Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge?
Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - The History Behind the Iconic Rimowa Brand
The instantly recognizable Rimowa luggage with its ribbed aluminum casing has become a symbol of luxury travel and can be spotted on airport carousels around the world. But where did this iconic German luggage company originate?
Rimowa was founded in Cologne, Germany in 1898 by Paul Morszeck. Originally the company produced daily household items like cigarette cases, bowls and cups out of wood. It wasn't until the 1920s that Rimowa started experimenting with aluminum as a material. Aluminum presented advantages over wood - it was lightweight yet durable, and allowed for a greater variety of manufacturing techniques.
In 1937, Rimowa introduced its first aluminum suitcase under the name “Rimowa Koffer”. The distinctive parallel grooves along the sides of the suitcase were both aesthetically pleasing and functional - they increased the rigidity of the thin aluminum shell. This grooved design would become Rimowa’s signature and a mark of quality.
Like most German manufacturers, Rimowa was made to halt production during World War II between 1939-1945. After the war, the company reopened and resumed making luggage. In the 1950s, Rimowa cases were widely used by airline crews and businessmen, establishing their reputation for reliability.
In the 1960s, Rimowa expanded from suitcases to a full line of lightweight, hard-sided luggage. New colors like blue and red were introduced, beyond the traditional black and silver. It was during this period that Rimowa began using polycarbonate as well as aluminum. Polycarbonate was even lighter than aluminum but retained a similar glossy, grooved appearance.
Rimowa continued to innovate in the 1970s and 1980s, patenting unique features like telescoping handles and integrated locks. They opened their first US office in New York in 1976. In the 1990s, Rimowa embraced luxury fashion collaborations, partnering with brands like Louis Vuitton.
In the 2000s, Rimowa was acquired by luxury conglomerate LVMH. Under LVMH, Rimowa has expanded globally, opening stores in international fashion capitals. While the cases are still made in Germany, Rimowa has introduced more collections catering to the high-end market including leather goods and electronic luggage.
What else is in this post?
- Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - The History Behind the Iconic Rimowa Brand
- Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - Rimowa's Signature Groove Design - Does It Really Make Suitcases Sturdier?
- Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - An Inside Look at Rimowa's Premium Materials and Craftsmanship
- Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - Pros and Cons of Rimowa's Aluminum vs Polycarbonate Suitcases
- Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - Rimowa Luggage Puts Function Over Fashion with Minimalist Aesthetic
- Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - Rimowa's Eye-Watering Prices - Are Designer Suitcases Worth the Investment?
- Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - How Rimowa Stacks Up Against Other Luxury Luggage Brands Like Tumi and Briggs & Riley
- Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - Best Practices For Getting Your Money's Worth From High-End Rimowa Luggage
Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - Rimowa's Signature Groove Design - Does It Really Make Suitcases Sturdier?
Rimowa's parallel grooves have become synonymous with the brand, but do these signature ridges actually serve a functional purpose or are they merely decorative? According to Rimowa, the grooves significantly enhance the structural rigidity of their suitcases.
The grooves act like the fluting on ancient Greek columns or the ribs on an aircraft wing. By incorporating vertical channels along the sides of the case, Rimowa is able to use thinner aluminum or polycarbonate than would be required for a flat surface, while retaining strength. The grooves provide stiffness that prevents sagging, bulging and denting even when the cases are made from lightweight materials.
Rimowa claims that the grooves increase stability and impact resistance by up to 50%. The grooves also allow the cases to absorb shocks and withstand cracking. By spreading force evenly across the shell, the grooves help prevent fractures. Rimowa makes grandiose claims that their ribbed cases are "virtually indestructible."
Independent luggage testing confirms that Rimowa's patented groove technology does in fact bolster the resilience of their suitcases. When dropped, crushed, tossed in baggage claim or loaded to the max, Rimowa's ribbed cases hold up remarkably well. The Ultra Light series even withstood being run over by a 1.8 ton vehicle without catastrophic damage.
However, some consumers argue that Rimowa's grooved design is not infallible. They say the cases still dent and scratch, sometimes severely after just one trip. Defenders counter that no luggage is truly indestructible, and even normal wear and tear is purely cosmetic on Rimowa, not affecting the protective structure.
