In Depth | How Does RIMOWA Tell a Warm Story in Shanghai?

12月 29, 2023

The communication of luxury brands in the China market has entered a phase of “in-depth narrative.”

In the past few months, we have witnessed numerous renowned fashion, leather goods, and jewelry watch brands holding large-scale exhibitions in China. These meticulously planned events showcase the brands’ unique aesthetic experiences to the general public in their original form. People flock to these brand worlds from all directions to listen to legendary stories, examine exquisite details, and meander through the long corridors of brand history, savoring the cultural and spiritual connotations within.

The latest protagonist, the German luxury suitcase brand RIMOWA (Rimowa), is somewhat special. Known for its aluminum-magnesium alloy and polycarbonate suitcases originating from German engineering prowess, RIMOWA differs from fashion and jewelry brands that have a natural connection with art and creativity. Curating an exhibition for a cold, emotionless suitcase poses the question: how should its story be told?

Emelie De Vitis, RIMOWA’s Senior Vice President of Product and Marketing, said: “We want to capture the emotional side of the brand.”

At the Shanghai stop of the RIMOWA “SEIT 1898” 125th Anniversary Global Tour, we saw suitcases that had been bitten by crocodiles, houses made from suitcase materials, and private collections of suitcases from celebrities like Jay Chou and Daniel Wu. The exhibition requires passing through a “boarding gate,” receiving a boarding pass, and even tasting airplane meals. With its high interactivity and immersive experience, the exhibition received enthusiastic praise from the audience.

The exhibition took place at the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art from December 16, 2023, to January 3, 2024. As it neared its end, Luxeplace made a special recap of the exhibition, examining RIMOWA’s creative narrative techniques that are worth emulating in the industry:

  • Immersive, scenario-based curation
  • Interactive experiences closely integrated with brand culture
  • Multi-faceted interpretation of travel culture
  • Deep co-creation with local celebrities

How to Awaken the “Warmth” of a Suitcase?

Historically, RIMOWA drew inspiration from the aviation industry to create its iconic suitcases, but today, RIMOWA has transcended its industrial brand positioning.

The globally popular travel culture has brought significant opportunities to RIMOWA. The hidden cultural value is perhaps one of the reasons why the LVMH Group took an interest in RIMOWA, marking its first acquisition of a German brand, which is not categorized as fashion.

As Emelie De Vitis said: “The world has achieved globalization in such a short time, which is fascinating. And the story of RIMOWA is about the evolution of travel.”

Imparting a brand resonance with warmth to these cold suitcases is key to propelling RIMOWA to the next level in the contemporary era.

This warm perspective permeates the RIMOWA “SEIT 1898” exhibition at the Shanghai stop.

– Immersive, Scenario-Based Curation

Centered around travel, RIMOWA created an immersive space with an entrance resembling an airport security checkpoint for suitcases. Boarding announcements in the broadcast remind “passengers” to head to Gate 125 for “boarding,” and visitors can print exclusive boarding passes as unique souvenirs of the exhibition.

On the top floor, RIMOWA, in partnership with the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, created a special space — the 1898 Terminal, including a restaurant and lounge. Simulating flight and waiting lounge scenes, the public can taste airplane meals from the golden age of aviation in the restaurant and read books and publications in the lounge.

Airports are transit hubs for every travel story and a familiar usage scenario closely tied to RIMOWA, enhancing the brand’s relevance to each visitor’s personal life.

During the exhibition, RIMOWA’s “SEIT 1898” advertising campaign also landed at Shanghai airports, with RIMOWA buses shuttling through the streets of Shanghai, integrating exhibition information into real travel scenarios.

– Interactive Experiences Closely Integrated with Brand Culture

RIMOWA has formed its own unique travel culture, such as its grooved magnesium-aluminum alloy and colorful travel stickers, which are integral parts of RIMOWA’s iconic image. The exhibition launched a special audio guide app and offered rich interactive experiences, guiding visitors into the world of RIMOWA travel while educating and entertaining.

