Rimowa | German Luggage for the Ages | A Continuous Lean.

Rimowa | German Luggage for the Ages

Mar 31st, 2011 | Categories: Design, Germany, History, Travel | by Michael Williams

When most Americans think luggage, they picture soft sided wheelie bags made from ballistic nylon. Nothing challenges an American’s preference for soft nylon bags more than a trip through customs at NRT. It happens quickly, only takes one trip to Japan to make a yank jealous of the ubiquitous Rimowa hard-sided cases that are the travel norm in Japan and the symbol of enduring German design.

Founded in 1898, Rimowa transformed itself from classic trunk maker into a modern metal case company that has stood the test of time. In our normal fashion, we reached out to the people at Rimowa and asked to see exactly what hasn’t changed and we were delighted with all of the historical reference material the company sent back. Light and strong have been the order of the day at Rimowa since the beginning, a philosophy that has continued to this day. It started with wood, eventually became aluminum and when technologies were pushed the company introduced a polycarbonate case to the world.

The formative history of Rimowa:

The first case was produced in the year 1898 – in the case factory in Cologne. At the time, the name of the company was Kofferfabrik Paul Morszeck. At the turn of the century, the cases were made of wood but the Cologne factory is already creating a great story with a design that is as lightweight as possible. Within a few years, Rimowa’s large wardrobe and steamer trunks have become the representative travel companions of high society.

In the 1920s discerning globetrotters are delighted by the elegant cases produced by the company. In 1937, Richard Morszeck, the son of the company founder, brings the first steamer trunk made of lightweight metal onto the market. This is only the first of numerous brilliant innovative ideas upon which the global success of Rimowa is based. The brand name RIMOWA was derived from Richard Morszeck (Richard Morszeck Warenzeichen).

In 1950, the first case was made from aluminium with the typical contour structure that has since made Rimowa products unmistakable. The great thing: The design combines minimum weight with maximum stability. Among the international jet set the contour cases quickly attain the status of cult objects.

These archival Rimowa images illustrate the fact that styling and design have largely remained the same over the past hundred or so years, much to our pleasure. It truly is an amazing story of enduring form and function. The Rimowa story encapsulates nearly everything we stand for here at ACL. Classic enduring design with equal amounts of function. All day, everyday. [RIMOWA]

Aluminum hand trunk from 1956.

Suitcase from 1936.

Hand trunk from 1927

Aluminum trunk from 1956.

Lady’s wardrobe trunk from 1914.

Side case from 1910.

Aluminum suitcase from 1968.

Comments: 19

19 Comments to “Rimowa | German Luggage for the Ages”

  1. Bradley Thompson
    on Mar 31st, 2011
    @ 7:21 PM

    Nice post on a great heritage product.

    Incidentally, Rimowa also makes a little-known ‘reissue’ product, sold exclusively through the German retailer Manufactum (a treasure trove of old fashioned goods, like a European Sears catalog from the early-to-mid 20th century).

    It’s a take on the 1957 edition of the Topas suitcase, and includes cowhide handles instead of plastic ones, all-metal combination locks instead of the metal-plastic versions, polished corner reinforcements and the old-style viscose lining. Like LVC for luggage.

    http://www.manufactum.com/Produkt/193629/1402905/0/Rimowa-Manufactum-Edition-Trolley-Suitcase.html?articleNumber=71914&idx=0

  2. Michael Williams
    on Mar 31st, 2011
    @ 7:31 PM

    Bradley — great call. Manufactum is tops.

  3. Shawn
    on Mar 31st, 2011
    @ 8:48 PM

    Great Post. Have the set of Rimowa Salsa, black. Best luggage I have every owned. Classic design, made of high quality polycarbonate. Never afraid to ‘check’ my luggage.

  4. MATT
    on Mar 31st, 2011
    @ 9:14 PM

    VERY NICE HISTORY LESSON MR. WILLIAMS. I WILL BE SEARCHING OUT SOME VINTAGE PIECES. THANKS.

  5. Robert@AmericanAntler
    on Mar 31st, 2011
    @ 10:12 PM

    Oh, the good ole’ days.

