Why We Can’t Get Enough Of RIMOWA’s Mini Suitcases
Even if you’re not familiar with the name RIMOWA, you’re likely acquainted with the label’s recognisable luggage. The brand specialises in a kind of platonic ideal of the suitcase, the sort of immutable design that we imagine emerged from the cave with us already realised in our mind’s eye, waiting patiently to be made once we’d found some food, invented air travel and had managed to amass a decent supply of aluminium.
Its time eventually came when RIMOWA was founded more than a century ago in Cologne, Germany, in 1898. Back then, the first models off the assembly line were enormous travelling trunks made of wood, and it wasn’t until the 1930s that the company started making luggage out of its now trademark aluminium. The hallmark rigid, ridged shells – inspired by the world’s first all-metal aeroplane – were introduced in the 1950s, and, ever since, have regularly been imitated but never bested. So far, so standard suitcase-sized.
Nowadays, the photogenic RIMOWA suitcase is favoured by well-heeled celebrities and style-minded folks. And, as the brand’s cachet has grown in recent decades, it’s no stranger to a splashy collaboration, having already worked with streetwear doyen Mr Virgil Abloh on a totally transparent Off-White edition, as well as with hype heavyweight Supreme. Then RIMOWA did something to really up the ante in 2019. Joining forces with Dior and Mr Kim Jones, who had recently been recruited by the legendary French house as artistic director of menswear, they downsized and released the Personal: a miniature version of its now-iconic suitcase. It debuted to instant fanfare and a frantic rush to secure a spot on its ever-expanding waiting list. Was Dior the draw? Perhaps partly. But more pertinent to its success was, we’d argue, its diminutive proportions.
Like Jacquemus’ teeny-tiny Le Petit Chiquito and LOEWE’s Heel saddle bag before it, the hype was real and resounding. While RIMOWA’s Personal bag, two new aluminium versions of which are landing on MR PORTER’s shelves, is slightly more practical than those aforementioned styles, you’d still struggle to squeeze much more than your cardholder, hand sanitiser and a pair of sunglasses inside – in reality, it hardly serves a more functional purpose than your existing trouser pockets. Which raises the question: why would something comparatively unserviceable be so adorably covetable?
Given puppies make us melt and the inner minutiae of watches delight us, it turns out our fascination with compact, cute things – or “smol” stuff, to use the parlance of a snap-happy 14-year-old on Instagram – isn’t limited to the fashion community at large. Not only are we not alone in our fixation, but there’s even an evolutionary and scientific basis for the phenomena. Psychologists, at least, think they’ve deciphered several compound theories to explain our impulse to own diminutive things and the inclination post pictures of them on the internet for like-minded followers to admire – most of which essentially boil down to the universal Freudian truth that we’re all just overgrown kids at heart clinging to any glimmer of nostalgia that might free us, even momentarily, from the tedium of having to do our own laundry and other various trappings of adulthood.
First up, there’s the relatively straightforward thesis that small-scale things remind us of toys, and by extension, playing with them when we were little humans, reminiscing for a time when our world view made everything seem more wondrous. Reducing larger intricate things to smaller wholes as children do, to paraphrase the famed anthropologist, Mr Claude Lévi-Strauss, helps us to understand the dazzling complexity of the world in seemingly simple terms, or what he once called “intelligible dimensions”.
But perhaps more relevant when it comes to the sartorial world, is the notion that we associate intricate craftsmanship with the construction of smaller items. An idea explored in Mr John Mack’s book The Art Of Small Things, our brains leap to the innate assumption – whether perceived or real – that much more detail, attention and care has been taken in the manufacture and making of miniature versions of items. And when you consider that a RIMOWA suitcase is made in more than 200 separate steps by the brand’s artisans, that hypothesis seems to be about the size of it.