Rimowa Attaché Case Featured in 'Mission Impossible' on Display at Sotheby's

Courtesy Rimowa

From vintage wardrobe trunks and sticker-covered suitcases toted by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and LeBron James, the Rimowa archive collection on exhibit in New York features pieces from private collections around the globe.

Many an A-lister has been snapped arriving or departing at an airport with a piece of Rimowa luggage in tow. The famous ribbed shell of the brand’s signature design has found fans in everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to LeBron James and Cara Delevingne. To commemorate its 121st anniversary, Rimowa has unveiled a collection of historic pieces from its archive that will be on show for the first time to the public in one space.

The retrospective, titled Rimowa Archive Collection 1898-2019, takes place from now until Sept. 25 at the New York Sotheby’s location, as part of the auction house’s Fall 2019 Contemporary Curated exhibition. It features dozens of never-seen-before luggage pieces dating back over a century, as well the company’s most recent collaborations with Off-White, Supreme, Dior, Daniel Arsham and more, giving a chronological glimpse into the German brand’s evolution.

“Pieces from the Rimowa archive are sourced from all over the world — from private collectors to brand donations,” Alexandre Arnault, CEO of Rimowa, told The Hollywood Reporter. “When they aren’t traveling, our heritage pieces can be found in select Rimowa stores as showpieces, and at our private brand archive in our headquarters in Cologne, Germany.” The show features 40 luggage pieces from the Rimowa’s archive, each telling the story of the company’s history, founded by German designer Paul Morszeck as a small saddlery shop a few blocks from the Rhine in Cologne, and its role in pop culture.

One of the highlighted items is the attaché featured in movies such as Ronin and Mission Impossible. “The Rimowa Attaché has reached cult status,” Arnault says. “Based on the classic silver aluminum attaché, in the 1990s, Rimowa released a special-edition gold attaché geared at film fans, as a novel way to carry around their laptop computers.”

The Tropicana, which is also on display, has played a role in the film world, too, with its groundbreaking introduction. “Before its release in the mid-1970s, [filmmakers'] equipment had always been at risk of damage by water, humidity, tropical heat, etc,” Arnault says. "With these professionals in mind, the founder Paul Morszeck’s grandson, Dieter Morszeck, developed a durable aluminum case that was lined with wood to guard against humidity and special custom-sized compartments to house cameras, lenses and film.”

Each piece highlights the era in which it was made and shows the evolution of the technology, as well as its change in visual identity following LMVH’s acquiring of the company in 2017, after two years of negotiation, when Arnault was appointed CEO alongside Dieter Morszeck. The collaborations, stores and pop-ups that have been created since have seen the brand develop a following among Hollywood travelers who carry its signature case.

“In 2017, we chose to celebrate a handful of these well-known brand fans by showcasing their personal Rimowas in our campaign, celebrating 80 years of aluminum,” Arnault says. Portraits of Rimowa cases belonging to Karl Lagerfeld, Martha Stewart and directors Michael Moore and David Fincher were among those featured. 

Artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton and founder of Milan-based luxury streetwear brand Off-White, Virgil Abloh designed a piece for Rimowa’s 120th anniversary. “Virgil is a longtime fan of the brand and had actually reached out to Rimowa a few times about collaboration in the past, prior to my time,” Arnault says. “When I joined Rimowa, we resurfaced the conversation and finally had the opportunity to collaborate together on our transparent See Through case in 2018.” The piece, one of Rimowa’s biggest product collaborations to date, is also on display at the exhibit.

“LeBron James, Roger Federer, Adwoa Aboah, Virgil Abloh, Kim Jones, Dua Lipa, Pharrell, Emilia Clarke, David Beckham are just some of the purposeful travelers that have been carrying our luggage over many years,” Arnault adds.

Designers, too, have been eager to leave their mark on the luggage. Daniel Arsham, who’s worked with Pharrell Williams, Usher and James Franco, created a numbered, limited-edition “eroded suitcase.” Sotheby's sold one in a single-lot online auction for $14,000 (against a $3,000-$4,000 estimate) in May 2019. Presented as an archival object, complete with art handling gloves, the sculpture is housed in a contemporary edition of the vintage case that inspired the artwork, a Rimowa classic attaché.