We always wanted to see how Rimowa suitcases are actually made. Today we finally got the chance to have a look inside the Rimowa factory. The Rimowa headquarters is located in Cologne, Germany. The aluminum models are manufactured there and also the design, marketing and service department are located in the fourth largest city of Germany.
Les Journées Particulières
It all started with an invitation from the LVMH-group for a so called Les Journées Particulières. This is an initiative from the LVMH marketing department whereby the fashion houses from the LVMH-group are open for the public. For Rimowa it’s even the first time in the history of the company that’s open for the public.
The Guided Tour
When we arrived at the Rimowa headquarters we received a warm welcome by the Rimowa employees. Most of them were from the marketing department as they mentioned to us. The guided tour we received were from two employees who also worked at the marketing department. The tour started with a visit to the design department. The tour guide explained to us this was the first time in the history of Rimowa that the factory and headquarters were open to the public. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed. The pictures from the design department and from the factory are from Rimowa themselves. All the other pictures are from ourselves.
The design department is a real inspiring place. All models from future and past are available for the designers. Also all the Rimowa parts like, wheels, cloth, handles etc were available for the designers. We were shown different parts from collaboration with Porsche, Moncler, Fendi and Off White. This is the place where ideas are made into actual prototypes.
The next stop was the actual factory. There were seven separate factories on the Rimowa compound. All similar constructed buildings with a groove on the outside. The building we were visiting is where the Classic model is being manufactured. The process starts with a gigantic role of aluminium. The role is being cut and pressed so it will get the signature grooved surface. In the next step the aluminum plates are being bend by a robot. At this point it has already the shape of a suitcase. From here on it’s manual labour and real craftsmanship comes into play. Each step from riveting, to attaching the wheels, handles and telescope handle is all done by hand. The most interesting part is one of the last steps. When the suitcase is assembled the suitcase has to be adjusted. Because the suitcase is made of metal and assembled by hand the suitcase might not close properly or the suitcase doesn’t roll efficiently. The Rimowa employee fine tunes the suitcase by bending and hammering the suitcase into perfection, until it closes and rolls without a flaw.
The Service Department
Rimowa is known for its excellent service. I experienced this many times myself. Even suitcases older than ten years have been repaired free of charge by Rimowa. It was really interesting to get a behind the scenes at the service department. You can send you suitcase to Rimowa for repair or you can bring it to the headquarters in Cologne and they will fix it for you on the spot. You can sit and have a cup of coffee while they repair the suitcase. What is even more impressive is that they have spare parts for models that are out of production for decades.
At the service department each visitor received a tag with it’s initials engraved on it. The tour ended in the canteen with some drinks and snacks. The canteen was decorated with vintage Rimowa luggage and some promotional videos were displayed on large screens.
The visit to Rimowa gave us a lot of new interesting insights. I was really impressed by the way the factory was organized. Everything was really well organized as you would expect from a company which produces such high end products. The service department was even better than I thought they were. They were very knowledgeable on each and every model. Unfortunately the people from the marketing department couldn’t or wouldn’t tell us if there were any exciting collaboration scheduled for the future. When we questioned them about the upcoming Off White collab, they were as excited about it as we are. They mentioned to us that even they don’t have any preferential treatment when it comes to limited editions like the Off White or Supreme collaboration. All together the guided tour was very well organised and it was very educational and entertaining. We hope that there will be more open days at the Louis Vuitton fashion houses.