  6. Wayne Pate
    on Mar 31st, 2011
    @ 10:42 PM

    It’s what I check in at the airport. The first one I had, the stitching that holds the rubber seal and zipper around the case came unraveled so I sent it back and got a replacement in less than a week. Never a problem with the replacement since then.

  7. Nathan Adams
    on Apr 1st, 2011
    @ 4:28 AM

    I’d love love love to own one of the Rimowa Class Flight trolleys. There’s just something about the classic design and aluminium. Alas, they’re way out of my price range. One day though.

  8. Ghost
    on Apr 1st, 2011
    @ 11:33 AM

    I own 2 Rimowas and the best thing is they look better with age. Only be careful entering the US with them as customs just love cracking the locks for fun.

  9. Grant
    on Apr 1st, 2011
    @ 1:36 PM

    Anyone have suggestions of the best one to get? I have been internet flirting with buying one for about a year, but I am not sure if I should pull the trigger….btw I travel at least 60 days a year!

  10. allen
    on Apr 1st, 2011
    @ 2:33 PM

    Bradley: not sure I’d pay $700 for a 15″-high suitcase that weighs more than my 26-incher, but I guess we all have our priorities.

  11. M.
    on Apr 1st, 2011
    @ 6:43 PM

    Grant – They are definitely cheaper to buy in Germany. I think the best online source is probably from one of the German retailers like koffer24.de. Shipping to the US (I’m assuming you’re US-based) is 50€, and they automatically deduct the 19% VAT.

  12. M.
    on Apr 1st, 2011
    @ 6:52 PM

    Sorry Grant – I misread your previous comment as the best place to buy one. As far as best, I have both a Salsa Deluxe and Topas. They definitely have different purposes, and in some ways I prefer the more understated Salsa look (I have dark grey). The aluminum is the classic though.

  13. DRM
    on Apr 2nd, 2011
    @ 5:46 AM

    I’m afraid I don’t get the comment regarding customs at Narita? Care to elaborate?

  14. DRM
    on Apr 2nd, 2011
    @ 5:55 AM

    BTW nice post overall, just was a bit mystified regarding the NRT thing. Been through there plenty with a variety of luggage and nary a problem.

  15. JESSICA DEFINE
    on Apr 2nd, 2011
    @ 10:34 AM

    We have a set of Heys luggage which is nice and hard, an lightweight. I especially love that advert @ bottom.

  16. Michael Williams
    on Apr 2nd, 2011
    @ 10:36 AM

    Re: NRT

    I just meant that all of the Japanese people at NRT have hard sided Rimowa-like luggage.

  17. DRM
    on Apr 2nd, 2011
    @ 11:46 AM

    Aha! I misinterpreted, then. Thanks for the clarification.

  18. Hendrik
    on Apr 3rd, 2011
    @ 7:21 PM

    Hello Michael,

    you are right to laud the great workmanship, light weight and outstanding customer service
    of Rimova. Still, there are two things I hold against them.
    Unfortunately luggage thieves the world over are quite aware of their value and suspect treasure in these, they are just too flashy. Secondly, I have always found the design where you pack two halves and then try to squeeze them together rather impractical.
    I travel with vintage Globetrotter cases. They are just as light and sturdy, but have a body and a lid, which I find easier to pack. Also they don’t stick out so much as hardly anybody knows how exclusive they are. More of a stealth wealth thing…
    There history can be found here:
    http://www.globetrotter1897.com/collections/original/
    They come up on ebay quite often as the attics of English mansions seem to be full of them.

  19. Ben
    on Apr 8th, 2011
    @ 12:52 PM

    A little more info on Rimowa that I think is worth mentioning.

    Rimowa is still owned and operated by the Morszeck family. Though they are a global brand it is still owned and operated like a family business. They also own and oversee their manufacturing facilities, which is very unique for the luggage business these days.

    In addition in to creating Aluminum Luggage, Rimowa invented Polycarbonate luggage. Many ABS plastic cases have been made over the years but Rimowa was the first to do Polycarbonate (the highest grade of plastic- same as the material that football shoulder pads are made from). For frequent travelers, polycarbonate luggage is a game changer.

    This is a great brand who conducts business the right way and makes a product of tremendous quality. I’m glad that ACL did this write up.