BERLIN — German luxury luggage maker Rimowa is gearing up for the second edition of its annual design prize.
The brand’s ultimate ambition for the Rimowa Design Prize, which is aimed at design students in its home country and which had its inaugural prize-giving last May, is for it to become synonymous with the best of young German design, Rimowa chief executive officer Hugues Bonnet-Masimbert explained.
“We want to become leading actors in German design,” he told WWD in an exclusive interview. The company would like up-and-coming talents from all around the country to see entering the contest almost as part of their curriculum, he added.
“It’s something that is already starting to happen,” Bonnet-Masimbert said. “We’ve nearly doubled the number of universities and schools taking part in the prize. And that is very rewarding.”
Fifteen schools and universities were involved in the first edition of the prize. This edition will see 30 taking part from all over the country, including from Berlin, Hamburg, Essen, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Trier.
The contest, which asks for innovative interpretations of the theme of mobility, runs from December to May 2024. At that stage, seven finalists will be announced, who will then share a prize pool of 55,000 euros.
This year’s judges include Berlin concept store guru Andreas Murkudis; the Vitra Design Museum’s head of collection and archive, Susanne Graner, and the head of design management for sports-car style at Porsche, Matthias Kulla. The jury members eventually also work with, and act as mentors to, the student finalists. Rimowa chairman Alexandre Arnault and Bonnet-Masimbert are also honorary members of the jury.
“It’s a very broad panel, one that truly represents the diversity of German design,” Bonnet-Masimbert enthused.
For the students themselves, it’s fair to say that the prize money comes in handy, the Rimowa executive said when asked how last year’s prizewinners were faring.
“And they all say that the visibility that it [the prize] gets them is career-changing, even at the student stage,” he continued. “But above all, it is the contact with the mentors that’s been invaluable. To be exposed to that level of mentorship as a student is just fantastic.”
As for what the brand itself gets out of the contest, Rimowa — prized for its grooved aluminum roller suitcases — isn’t planning to employ the young prizewinners or snap up their ideas for its own use. As Bonnet-Masimbert has previously said, the whole project is more about giving back.
Clearly sponsoring a contest like this in Germany increases brand awareness for Rimowa. But Bonnet-Masimbert says there’s more to it than that, even for him personally.
“It’s super enriching for the brand as a whole because it creates conditions that fuel our own creativity,” he explained. “We also involve our own creative teams early on in the selections process so it becomes a global kind of process for the company.”
“And personally I find it very captivating to be in touch with these 20- to 22-year-old creatives,” he noted. “It really forces us out of our generational comfort zones. Usually, as a brand, you’re so deeply into your own brand life. So to suddenly move from talking to clients to talking to design teachers and students, there’s a fair amount of — well, it’s not discomfort — but newness. There’s tremendous richness to this whole exercise,” he concluded.