How Rimowa is shaking up the luggage industry
ESQUIRE: You recently opened the first Rimowa mono-brand store in the UAE. Why did it take so long?
Dieter Morszeck: In the past we have tended to focus more on the US, Europe and Asian markets, but our new strategy is to expand deeper into the Middle East. The Abu Dhabi Mall is our first one, and we have plans to open stores in Dubai, Kuwait, Doha, Jeddah and Riyadh, all in the next two years.
Those are some serious expansion plans.
Yes, we want to be present in every major city, because travel has become increasingly important in the Gulf. I was in Dubai’s airport the other day in transit and saw several people using our luggage, but it is also an area where we’d like to improve.
With luggage, are people willing to pay more for quality?
Yes, and you can really see that when people use the products. We’re very proud of the standard of our luggage and while I can’t say that we are the world’s leading producer in terms of quantity, I can say that we are in terms of quality. All products are made in our four factories — Germany, Czech Republic, Canada and Brazil. None of it made in Asia. Well, except the zipper, but the Japanese company YKK is the best in the world.
What are your best sellers?
In 1937, we started making luggage from aircraft aluminium. It became the company’s niche and set us apart for a long time. However, in 2000 we introduced the first luggage to be made from polycarbonate, and it started a global revolution in the industry. It was a tough, durable, and ultimately a more lightweight material and it really made Rimowa known worldwide. Three years ago, I would say that our sales breakdown was 75 percent polycarbonate and 25 percent aluminium; however, what we have seen since then is a return of the latter. It has become a trend. Right now our sales are a 50-50 split, which is something rather unbelievable.
Why do you think that is?
A lot of the sales come from China, where aluminium is seem as a status symbol. People like to show that they can afford high-quality products, so our luggage has become very popular.
Aircraft-grade aluminium is such a big part of your story, so how important is aviation generally to Rimowa’s DNA?
Aviation has played an enormous part in our history, and will always remain an influence. Last year we even went and built an old Junker F.13 plane [main picture]. It was built to the exact specs of the original 1919 plane, the world’s first all-metal aircraft. We unveiled it last year, and it will take its maiden flight in April 2016.
Will you go up in it?
Yes, I have been a pilot for 32 years. The best thing about the F.13 is that it is a two-seater plane with an open cockpit, so it doesn’t feel as though you are on a plane. It’s wonderful, and you have to wear those very stylish goggles!
Can private owners buy one?
Yes. Are you interested? We have set up a company to build them and we will be taking orders. Although it’ll cost around $2.2 million!
Ah, we might have to pay in installments then… So what excites you most about the future of the company?
We are currently putting the final touches on something we call Rimowa’s electronic tag (see video below). Working with Lufthansa, essentially, we are trying to create a process that will allow you to check-in your luggage from home or your hotel-room. The luggage will contain a gorilla glass LED screen that once you check in (via the app) it will display a digital version of the printed tag. The idea is to make travel even more streamlined. We’ve changed the industry before, so why not try and do it again?
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