⏦ 004 — Word of mouth, current reads and listens
Rimowa Original 'Cabin' field test, What I'm Reading, What I'm listening to
|Arj Selvam||Aug 24, 2019|| 1|
→ Summer air, water views, and iced Americanos
Hello and hope you’re enjoying the start to your weekend. Well, time does pass by quickly, because I’m a month into The Considered and it only felt like yesterday when I was nervous to press send on the first dispatch.
As I was sitting at my favorite coffee shops this week (most likely sipping an iced Americano) putting this newsletter together, it was particularly nice to see many new readers (from diverse backgrounds and geographies), signing up to read along this experimental-turned-permanent part to my week. Thank you and welcome. (If you’d like to read past dispatches you can find them here)
Before I let you go off to read this week’s dispatch (note: slightly different to previous weeks), I must confess, this edition was double in length. I was actually contemplating whether to introduce yet another new section — Interviews — before I realized introducing two sections in the same week might not be such a good idea. So an interview is coming next week, and Word of Mouth (a review) follows below.
Until next week-end,
If you missed the last dispatch or are reading this for the first time, you can learn more about this micro-publication, The Considered, here. Also, if ever you want you can unsubscribe below in a click.
→ Word of Mouth (Product) — Field test of the Rimowa Original ‘Cabin’ 35L
Last week I talked about the monotony of packing/unpacking when traveling, and how the reciprocal task can lead to an almost meditative state. Part of the piece was about simplifying travel inventory and limiting the number of possessions. One of those possessions imperative to transporting your personal belongings reliably from place A to place B is the humble, old, suitcase.
Over my many years of travel, I’ve slowly accumulated (and retired) suitcases of manufacturers catering to every segment of the market, including: entry-level (no-name), mid-level (Samsonite, Crumpler, Away) and, now, premium (Rimowa).
Getting this out of the way: Rimowa suitcases aren’t cheap.
With consumer items, your propensity to purchase a good or service comes down to your perceived value for it. But (there’s always a but), for most consumers though, luggage might feel very much utilitarian — equipment for moving items from one place to another. However, with the proliferation of social media and the storytelling that comes with it, the “function over form” narrative has, thankfully, evolved and turned the humble suitcase into a design-object.
With the blink of a (red) eye, there’s now a bunch of direct-to-consumer (DTC) luggage startups, who’ve given the category a much needed refresh whilst creating their own lucrative, though saturated, middle-market. Of the bunch, I’ve only owned Away (the ‘Carry-On’ and ‘Large’ models). I don’t have anything particularly bad to say about them, other than each served their purpose, were still in good condition, and have now been passed on to my sister. However, as I’ve alluded to previously, my outlook on possessions, ownership, and what is excess, has shifted in recent years and the concept of essentialism — less but better — I’ve found to be rather liberating. So, nine-months ago I decided to upgrade.
After spending some time on travel and design websites, I narrowed my search to three brands: Samsonite, Tumi and Rimowa. I didn’t spend too long with Samsonite, quickly noticing their design and brand inconsistencies. Tumi, although well-made when experienced in-person (specifically ‘19-degree’ collection), I felt their backstory and identity was a little too corporate and bordering on afterthought for me. Despite not being a huge fan of heritage brands within, say, fashion, I was drawn to Rimowa’s panache and their popularity with creatives and seasoned travelers. And, after seeing a friend’s beautifully banged up, six year-old suitcase, complete with faded airline stickers — I made my choice.
My Rimowa Original ‘Cabin’ 35 litre carry-on in silver
Model: Original ‘Cabin’
Price: $1150 (USD)
Capacity: 35 litres
→ Non-linear pricing
I went with the Original model (previously known as Topas), because of their iconic aluminium and groove design, and the suitcases you’ve likely seen gliding through airport concourses. As for size, I opted for a ‘Cabin’ 35 litre, because it was the smallest and lightest at 4.3kg (for comparison Away’s polycarbonate Carry-On is 3.4kg). Yes, meaning I’m left with just 2.7kg for personal belongings, though you’re unlikely to face issues if you avoid (ultra) budget airlines who might strictly enforce the 7 or 10kg limit — I haven’t yet.
The ‘Cabin’ model will fetch you more than $1,000 (USD), and each incremental size will cost you a premium on the size below it: +17% for the ‘Check-In M’ and +11% for the ‘Check-In L’. When I asked Rimowa’s very smiley staff at their Saint-Honoré flagship about the disproportionate increments in price, they (jokingly) acknowledged it was simply due to — more aluminium. Yes, true, but not my point.
→ Materials, hardware, and wheels that glide
Materials and hardware used in Rimowa suitcases are probably industry-leading in terms of build quality. Their ‘Original’ and ‘Classic’ models feature high-end anodized aluminum alloy bodies along with riveted high-gloss aluminum corners, to protect it from knocks, bangs, and stray kids.
Though, the feature which probably draws me the most is the lack of any zippers, which can be tampered with and lack waterproofing. Instead, Rimowa provides you with two programmable TSA locks (reminding me of James Bond briefcases) and a rubber weather-seal rim that locks in snuggly to protect your contents. As for their famous patented wheels, honestly, it’s true, they seriously just glide (as they should) even with nine-months of considerable usage.
