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RP distributor Eman Pineda jumps on top of his Rimowa suitcase to prove the claim
IT HAS A SHARK BITE MARK, A wide four-tooth dent across, as if an aquatic beast had indeed vented its massive strength into it.

The silver polycarbonate piece of luggage is not part of the merchandise, but Rimowa in Greenbelt 5, Makati City, has received more than one offer to buy it, says Eman Pineda, who heads the company that distributes the German luggage brand in the Philippines.

The luggage is part of the window display, underscoring the brand?s claim of being ?virtually indestructible.? People are amused when they see it, Pineda says.

But it?s not an empty claim, he insists.

In a room in Adora, Greenbelt 5, where Rimowa was launched locally over a year ago, he slides a large aluminum suitcase on its side on the floor?his own?and proceeds to jump on top of it. If it got dented with his full weight, we see no sign of it.

?See?? he says triumphantly. ?In fact, I kind of like that it gets scratches and dents through wear. It gets more character. In the airport that?s what they do with your suitcase, anyway. It gets thrown around and battered.?

In the 1940s, the founder?s son introduced Rimowa?s now signature grooves that make it durable, the same kind that?s applied in aircrafts?an engineering technique applied to an ordinary, everyday object. It was also Rimowa that developed and first used the multiwheel on suitcases.

Family-owned

Rimowa has been in the region for 30 years, but was introduced in Manila only last year. It?s a family-owned German brand that still manufactures everything in Europe, the aluminum line only in the Cologne headquarters. When president and CEO Dieter Morszeck, a third-generation owner, visited the country last year, he emphasized the brand?s main selling point in many markets: that it?s ultra-lightweight, or 40-percent lighter than standard soft cases from other brands.

Two main materials used in Rimowa suitcases are aluminum, the same metal used to build aircraft, and polycarbonate, a sturdy plastic used for aircraft windows. Bullet-proof at 2-cm thickness, the Popemobile is made of this material.

?It?s the lightest luggage in the world,? Pineda asserts.

That more Filipinos have been traveling of late owing to cheaper airline tickets has been a boon to brands like Rimowa. Even more so with stricter baggage weight restrictions, which has made many think twice about the kind of suitcase to buy.

Many of their clients are repeat customers, says Pineda. ?After they try it, they come back and say they can?t travel without it. And they buy one of another size.?

That?s saying a lot in a town where everyone is accustomed to soft-case luggage. People are skeptical about switching to hard cases since, given Filipinos? propensity to load up their suitcase to bursting, they think hard cases won?t expand to fit everything.

?That?s not true at all,? Pineda says. To prove his point, he opened the same aluminum suitcase to reveal its contents: it had as much clothes to fill an entire wardrobe, Pineda had to kneel on it in order to zip it close.

Wide lineup

With its lineup of fashion colors and niche items, the brand has a wide customer base, and is not limited to travelers. Women and makeup artists are drawn to the nifty beauty cases, while photographers go for the industrial-strength and ultra-cushioned waterproof aluminum cases for their expensive gadgets.

There are those who prefer the aluminum, which has a vintage-retro feel, ?for character.? But more prefer the polycarbonate, which is about a kilogram lighter than an aluminum case of the same size.

A few weeks ago, the brand opened its third outlet and second freestanding store in Power Plant Mall?proof that, says Pineda, its following has grown immensely in only 18 months. Next year, the brand is collaborating with Adora for a specially designed trolley.

Rimowa is significantly pricier than standard brands in the market. (A polycarbonate cabin-size trolley is P16,000-plus, a 70-cm multiwheel suitcase about P27,000. The aluminum line costs twice as much.) But considering the payoff of a durable, long-wearing product, it all evens up, Pineda says.

Unlike other popular brands that take an entire month to complete a service of just replacing a wheel, Rimowa?s repair service takes only up to two days in the store. Repairs can also be done in any other store worldwide. And it?s free?all part of the five-year warranty.

And for special orders? ?It takes about three weeks,? he says. ?But we don?t get that often. We have nearly everything in the catalog here.?