In of the interactive areas, visitors can choose their favorite stickers to apply to a wall made of magnesium-aluminum alloy. For many travel enthusiasts, a suitcase is also a canvas for creativity, carrying memories of journeys and a sense of ritual in life. It is said that RIMOWA will transport this wall back to its headquarters in Germany after the exhibition.

In the Time Capsule area, visitors can send a postcard to themselves 25 years in the future, which will be mailed from Cologne, Germany, on the occasion of RIMOWA’s 150th anniversary.

These interactions not only enhance the playability of the exhibition but also re-emphasize RIMOWA’s leading role in travel culture, which we have come to take for granted.

– Multi-Faceted Interpretation of Travel Culture

The importance of cultural construction to any luxury brand is self-evident. In this exhibition, RIMOWA devoted considerable effort to interpreting travel culture.

One highlight was the themed sharing sessions involving multiple collaborations, including inviting the Orient Express, part of the LVMH Group’s Belmond brand, to educate on the history of train travel and inviting Chinese artists like the art director of “The Wandering Earth,” Gao Ang, to explore the future possibilities of travel culture.

The RIMOWA SEIT 1898 Global Tour’s first forum, “The Art of ‘Slow’ Travel: Redefining Ways of Traveling,” featured RIMOWA and the Orient Express discussing the history of train travel.

The second forum invited famous art directors, publishers, photographers, architects, designers, and bloggers who love traveling to discuss the practicality and emotional significance of luggage in travel.

The third forum, in collaboration with Moët & Chandon, hosted an exclusive champagne tasting event.

Through these forum activities, visitors gained a deeper understanding of the significance of travel in our lives today.

Moreover, the central exhibition hall featured a rotating sculpture of the baggage handler Richard, making its first appearance at the tour. This was RIMOWA’s iconic image launched in the 1950s, reappearing to the public half a century later. It is both a witness to historical changes and a tangible embodiment of the travel culture carried by the RIMOWA brand.

How to Make Travel Stories More Relatable to Chinese Audiences?

This is the third stop of the RIMOWA “SEIT 1898” exhibition after Tokyo and New York, and it is the longest-lasting one.

How does the global tour become more accessible to Chinese audiences? RIMOWA has made several attempts at localization.

RIMOWA specially prepared Shanghai-limited commemorative stickers and tote bags for the Shanghai stop. The greenery of Shanghai’s People’s Park outside the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art added a scenic backdrop for photo opportunities.

Moreover, the collaboration and co-creation with local celebrities have become a significant highlight.

On display were a series of suitcases borrowed from globally renowned celebrities, many showing obvious signs of use, to be returned to their owners after the exhibition.

In addition to the collections provided by global public figures like LeBron James, Lewis Hamilton, Takashi Murakami, Roger Federer, and Billie Eilish, already featured in the global tour, a batch of collections from local celebrities including Jay Chou, Daniel Wu, MC Jin, Henry Lau, Wang Chuqin, Shōhei Aoyama, Wang Lingchen, Zheng Lu, and Manifold Studio were specially showcased.

Daniel Wu’s RIMOWA Travel Case

Each dent and sticker on these suitcases record a travel story, serving as an artistic expression of personal travel life. As Emelie De Vitis once said: “The first dent is painful, but after that, the suitcase takes on your personality and tells where you have been.”

This allows the audience a glimpse into the personal belongings of celebrities, satisfying their curiosity and immediately associating these well-traveled suitcases with the distinctive personalities behind them. This cleverly personifies the product, significantly bridging the psychological distance between the brand and its users.

The involvement of local celebrities amplifies this personified narrative. The celebrity suitcases attracted much attention, with social media comments like, “This is the closest I’ve ever been to Jay Chou.”

Jay Chou’s RIMOWA Travel Case

Collaborations with local celebrities are a common practice in brand marketing. Stars are often invited to grand exhibition openings to draw crowds. Beyond this, RIMOWA collaborated with celebrities to create more in-depth promotional content, further leveraging their influence.

RIMOWA invited singer Henry Lau, rapper MC Jin, actors Xu Guanghan, Li Qin, Wang Yang, and others to the exhibition opening, followed by a music party.