Internally, I enjoy the 50/50 split between compartments meaning I separate one section for fragile and hard items, and the other for clothing and soft items. You’re also provided with a (plastic) dust cover to protect your suitcase (which I haven’t used) when not traveling.
The TSA lock system, weather sealing, and wheels made for airport concourses
→ As a design-object
To the discerning eye, a Rimowa can be spotted from a terminal away, speaking to their iconic design and identity. Because I purchased my suitcase in Australia at the time, only superseded stock was (then) available, as the (2018) branding and design refresh meant the new models were in short supply. So, technically, I own a Rimowa Topas model.
I elected for the quintessential silver color, but they also come in stealth (a matte black), titanium (a light gold), as well as limited edition ombré options. With any hardcase suitcase they’re easily scuffed, but in Rimowa’s case they’re also easily dented too. Some people hate that, but I actually like the unique character the suitcase will develop in years to come.
The exterior update is minimally minimal, with Rimowa doing away with that small clip tie-thing to attach small grocery-like bags (anything more substantial dislodges), along with supposedly new wheels. Internally, the only changes I’m aware of is an update to the silk label bearing their new logo-mark, along with the lining color changing from bright-blue to a subtle dark-grey.
→ Repair service holds up
Another well-known trait to Rimowa’s brand is their post-purchase repair service (which I’ve actually experienced already, sigh, and more on that shortly). Prior to the 2018 Alexandre Arnault led strategy overhaul (consolidating wholesale to prioritize e-commerce/DTC), Rimowa opted for a network of “pop-up” service centres around the world, utilizing hotel lobbies and wholesalers, so esteemed customers could come to fix their broken suitcases with authentic parts. My understanding, however, is that Rimowa has brought servicing in-house, and thus rationalized their global network in the process — unfortunately. On top of their repair service, there’s also a 5-year warranty, though many luggage upstarts have adopted lifetime warranties which is kind of nice but probably just marketing copy more than anything.
Ironically — but weirdly too — just three flights into the use of my Original ‘Check-In L’ (not my carry-on), a wayward baggage handler at Munich Airport (MUC) thought it would be nice for me to test Rimowa’s repair service by damaging a wheel. The end to the story is after many back-and-forth emails and calls, with both Rimowa and the airline, I was successfully able to have my suitcase repaired (by Rimowa) and refunded by the airline. I think I was incredibly lucky here because that normally doesn’t happen for me.
My Original ‘Check-In L’ (not my carry-on), damaged at Munich Airport (February, 2019)
→ Final thoughts
I really like my Rimowa carry-on and it’s become a trusted companion in the past nine-months of travel. Do I recommend you upgrade? Possibly, but perhaps only if you’ve transitioned through the tiers and understand what each offers.
What I like about Rimowa is they’re beginning to tell their heritage story and become vocal across other creative industries — like fashion or beauty — through collaborations and partnerships. I understand traditional existing (possibly older) owners of the brand might balk at Rimowa’s recent collaborations with people like Virgil Abloh or Lebron James, but I think this sort of thing is important to help maintain relevance and financial stability for the next 121 years.
If you’re on the fence, don’t want to spend as much or perhaps put off by the 4.3kg it weighs, you can go for the more bank-balance friendly polycarbonate option in the ‘Essential’ (3.2kg; $700). Or, you can definitely try the Away suitcase which starts at $295, is sturdily built, has an interesting founder story, and ships to Australia, Canada, most of Europe, and of course the United States.
→ What I’m reading
→ The Most Narcissistic Exercise Equipment Ever, by Courtney Rubin of the New York Times
I don’t know how I feel about personal workout mirrors yet, because when you’re sweating you probably want to avoid any kind of mirror. The whole smart-home-gym craze feels very much an “LA” or “New York” thing right now to me, but then again many weird fitness subcultures start in these places. Peloton, now looks very much ahead of their time. Anyway, can someone who’s tried Mirror please let me know?
→ How the pursuit of one European peak gave rise to modern mountaineering, by Mark Jenkins of National Geographic
I’m not a hiker, but recently I’ve been watching a lot of “solo hiking” (yes, it’s a thing) videos on YouTube, which somehow led me to this piece. The story is of the precarious Matterhorn alp in Switzerland, near the Italian border, which became the de-facto mountain peak in the mid-1800’s of which hikers around the world strived to climb — in the same way Everest is now. The piece goes on to explain the tales (and tragedies) of climbers of Matterhorn, and how the mountain is what gave rise to modern mountaineering today.
→ What I’m listening to
Every Monday I patiently await for Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, personalised to my taste. This week a certain Nicolas Jaar song — America! I’m in for the birds — caught my repeat-attention, which led me down a Spotify rabbit-hole leading me to discover a 2010 compilation by Chris Coco entitled “Lazy Summer”, and perfectly describing how I feel this very moment. Enjoy.
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The Considered is a dispatch of personal notes, useful information, and passed down tips on how to ‘live better’, through the lens of the mind, body, and the things which intersect them (figuratively). There may be occasional Amazon affiliate links in newsletters where I could earn a small commission if you make a related purchase.