Karl Lagerfeld's 2011 original suitcase, shot by the icon himself.
At RIMOWA, we spend a lot of time thinking about aluminium. How it’s made. How it’s used. Even how it feels.
In Cologne, we say it has persönlichkeit, or personality. Because it changes. It evolves. It lives.
For the past 80 years, our aluminium suitcases have defined everything we have done, and everything we continue to do. They are a work in progress – one that is made by our hands, but defined by yours.
Designed and engineered in Germany, our aluminium suitcases are assembled with the utmost care and precision. Each of their 205 parts is individually inspected, with every millimetre considered and coaxed to perfection. This film, shot by director Dan Tobin Smith at our factory in Cologne, examines our unique process, in which innovation, craftsmanship and heritage coexist immaculately.
Travelling together with their owners for decades, our aluminium suitcases are lifelong companions. Every dent, scratch and sticker on their surface is a reflection of the character of those who use them, a record of a personal journey. Below, 29 individuals share their stories through their suitcases.
“Travelling is not about where you go but what you bring back with you: life lessons, culture and memories.”
As founder of three-Michelin-star restaurant Osteria Francescana, Massimo Bottura is considered one of the world’s greatest chefs. Over the years he has criss-crossed the globe with his Classic Flight, which has transported not only his beloved hometown ingredients Parmigiano Reggiano and balsamic vinegar but has enabled him to bring home ingredients and stickers to remind him of the locations he has visited.
“If it could talk, it sure would have stories to tell.”
Former Red Cross pilot Michael Moore and his aluminium Topas have delivered food and supplies to Angola, Mozambique, and Myanmar, spent nine days in complete darkness travelling across Siberia, and even survived a plane crash. His suitcase may be empty now, having served Michael well since 1987, but it still holds many of his memories.
“Travel connects me with a world beyond a screen. You have to work not to become short-sighted.”
David Fincher has been making movies since the age of eight. Almost five decades later, he has made music videos for Madonna, created commercials for Fortune 500 companies and directed several Hollywood blockbusters. His filmmaking, he says, has always placed importance on what happens outside the camera’s frame, which is exactly how he feels about travel – you need to see the bigger picture.
“Travelling is synonymous with my life, lifestyle and work.”
Fashion designer Virgil Abloh studied architecture and civil engineering at university before working as a creative director for Kanye West, customising shoes for Nike and founding of his own clothing label, Off-White. Virgil travels relentlessly, taking more than 350 flights a year to visit suppliers, lecture at universities and – on rare occasions – take a vacation.
“Travel is the ultimate equaliser. It’s hard to want to build walls once you’ve crossed a border.”
Corinna Keller’s Topas originally belonged to her mother and father, who purchased it in the late 1950s in Mönchengladbach, Germany, shortly before emigrating by boat in 1964 to NYC – suitcase in hand. The Topas has also accompanied Corinna on her own journey, from childhood bus tours with her grandmother across Europe to a move to Mexico with her cat, standing amid the chaos of Mexico City airport about to embark on a new life together.
“I’ve made some of my best friends at airports.”
Dennis, who studied at the esteemed Design Academy Eindhoven, spends most of his time listening to people. As founder of the organisation Near, he works with creatives and designers in the Netherlands to develop relationship with their counterparts and students in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt and the UAE. Design, he says, is made better by travel, as it is enhanced by the perspective of others, especially those abroad.
“When I travel, it’s like an exact science. Everything in my control, from the way I pack to my airport routine, has been tailored to my liking.”
Growing up, Eugene Tong spent his holidays visiting family in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei. It was during those summer months that he discovered fashion, magazines and a sense of style that were entirely foreign to his experience in the US. Those trips sparked an interest that he never anticipated would become a career.
“Each place I visit is a part of my education.”
As an award-winning actress, Fan Bingbing has travelled to small, secluded towns and large, international cities throughout her native China and abroad. Meeting people from each of these locations has been a learning experience, she says, both in her life and in her acting, as she has come to appreciate our differences and, more importantly, our similarities.
“A suitcase tells the story of a lived life. Similar to a fingerprint, it’s unique.”
Locals often mistake sports journalist Felix Görner for a racing driver when they see him with his aluminium Topas. He thinks it’s his best asset, as it has always stood out as uniquely his own in the 63 countries he has visited while covering Formula 1 or Champions League football as a reporter.
“The many styles and looks of the places I’ve visited never leave me. They inform every artistic decision I make.”
New York-based perfumer Frédéric Malle, founder of Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, admits he’s incredibly inquisitive. When he visits somewhere new, it’s not enough to see the sights; he needs to understand how they came to be and how the various elements of the place work together. It’s what informs his eclectic taste, he says, as well as his appreciation for his hometown of Paris.
“The nature of travel fascinates me, as it has always led me to extraordinary encounters with people and fellow artisans.”
French hair designer John Nollet is admired for his effortless, sculptural hairstyles for iconic actresses such as Monica Bellucci, Catherine Deneuve, Nicole Kidman and Uma Thurman. He is fascinated by film. The silver screen and those who grace it, he says, are the source of his inspiration, and his travels around the world to work on films, photoshoots and red carpets have exposed him to the art and culture of each place he has visited.
