USM – the Swiss manufacturer of modular furniture and storage units – is among a select few brands that, by virtue of its timeless designs, rarely has cause to add to its product range. By the same logic, it is particularly selective when it comes to teaming up with other brands. So the news of its collaboration with leading luggage label Rimowa is bound to turn heads. ‘Concept USM by Rimowa’, as the result is tagged, is a perfect union of distinctive elements from both brands – the USM ‘Haller E2’ storage credenza reimagined in the grooved aluminium that is emblematic of Rimowa’s luggage.

Unexpected, but true to the ethos of its two creators, this one-off conceptual piece reflects a shared belief in high craft and functional design that stand the test of time. 

USM rimowa collaboration detail

‘USM furniture has always been familiar to Rimowa, as its ‘Haller’ modular system has equipped our headquarters in Cologne for years,’ says Emelie De Vitis, Rimowa’s chief marketing officer, of the project’s origins. 

‘Both USM and Rimowa have worked on refining the same products for decades; Rimowa on the grooved aluminium suitcase since 1955, USM on the ‘Haller’ modular system, which was patented in 1965. Such incremental innovation is only made possible by the highest attention to quality and functionality. Since we see some of our design-driven DNA in USM, it felt natural to work on a concept object together.’

USM rimowa collaboration detail

The ‘Haller E2’ storage unit – a best-selling four-module design with elegant proportions and drop-down doors – was chosen for the project. ‘It’s a pure and iconic USM design, a kind of multipurpose furniture which reminds me of a piece of luggage that would accompany you in all situations,’ describes Laurent Crochet, CEO of USM France. He recalls that the project was far from a like-for-like replacement of materials: ‘it was not possible to replace the existing USM steel panels with grooved aluminium panels, without losing some functional features.’

Because the project is meant as a concept rather than a ready-to-sell product, the respective product development teams agreed to cover the existing USM panels with Rimowa’s grooved aluminium panels. The latter were shaped and cut in Rimowa’s historical factory in Cologne, and then shipped to Münsingen, Switzerland, where they were incorporated into the ‘E2’ storage unit in the same manufacturing facility that has produced the USM ‘Haller’ range for more than 50 years. Both brands adapted their factories to create the requisite customised elements, and relished the opportunity to stretch their manufacturing capabilities. 

USM rimowa collaboration

‘Pushing the boundaries of design and technology is a major guiding force at Rimowa, which is why projects like this one are paramount to us,’ reflects De Vitis, who has proudly put the finished piece on display in Rimowa’s Paris showroom. ‘We’ve always appreciated the USM brand, and this special project only enhanced that. The experimental piece is a testament to the possibilities of two brands coming together.’

The admiration is certainly mutual: Crochet calls Rimowa ‘a very attractive brand with a strong heritage’, and points to the common values and loyal customer base that the two brands have in common. ‘Collaborations are a great opportunity to step back and take a different look at your brand through the eyes and ideas of others. I’m sure there will be some room to go deeper with other collaborations with Rimowa: whether it’s at home, in the office, or on the way to one of them, furniture and luggage are, after all, what you rely on to store, protect and organise your favourite things.’ §

USM rimowa collaboration detail