas groove design launched — marking yet another milestone for the iconic Rimowa aluminium case.

80th anniversary 

To mark the 80th anniversary of the Rimowa aluminium case, close friends of the brand are presenting their own aluminium luggage, inviting us into the world of their personal travels. Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, for example, invites us to see a personal photograph of his suitcase. Other personalities include award-winning director David Fincher, editor in chief Carine Roitfeld and designer Virgil Ablohg — each with its own story.


The history of Rimowa’s iconic aluminium suitcase

Dewi Nurjuwita

Senior Writer

Dewi Nurjuwita is a travel and design writer who can be found exploring the streets of foreign cities with passport in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

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