“I find being surrounded by people speaking foreign languages meditative. It gives me space to think deeply.”
Kevin Liu, the Shenzhen-based lifestyle retailer, prefers to travel by car or by train, often for weeks at a time and preferably alone. Whether travelling from Berlin to Nice, or throughout the Middle East, these trips provide the time and perspective to observe how other people live. It’s an essential process, he says, that has informed his life as well as the way of living he conveys through his businesses.
“I idolise that person in the airport with the perfect worn-in suitcase and the sense of inner calm. For me to feel that way, packing has to be a precise routine.”
As a child, Swedish singer Lykke Li travelled the world extensively with her mother. It’s the source of her vagabond nature, she says, as well as the root of her pedantic way of packing, because part of the adventure back then included rifling through plastic bags full of random coins and nervously watching suitcases burst open on the luggage belt, tie-dye garments spilling out for everyone to see.
“Planning is paramount when it comes to travel.”
To satisfy tastemaker and entrepreneur Martha Stewart’s endless curiosity, travel must possess an almost scientific precision. Each of her trips, whether to the Russian Cosmodrome spaceport in Baikonur or the jungles of the Amazon, is designed so that days are full and busy. New learning experiences are a must, especially for her grandchildren, with whom she often travels.
“Travel has taught me to be super efficient. I don't differentiate between how I work and how I travel. At this point they are an extension of each other.”
When Mazdack Rassi was nine years old he emigrated to the United States from Iran at the height of the Iranian revolution. The move, says the entrepreneur and creative director, has been the source of his drive and ambition. In 1998, he co-founded Milk Studios, the creative agency-meets-production studio with its own make-up brand and offices in New York and Los Angeles. That, and working with some of the world’s leading fashion brands, means flying is now a routine – one, he says, he could do with his eyes closed.
“Travel is like art; you set out to find something even though you don’t always know what you’re looking for.”
Neville Wakefield is an advocate of getting lost. He says it’s the reason his career, which has spanned writing for Vogue and The New York Times, curating art fairs in London and in the Alps, and even filmmaking, has been so varied over the past three decades.
“Somehow my suitcase always finds its way back to me, even when I’ve forgotten it somewhere. It’s special.”
Musical director Patrick Fa spends 300 days a year travelling with acts such as Dionne Warwick, Stefanie Heinzmann and Rea Garvey. He purchased his limited-edition gold Topas because it stands out in the sea of black baggage – so much so that he often catches sight of it on the tarmac as it’s loaded into the aircraft's hold.
“Travel lets me to see beyond the mountains and lead another way of life for a few days.”
Pictures don’t do a place justice for Tyrol-based hairstylist Peter F. Pfister. His work for designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as in international hair shows, may be based on creative imagination but the cutting and styling of hair is ultimately physical. Experiencing the world with all five senses, he says, is an absolute must.
“My stepfather, who was a photographer, had a Tropicana. Growing up, I always wanted one.”
When Raúl Cardoza was young, he’d spend evenings and weekends with his stepfather photographing their Lower East Side neighbourhood and the city beyond. Raúl was often charged with carrying his stepfather’s Tropicana. Along with his first camera, he says, it was the case that sparked his interest in photography. Today, he carries his own Tropicana as he continues to photograph his native New York.
“I prefer big cities and historical sites over fun destinations and comfortable resorts. Travelling is always about the people living there and their stories.”
Editor Stefano Tonchi spent much of his youth in the small provincial town he was born in, voraciously reading books about faraway places. Over the past decades, he has travelled to those faraway places with equal passion, visiting the perfectly manicured gardens of Japan, the wild forests of Brazil, overcrowded villages of Indonesia, empty flatlands in Kenya and even 40 of the 50 states of the country he now calls home. Experiencing these cultures, he says, both on the page and in the flesh, has informed his understanding of the world and made him the person he is today.
“Where you go becomes part of you somehow. Not all those who wander are lost.”
Tokyo-based duo VERBAL, part of the internationally acclaimed hip-hop group M-Flo, and noted graphic designer YOON met in Boston while studying at university. Their fashion label and creative consultancy AMBUSH® is known for its ability to remix the world’s various subcultures – a skill they say has been made possible by the places they’ve visited.
“Travel humbles me. You find yourself through where you’ve been.”
Pop star Jolin Tsai attributes much of her achievement to her travels. She is one of Asia’s most successful female artists – having sold more than 25 million albums – and an entrepreneur in her own right, having founded and run her own music-production and management company for almost a decade. Travel, she says, has enabled her to speak her mind in business and in life.
As part of a special collaboration with 032c, we have commissioned a series of seven stickers by artists such as Wes Lang, Geoff McFetridge, Othelo Gervacio, Martine Syms, Il Pellicano, AMBUSH® and Virgil Abloh. Available exclusively through 032c magazine’s Winter 2016/2017 edition and in selected RIMOWA stores worldwide.