The origins of Rimowa, the luxury luggage brand, trace back to 1889 when the company was called Görtz & Morszeck after its two founders. The name Rimowa came about at the turn of the century and has held ever since. The brand debuted its signature aluminum cases in 1950.

Fast forward to the end of 2016 when LVMH bought 80% of the luggage maker for $716 million, and then-24-year-old Alexandre Arnault—LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault’s son—was named co-CEO, alongside Dieter Morszeck, whose grandfather founded the brand. LVMH, a family business, has a history of putting its most promising family members at the helm of its brands along with in-house mentorship; it is now training its next-generation leadership since Bernard Arnault is currently 69-years-old.

Since taking the helm, the younger Arnault hasn’t wasted much time. Now, almost two years into the brand’s revitalization, we take stock of what the brand has done under his leadership and what it still has left to do.

The rebirth

Q4 2017

At the end of 2017, the new Rimowa started to take shape. In October, the brand released the beginning of a long line of conceptual drawings, photographs and renderings of Rimowa products in different environments by a range of illustrators, photographers and designers.

In November, the brand debuted a campaign photographing the Rimowa suitcases of celebrities and other luminaries as design objects, in addition to launching the Rimowa x Fendi suitcase and the Rimowa x Patrick Roger collab—a suitcase, chocolate bar, sculptures and scents—with the world-renowned chocolatier.

In December, the brand launched its first new retail concept in LA, which was based on a refined  luggage carousel concept; Rimowa x Juice Served Here—“unique juices for the modern traveler”—that premiered at the new popup; Rimowa x Anti Social Social Club, a limited edition suitcase with the streetwear brand; and a special sticker pack designed by JW Anderson, Virgil Abloh, Ambush and others for the winter issue of the magazine 032c.  

Q1-Q2 2018  

In January, Rimowa launched its new brand identity celebrating the company’s 120th anniversary, which debuted a more modern aesthetic. The German agency Bureau Borsche designed the wordmark and Commission Studio designed the overall branding, typography and packaging. It also launched Personal Journeys, a media series cataloging people and the places they go with their Rimowa suitcases.

In March, the brand canceled most of its wholesale contracts, ending a decades-long distribution strategy.

In April, the much-anticipated Rimowa x Supreme collection launched, which featured limited edition red and black luggage with the Supreme logo slapped on it—the collection sold out online in 35 seconds. The brand also produced a media and design project with artist Dozie Kanu for Milan Design Week, which featured design objects made from modified luggage and an accompanying media campaign for the brand.  

In June, the brand rolled out its new retail concept to department stores, first at Le Bon Marché, the LVMH-owned department store in Paris. It then launched a new global website built by R/GA, which unlocks ecommerce for the first time in the brand’s history, alongside a subtle but important revamp of its core product offering, which eliminated a number of luggage sizes in favor of focusing on a handful of sizes and only a few modernized materials. Next, it launched Rimowa x Off-White, another highly-anticipated collection with Virgil Abloh that included fully transparent suitcases. Finally, it launched Rimowa x Nasa Seasons, which included a limited-edition hat and sticker pack.

Q3 2018

In August, the brand launched a new sticker pack, reflecting the tendency of its customers to adorn their Rimowa luggage with stickers.

In September, the brand launched its first global campaign with Virgil Abloh, Roger Federer, Adwoa Aboah, Yoon Ahn and Nobu Matsuhisa. This campaign features videos, billboards and other media shot as the campaign stars navigate their world, alongside the tagline, “No one builds a legacy by standing still.”

More collabs, campaigns and media are surely on the way.

The results  

Speed

Saying that Rimowa has stayed busy the last two years is an understatement. The pace of collaborations and campaigns is rapid and takes serious planning. At times, however, it has felt almost too rapid, as collaborations trip over each other given their quick-fire release dates. The reasoning for this pace is clear—to quickly build a new image and overwrite the old one—but it has felt about 20% to 30% too fast at times, since brands need to give new products and collections time to resonate before they’re able to make an impact.  

