MANILA, APRIL 23, 2008
(STAR) SHOPSIFTED By Ana G. Kalaw - You know the travel bug has really bitten you when, instead of obsessing over acquiring the latest “it” bag, your attention is on finding the perfect piece of luggage.

The travel bug had long ago sunk its teeth deep into my skin and I have learned, through endless trials and disappointing errors, that it’s not just enough to have nice-looking travel bags that can be dragged on two rickety wheels.

Nice looking should just be a bonus when choosing luggage. After all, how far can nice go when the zipper — as if it had travel hankerings of its own — detaches itself from the rest of the bag after a few pulls, or when the wheel just pops out unexpectedly, the main casing frays and tears, the handle comes off, or when the reinforcing foundation of the luggage just buckles down and breaks?

These have all happened to me with my cheap, generic maletas. Rather than be stuck with crippled baggage, making an investment on pricier travel cases becomes a necessity more than an indulgence. Pricier really does mean sturdier, more durable and easier maneuverability, and the brands are in themselves seals of excellence.

German brand Rimowa is one of those luggage makers that have perfected the art of making travel bags. Three characteristics, according to Dieter Morszeck, grandson of Rimowa founder Paul Morszeck, make the brand the cult favorite that it is now: it is sturdy and durable, made of nearly indestructible materials; it is lightweight (about 20 to 30 percent lighter than products of other luggage brands), and has a design that is easily recognizable as a signature. Plus, it easily fulfills the nice-looking requirement.

When you look at a piece of Rimowa luggage, with its shiny aluminum finish and edgy signature groove structure, you won’t quite believe that something so contemporary looking has actually been around for nearly 60 years. But it has — since 1950 actually.

Richard Morszeck, only son of Paul and after whom the German luggage brand was named, chanced upon the idea of creating aluminum travel cases in 1937 after a fire burned all the materials they used for making luggage, leaving only aluminum sheeting (prior to this, the brand made trunks and cases out of leather, fabric and plywood). Richard took this as a sign and started creating cases out of this shiny material, coming up with luggage that was lighter, more stable and, as the fire demonstrated, more durable.

In 1950, Richard Morszeck added the signature grooves to the aluminum finish, creating a classic look Rimowa is now known for.

“The Rimowa design is like the Porsche 911,” says Dieter Morszeck referring to another famous German brand. “You recognize it anywhere, even from afar.”

Coming into more modern times, these striated details, combined with the cases’ slick aluminum polish, are more appealing than ever. The fact that aluminum can dent and smudge even adds more allure. “Some of our customers like how these dents tell their travel stories. They can say, ‘This dent is from Rio, this one from San Francisco’ and so on.’”

On the other hand, if you’re one who wants to keep all possessions flaw-free and intact, Rimowa offers repair services. “We can fix all dents and smudges on the aluminum cases. It’s just like a car, after all,” says Dieter.

All of Rimowa’s luggage, except for a couple of the smaller cabin trolleys, are fashioned with four wheels and tested by TUV, a German organization that tests all wheels for German luxury cars. If you’ve driven a four-wheeler, you’d never want to go back to a two-wheel.

Four-wheel luggage can get you through any aisle and through any throng. As if aluminum wasn’t sturdy enough, Rimowa, coming into the new century, created a new line of luggage meant to be virtually indestructible. In 2000, Dieter created cases made out of polycarbonate, an extremely lightweight plastic that’s also extremely unbreakable, even if bent in the most awkward position as Dieter demonstrated. This is the same material used for window airplanes, which has the ability to withstand pressure, though Rimowa uses very thin panels (two centimeters); polycarbonate is also bulletproof (the Popemobile’s windows are made of this material).

Polycarbonate can also withstand extreme heat (130 degrees) and extreme cold (up to -100 degrees). Just to test this plastic for myself, I gingerly sat on a cabin trolley. The case, just like cushion foam, took the shape of my buttocks then straightened right out as soon as a I sat down. And just like the aluminum cases, these polycarbonated holders are fashioned with grooves, coming up with glossy ultra-modern luggage that looks as if they came straight out of a movie about top-secret, high-tech gadgetry.

Dieter Morszeck says these striated pieces have actually made cameos in nearly 150 Hollywood films, the latest being Die Hard 4: With a Vengeance and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. And Hollywood always knows what’s cool.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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