What is the Real Meaning of the Off-White x Rimowa Collaboration?

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Rimowa is at it again.

I wasn’t surprised when the luggage juggernaut announced their latest collaboration with Virgil Abloh and his label Off-WhiteTM.

Since Alexandre Arnault’s appointment as chief executive of Rimowa in late 2016, the 120 year-old brand has ramped up its efforts to position itself in the minds of millennials. This strategy – to tap the social clout of streetwear brands – has proven to be a success, as the partnerships between heritage and streetwear brands have recently demonstrated. The most notable of these have been that of Louis Vuitton and Supreme, and Balenciaga and Vetements’ designer Demna Gvasalia.

The Off-WhiteTM collaboration with Rimowa features luggage made entirely of clear polycarbonate. It’ll come with several accessories like an amenity kit and luggage dividers branded with the word “MISCELLANEOUS”. Abloh says the transparent design encourages the customer to personalise, essentially letting them be a part of the design process. “There’s an emotional component to owning [the suitcase] and you become a performance art piece just by using the thing. It’s like putting your items on display and rethinking the premise of a product.”

 

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Photo via. Rimowa

 

If you’ve also been following Alexandre Arnault’s Instagram stories, you’ll know that Rimowa users are big on personalising their luggage, populating the exterior with a collage of stickers. It’s evident that Abloh has taken inspiration from the behaviour of these luxury consumers, while also attempting to subvert the aura of luxury goods. By focusing on the contents of luggage as opposed to the luggage itself, and by allowing users to customise their own bags, Abloh removes Rimowa’s brand signifiers from the equation. He’s detached the object from its heritage.

 

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Abloh has iconically put words in quotations marks to deconstruct concepts of luxury and fashion | Photo via. Rimowa

 

Ultimately this collaboration sees a shift in luxury, where the brand’s presence is less important than that of the consumer’s. Off-White has produced a subversive design that prioritises the user’s identity first, and Rimowa’s second. But as just one more in a growing series of luxury and streetwear collaborations, this raises the question: will luxury houses eventually become diluted by streetwear, or will they be able to thrive once again on their own?

This remains to be seen, but in the meantime, I’ve been a fan of Rimowa’s products for a while, and I’m itching to get my hands on one. Maybe my first Rimowa purchase will come from this collab. And for those unsure about the transparency, at least you won’t have to worry about being asked to open your luggage at customs, if that’s anything to go by.

 

[Cover photo via Business of Fashion]