Moreover, these celebrities shot promotional videos for the exhibition, highlighting different areas. The content combined star appeal with exhibition highlights, leveraging the advantages of Chinese social media to attract offline footfall and quickly capture the core content of the exhibition for those unable to attend in person.

From Hardcore History to Trendy Fashion, How Does the Exhibition Blend the Two Facets of Rimowa?

In the last century, RIMOWA brought several revolutionary technologies to suitcases. Joining the LVMH Group in 2017, RIMOWA entered the fashion world, pushing the brand to the forefront of travel culture through a series of celebrity collaborations and fashion partnerships.

Over 100 collectible exhibits at the RIMOWA “SEIT 1898” Shanghai station reflect these rich brand stories.

– Hardcore History Originating from the Aviation Industry

“SEIT 1898” means “since 1898” in German. RIMOWA began in a small family workshop in Cologne, Germany, in 1898, producing lightweight and highly stable wooden suitcases.

RIMOWA’s iconic metal suitcase was born under the hands of the brand founder’s son, Richard Morszeck.

In the early 20th century, scientists near Cologne discovered an aluminum alloy containing copper and magnesium, harder than aluminum and widely used in German-made aircraft. Inspired by this durable and lightweight material, Richard Morszeck launched the aluminum-magnesium alloy suitcase in 1937, revolutionizing the industry. It’s said that after a major fire at the RIMOWA factory in the 1930s, only the aluminum-magnesium alloy suitcases survived.

At the exhibition, a giant dismantled RIMOWA aluminum-magnesium alloy suitcase was displayed, consisting of 220 individual parts, taking 117 minutes to assemble.

RIMOWA’s classic grooved design was inspired by the world’s first all-metal commercial airplane, Junker F13. This structure helped with surface water drainage and pressure resistance for airplanes, and in 1950, Richard Morszeck introduced it to RIMOWA suitcases.

A model of the Junker F13 airplane at the exhibition highlighted this important history.

In 2000, RIMOWA’s third-generation heir Dieter Morszeck launched the polycarbonate suitcase, durable, temperature-resistant, and lightweight, setting a new industry standard.

A “crocodile-bitten” polycarbonate suitcase humorously displayed its durability, a concept first seen in RIMOWA’s 2012 commercial.

– Creative Expressions under Fashion Collaborations

With contemporary lifestyles becoming increasingly diverse, RIMOWA suitcases continue to evolve.

Dieter Morszeck once focused on creating completely waterproof suitcases for photographers to safely transport professional equipment in jungles, polar regions, and other extreme environments. Gradually, RIMOWA was invited to customize solutions for professionals in various industries.

At this exhibition, special-purpose custom boxes like musical instrument cases, champagne boxes, poker storage boxes, and violin cases were also displayed.

Collaborations with the cultural sector have made RIMOWA suitcases more visually appealing and collectible.

RIMOWA is a frequent presence in Hollywood films, becoming well-known to the public through these works. A briefcase from the movie “Mission Impossible IV” was on display.

The art gallery showcased collaborations with artists, including suitcases designed by Takashi Murakami, Daniel Arsham, and Alex Israel.

RIMOWA suitcases also inspired art in the “As Seen By” section, where artists used aluminum-magnesium alloy to create whimsical art pieces like outdoor chairs, speakers, and even a house made of the same material.

The exhibition featured collaborations with Chinese artists, like Zheng Lu’s “0.04 Cubic Meters,” showing the suitcase frame as flowing liquid, and designs by Cai Liechao’s studio and designer Liu Xiao.

Recent heavy-hitting collaborations with other brands continue to expand RIMOWA’s reach, including partnerships with LVMH Group’s Dior, Fendi, Tiffany, luxury brand Moncler, car brand Porsche, and streetwear brands OFF-WHITE, Supreme, etc. These collaborative works were displayed on the special curved ramps of the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art.

Closely linked to the serious aviation industry, this exhibition shows RIMOWA’s playful side while reflecting the cultural evolution of RIMOWA suitcases.

 | Image Credit: Provided by RIMOWA, RIMOWA WeChat Video Account

丨Reporter:Jin Daixi

 | Editor: Zhu Ruoyu