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Thursday July 1, 2010
By CHIN MUI YOON firstname.lastname@example.org
Travel bags that can outlast the traveller, that’s a Rimowa suitcase for you.
DIETER Morszeck unzips a Rimowa suitcase and twists it around as if it were a piece of cardboard. He compresses, squashes and stomps on it. Within seconds, the case springs back into shape with nary a scratch.
A Rimowa case is, after all, renowned for its unbeatable strength and durability. For over 100 years, Rimowa has remained true to its principle of making the world’s toughest cases even when travelling under extreme weather and impossible conditions.
Company president Dieter Morszeck, who is the third generation in his family business, was in Kuala Lumpur recently for the launch of the first Rimowa store at The Gardens in Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur.
The case which Morszeck used to demonstrate his point was made from polycarbonate, the toughest plastic available, and usually used for aircraft panels and bulletproof windows. Versatile and virtually unbreakable, but light as a feather polycarbonate suitcases are the dream companions when travelling.
And, for those who have experienced the agony of having their belongings pilfered from their bags, there’s a Rimowa case that offers airtight security as it’s extremely difficult to break open.
Little wonder that these sophisticated, stylish cases are favoured by frequent travellers, jetsetters, cabin and film crews as well as professional photographers.
Where craft meets high tech
Rimowa may be Germany’s oldest luggage manufacturer but it has also mastered the art of combining cutting edge materials with its time-honoured tradition of craft. Its line of luggage looks simple but are fashionably trendy.
Every CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) fan would have seen Rimowa’s sleek, silver aluminum cases held by the cast in the television series. The cases are also featured in the movie Ronin in which the case played a central role.
The label was the first to globally introduce polycarbonate used for travel luggage in 2000. It revolutionised the industry and the idea was quickly copied by others. In 2007, the company recorded a turnover of ‚85mil (RM339mil).
Tests by the German Technical Control Board confirmed the material’s outstanding resilience and ability to withstand temperatures from 125°C to -100°C. The shells are unbreakable as they react elastically under pressure load and yield. As soon as the pressure subsides, they automatically arch back into their originally shapes.
“We are always trying to explore the possibility of using other materials to make better, stronger and more durable cases,” explained Morszeck.
“Rimowa has journeyed though tough times. In the 1990s, hard-side luggage was unpopular as it was seen as heavy and cumbersome. We took a gamble to stick with hard-side cases instead of following the trend towards soft-side luggages.
“In 1997, we discovered polycarbonate. It’s an excellent recyclable material that withstands extreme conditions and you can never break its shell. A Rimowa case protects its contents against all conditions and theft.
“It takes just a carpet knife to slice open a bag but try doing that with a polycarbonate case. You’d hurt yourself. Every part of a Rimowa case has been tested rigorously down to the zippers that can withstand 110kg/per inch of pressure.”
Rimowa also introduced innovations such as its patented Multiwheels system that increases a case’s mobility and stability. Even heavy cases can be rotated almost
playfully on its axis.
For a 112-year-old family brand, trends in the fickle world of fashion take second place to quality, technology and workmanship throughout its history that has seen it winning various international design awards.
The cases have no fancy logo nor are celebrities engaged to market the brand. And, forget about seasonal launches. Rimowa cases remain sleek, simple and stylish all year round with a variety of classic shades such as sexy red, elegant white or the popular purple, and an occasional new range.
It continues to buck the trend by refusing to outsource its manufacturing to China. Its classic aluminium cases are made at its headquarters in Cologne, Germany while its polycarbonate range is produced in the Czech Republic, Canada and Britain.
Morszeck is particularly proud that Rimowa runs its own research and development department, and produces its own mechanisms by its staff of 800.
Remarkably, the label started out using wood for its suitcases!
“Our company’s growth was in tandem with the evolution of travel,” he said.
The first Rimowa wooden cases were produced in 1898. Within a few years, Rimowa’s steamer trunks became fashionable travel companions to those in high society during the era of travelling by sea.
In 1950, came the first aluminium cases with its distinctive grooves to guard against scratches. These quickly became a niche product known for its stability and sturdiness.
Rimowa introduced waterproof cases in 1976 and the range remains in demand by film crew and professional photographers as the ideal protection for equipment travelling rough. But as air travel took off, then came the need for lighter luggage.
Morszeck, who came onboard in 1981 as a trained mechanical engineer, lived up to his reputation as a visionary by pioneering research into the use of polycarbonate in 1997.
After three years, the first polycarbonate case penetrated the market successfully. Resilient, shock-proof, light, stable and indestructible, the cases were hailed as the perfect travel companion. A complete line of polycarbonate and aluminium suitcases, attaches and pilot cases is now available. The ranges have expanded and now feature flexible divider systems whereby clothing will not crinkle and there is an “add a bag” function for easy packing. A smart partnership with Porsche also sees it producing cases in 38 colours to match the cars.
To safeguard against forgery, every Rimowa case has a serial number that can be traced.
While the stylish polycarbonate range commands some 80% of sales due to its versatility, durability and good looks, the classic aluminium cases remain in demand.
“The dents in the aluminium tell a story of your travels,” explained Morszeck.
“Many customers are fond of these dents because it makes their luggage special and serve as a travel memory! They’d point out a dent and recall that it was made during a journey to Istanbul; that another dent was from Kyoto, or from Salzburg. No two cases will ever look the same!
“Polycarbonate is the material for the 21st century, especially as the boom in travel sees an even greater number of travellers going across borders requiring lightweight yet dependable luggage. But who knows, there might be an even better material out there. And, if there is, we’ll be exploring that option!” he exclaimed.
Rimowa is located at the ground floor at The Gardens, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur. Prices range from RM1,700 to RM5,750. For information, call % 03-2282 4408 or visit rimowa.com
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