Branding

From a branding perspective, the heightened aesthetic, which feels modern but luxurious, has been a success, as LVMH and Arnault’s standing allow them to easily attract top talent (many of these people also already owned Rimowa luggage, enhancing the authenticity of campaigns like the most recent one). The range of illustrators and designers tasked with envisioning their version of the brand has also diversified Rimowa’s aesthetic, and the focus on individual people and their stories has allowed consumers to connect to the brand via the people it empowers, who come from a wide range of disciplines.

While it’s logical for a legacy company to look externally for its rebranding (working with two different agencies), Rimowa should prioritize handling future design, branding and creative in-house. There are plenty of good agencies out there and Rimowa can afford them, but since creative will be a core competency for the brand for the foreseeable future, and is even more important as it positions itself as a culturally-relevant luxury brand, it should own this capability.

The same goes for the brand’s website, which was built by R/GA. Digital and ecommerce is something brands need to own if they are going to sell online and be increasingly direct-to-consumer, and the fact that the company needed to hire an agency to do this work could be problematic over the long term. Core competencies should always be driven by talent in-house; in particular, if externally-designed and -built websites are not handed over to a competent team that understands the vision, the chance that the original manifestation will be degraded rises.

Product

The brand’s new streamlined product presentation makes it easier for new customers to find the right product for them, which is likely a response to direct-to-consumer competitors like Away, which have only a few product offerings. The brand’s old product assortment included 47 aluminum SKUs and 62 polycarbonate SKUs (109 in total) in a range of sizes and colorways. Today, the brand offers 82 polycarbonate SKUs, 20 polycarbonate/aluminum SKUs and 25 aluminum SKUs, also in varying sizes and colors. That’s 137 total SKUs, which is a 25% increase in SKU count.

What’s interesting, however, is that the product line feels like it got smaller, not bigger, because of the way the products are presented on the brand’s website. Toggling through colors is now an option on the product page, while in the past, each color had its own line and product index. Overall, the new offering is easier to understand and display, both online and offline.

Retail and Wholesale

The move to scale back wholesale distribution is smart, and is helping reinforce the brand’s newly exclusive image. Focusing on retailers like Le Bon Marché, which also afford the brand more control over its in-store merchandising, will continue paying dividends.

The design concept for the brand’s new stores is modern, but it doesn’t fully take advantage of the opportunity to build a dynamic retail experience for a modern customer—it’s still just a retail store with products on the shelves. While Rimowa’s existing stores look like they have not been touched since the 1990s—most of the company’s stores have not been converted to the new concept since it takes time to plan and pay for store remodeling—there is a big opportunity for the brand to push the experience even further and this is a big area to watch. Travel is something that happens in real life, not online, and Rimowa should embody this to the fullest extent.

Sales

When LVMH bought Rimowa, it brought along €400 million in annual revenue for 2016. LVMH doesn’t break out individual brands, but that year the fashion and leather goods group, which Rimowa would become a part of the next year, earned €12,775 in annual revenue.

In 2017, the group ended the year with €15,472—a 21% increase from the previous year, which now included Rimowa’s revenues, although the brand was not the main (or probably the biggest) reason for these increases, given that LVMH also owns Louis Vuitton, among other fashion brands.

For the first half of 2018, the group has recorded €8,594 in revenue, and since 55% of the group’s revenue usually comes in the second half of the year, it will likely end 2018 with somewhere around €18,653 in total revenue—a potential 20% increase from the year prior. While it’s impossible to pinpoint Rimowa’s specific revenues, they are likely up considerably given all of the recent changes, helping to drive positive growth for the group within LVMH.   

Going Forward

Overall, the new Rimowa is shaping up quite well. There is plenty to work on, but unlike many venture-funded brands, Rimowa has time to transform the way people around the world think about it—it currently feels like it’s rushing. It would be wise for the brand to slow down just a bit in order to make a lasting, new impression on global travelers.

Even the most avid travelers know that there is a physical limit to how much they can pack into a trip before it all becomes a blur. Eventually, they realize that they need time to discover a city at their own pace and on their own terms. Global travelers have already embraced this lesson—now it’s Rimowa’s turn.