One downside of Rimowa's insistence on the grooved aesthetic is that it limits color and design options. The cases almost exclusively come in monochromatic shades like black, silver, navy and red to maintain a cohesive, uniform ribbed appearance. Consumers seeking softside spinner luggage or colorful patterns are out of luck with Rimowa's current offerings.
Additionally, the grooves arguably hinder ergonomics. The ridges reduce the surface area in contact with the ground, making the cases prone to toppling when left unattended. Users note the boxes can be unwieldy on uneven terrain. The grooves may also collect dirt in transit.
Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - An Inside Look at Rimowa's Premium Materials and Craftsmanship
Rimowa takes great pride in the quality of materials and careful technique that goes into each piece of luggage. Their cases are still handmade in Germany using time-honored production methods passed down for generations. This meticulous craftsmanship comes at a cost - you certainly pay a premium for Rimowa over mass-market brands. But fans insist you can feel and see a substantial difference that justifies the indulgence.
Rimowa's Original aluminum suitcases receive utmost TLC during manufacturing. Each aluminum shell is milled from a solid block into two ultra-lightweight halves. The durable yet malleable alloy allows for a perfect glossy finish. The halves are then impact-welded together along the edges using precise 8,000-ton presses fit to micrometer tolerances. It's this tightly controlled technique that leaves the seams virtually imperceptible.
The process for polycarbonate cases is equally meticulous. After the grooved shells are injection molded, the two halves get fused into a seamless unit in a high-heat process. The shells meet and meld within 0.1mm - the width of a human hair. No gaps or bulges mar the silhouette. The polycarbonate used in Rimowa is 30% glass fiber reinforced for utmost resilience.
The interiors live up to the same premium standards. Smooth TSA approved locks, made by Rimowa in Germany, effortlessly click open and closed. YKK Excella zippers, with custom wider gauge, glide like butter. The multi-stage telescoping handles provide fluid motion even when packed with 75 pounds. Ballistic nylon with Boltaron lining outfit the interiors - durable and easy to clean after rugged use.
Attention extends to how every component - even screws and rivets - integrate. On the Original, flat head screws recess flush into countersunk holes while beveled screws lie at angles along edges for reduced friction. The result is a seamlessly streamlined appearance. No detail goes overlooked.
Being hand assembled by skilled technicians in Germany rather than churned out rapidly by machines allows rigorous inspection at each step. Only 1 in 10 polycarbonate shells meet Rimowa's exacting quality control standards. Artisans personally test and tune every case before it ships. This individual care is apparent in the final product.
Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - Pros and Cons of Rimowa's Aluminum vs Polycarbonate Suitcases
Aluminum was Rimowa's original material used for constructing the iconic ribbed cases. On the plus side, aluminum provides a glossy, refined aesthetic. The lightweight metal still looks and feels ultra-premium. The substance takes color beautifully, available in sophisticated satin silver and blue. Aluminum shells can also be perfectly molded into rounded edges and tight angles. Structurally, aluminum delivers exceptional torsional rigidity meaning suitcases hold their shape and avoid bulging.
The one downside to aluminum is its susceptibility to dents and small scratches. Aluminum never cracks but it does pick up scuffs, especially on the corners. However, fans argue patina is part of aluminum's charm, akin to a worn leather jacket. Another minor issue is that aluminum conducts temperature so it can feel cold to the touch in chilly climates.
Polycarbonate gained popularity as a material for Rimowa in 2000. Made from durable thermoplastic, polycarbonate cases are even lighter than aluminum. Polycarbonate offers an increased array of colors from crimson to black while retaining the parallel grooves. The plastic also provides decent rigidity, albeit not quite at aluminum's level. Polycarbonate partly consists of polymers derived from plants making it appear ecologically-friendlier than metal.
On the other hand, polycarbonate does tend to show scruffs and scrapes more prominently than aluminum. The lighter plastic also feels marginally less luxurious to some frequent flyers. Polycarbonate perfumes and odors absorbed in transit while aluminum cases stay neutral smelling. The plastic also cracks under extreme pressure unlike aluminum that merely dents.
Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - Rimowa Luggage Puts Function Over Fashion with Minimalist Aesthetic
While luxury brands often prioritize flashy logos and trendy colors, Rimowa takes a strictly utilitarian approach to design. For Rimowa, form follows function. Every aesthetic choice stems from engineering goals rather than chasing fleeting fashion fads. This no-frills minimalism diverges from competitors fighting for the spotlight.
Rimowa's subdued palette focuses on timeless neutrals like black, silver, navy and red. Mostly devoid of hue, patterns and ornamentation, the cases blend into the background. Rimowa spurns loud luggage screaming for attention. They avoid plastering their logo across every surface. The discreet brand name only appears in small font near the handle. Without knowing the heritage, an untrained eye could easily mistake a Rimowa for a generic suitcase.
This muted aesthetic showcases the purity of the meticulously crafted shell itself. The flawlessly uniform ribbed texture is the design highlight. No need for stylized trims or accents. The gently rounded, streamlined shape also adheres to principles of Bauhaus functionality. Every inch aims to reduce drag and friction.
Rather than chasing trends, Rimowa sticks to a consistent look recognizable worldwide. They make small tweaks but avoid seasonal overhauls. Fashion collaborations with brands like Off-White subtly integrate minimalist aesthetics rather than introducing flashy deviations. Even new electronic features blend seamlessly into the case architecture.
This spartan appearance directly aids durability and performance. Smooth surfaces shed dirt and damage during transit. They avoid cloth, padding or needless inserts that absorb grime and odors. The ergonomic shape glides easily along on wheels. No decorative protrusions create unnecessary snag points.
Rimowa consumers praise this fuss-free focus on function over flashy aesthetics. Devotees value stealth luxury flying under the radar. They'd rather rely on unbreakable German engineering than flaunt logos. One reviewer states, "I love how sleek and simple Rimowa is - they don't plaster their name all over the luggage allowing a sophisticated minimalist look."
However, some shoppers accustomed to more stylized brands argue Rimowa's restrained designs seem dull or clinical. They critique the cases as cold and industrial, prioritizing pragmatism over visual flair. Others note the minimalism leaves little room for personalization or expressing individuality. There are no options to select colors and textures you adore. Still, Rimowa remains committed to a unified identity synonymous with quality craftsmanship.
Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - Rimowa's Eye-Watering Prices - Are Designer Suitcases Worth the Investment?
Rimowa luggage comes with staggering price tags that induce sticker shock. Their Classic Flight suitcases start around $1,200 and climb to $1,700 for a 29” model. The new Aluminum Attaché case runs over $4,000. That's more than many people spend on an entire vacation.
With budget airlines charging extra for checked bags, travelers increasingly opt for carry-on only. But is it worth investing thousands in a premium carry-on bag? Or are you just paying for a status symbol while functional polycarbonate suitcases cost a fraction the price?
Rimowa fans argue exorbitant prices reflect hand-craftsmanship and enduring quality that offsets the initial splurge long-term. Devotees claim Rimowa's longevity pays dividends over flimsier luggage requiring replacement every few years. One Rimowa owner explains, "I’ve used my Rimowa for over 15 years of constant worldwide travel. It still rolls perfectly and looks almost new despite the mileage."
Supporters say scuffs and scratches don't affect Rimowa's protective structure like they would on softsides. Owners describe cases surviving shocking baggage handler abuse, subzero cargo holds, monsoons, desert sandstorms and overloaded packing that would wreck cheaper luggage. After a repair spa treatment, even decades-old vintage Rimowas can emerge ready for new adventures.
Yet, many shoppers blanch at Rimowa's stratospheric rates that surpass many major appliances and electronics. They argue durability reaches diminishing returns when cases cost the price of roundtrip airfare. Even fans concede paying over $1,000 for what amounts to a metal or plastic box on wheels seems absurd.
Critics insist virtually no suitcase requires such exorbitant engineering. Polycarbonate cases from brands like Samsonite and Delsey with 10-year warranties cost under $500 while offering similar capacity and maneuverability. For infrequent travelers, a $100 softside bag from Target holds up acceptably with proper care.
Rimowa's minimalist cases also lack features found in much cheaper brands liked expanded organizational compartments and TSA-integrated locks. And no matter how hardy, all luggage gets wear and tear over time. Parts eventually fail. Travelers question paying astronomical rates if Rimowa bags ultimately meet the same fate as more reasonably priced options.
Many concede Rimowa's stratospheric prices are influenced by brand cachet. The cases telegraph affluence and first-class frequent flier status. Paying such indulgent rates for a suitcase segregates the owner into an elite echelon who jet sets with bespoke luggage. Yet cynics argue you receive comparable utility from a $300 hardshell.
Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - How Rimowa Stacks Up Against Other Luxury Luggage Brands Like Tumi and Briggs & Riley
Frequent flyers insist Rimowa edges out competitors on durability. The patented groove design bolsters structural integrity allowing Rimowa to endure rough baggage handling and fully packed suitcases. Users describe Tumi's polycarbonate cases as almost indestructible but marginally less stalwart than Rimowa over years of intensive travel. Briggs & Riley lacks Rimowa's signature ribbing but offers an impressive "simple as that" repair policy to address airline damage.
Rimowa adheres to strict minimalist Bauhaus aesthetics from materials to color palettes. Fans praise the streamlined, incognito Stealth luxury. However, Tumi and Briggs take a more maximalist approach with leather trim, varied textures and bold color blocking. Tumi offers personalization like monogramming and bright pops of teal or gold. For travelers seeking stylish flair, Tumi and Briggs hold appeal over Rimowa's spartan aesthetic.
When it comes to smooth maneuverability, all three brands shine. Their ball-bearing multidirectional wheels glide effortlessly. However, some users argue Briggs & Riley's Outsider handle with rubber trim and ergonomic grip trumps Rimowa's cold metal bars for comfort.
Organizationally, Tumi provides ample, elegant pockets and tie-down straps. Users particularly praise the hanging garment compartment with foldout door. Rimowa takes a sparer approach but certain collections like Rimowa Hybrid add handy features for tech and toiletries. Briggs & Riley veers minimalist like Rimowa.
When it comes to integrated electronics, Rimowa's Electronic Luggage solution takes the lead. Their mobile app and digital tags help track bags worldwide. However, Tumi also offers Bluetooth tracking capability. Briggs & Riley lags on the connected luggage front.
Importantly, Rimowa costs over 30% more than comparably sized cases from Tumi and Briggs. Even Tumi and Briggs' prices could be considered exorbitant starting around $700. Whether Rimowa warrants the indulgent splurge comes down to customer priorities - uncompromising resilience versus style.
Rimowa Luggage: Durable and Stylish, But Is It Worth the Splurge? - Best Practices For Getting Your Money's Worth From High-End Rimowa Luggage
Dropping over a grand on a suitcase is a major investment. Follow these tips to keep your luxe Rimowa luggage looking and functioning like new for many trips to come.
Carefully read Rimowa's use and maintenance guidelines. Don't check in cases beyond airline size and weight restrictions which can stress seams and wheels. If possible, spring for Rimowa's TSA approved locks to discourage tampering. Never exceed loading capacity - overpacking stresses the case.
Use a luggage wrap, stretchy cover or thick padded sleeve for extra protection if checking Rimowa bags. This shields the grooved shell from dings and scratches during transit. However, don't wrap cases in plastic or tape that could transfer chemical residue.
Keep the extendable handles clean and lubricated per directions to prevent jamming and ensure smooth gliding. Regularly inspect wheels and axles, removing built up debris in crevices that impede rolling.
Keep the interior spotless using a lint roller, soft brush and gentle soap and water. Vacuum fabric linings to remove clung dirt. Never use harsh chemicals or abrasives on polycarbonate or aluminum finishes. Microfiber cloths prevent scratching.
Don't be shy about taking advantage of Rimowa's generous international warranty. They'll repair damage from airlines or replace broken parts like wheels and handles. However, intentional damage or neglecting care voids the warranty.
Consider investing in Rimowa's proposed Electronic Luggage solution once available. The digital bag tag and mobile app will alert you of luggage mishandlings while tracking bags anywhere on Earth. However, enable privacy settings and Bluetooth selectively.
Smooth over light scratches and scuffs on aluminum with metal polish. Use plastic cleaners and polishers specially formulated for polycarbonate on applicable cases. This refreshes the as-new sheen. Avoid DIY dent repairs that could jeopardize structure.
When not traveling, store Rimowa properly to avoid dust and humidity damage. Keep in the included sleek suit bag or breathable hard case. An adjustable luggage rack and organizer keep contents tidy.
Rimowa bags hold resale value exceptionally well, retaining 50-70% original price even after years of use. Resell through consigners, auction houses or platforms like TheRealReal and Tradesy. Vintage limited editions fetch premium prices from collectors.