Since visiting Rimowa luggage's first North American factory in Toronto, I've been a convert.
The craftsmanship, quality and attention to detail they pour into every piece of luggage produces a product which surpasses in style and substance many of their competitors. And with a history that dates back to 1819, it should be no surprise that this German company excels.
The same applies to another German brand, Hugo Boss, which has been disciplined in its presentation of sleek, sophisticated, luxury clothes. As fans of the label know, their sleek yet sturdy pieces stand the test of trends and time.
And yet, at least on a purely perceptive level, their unrelenting craftsmanship hasn't resonated in a major way with the American consumer.
Rimowa has a long way to go to enjoy the same connotation and name recognition of, say a Samsonite; while Hugo Boss -- for all its sophisticated, modern chic -- has yet to be acknowledged and sought after for these qualities by mainstream consumers the way Calvin Klein does.
Far from retreating, these brands are going on the luxe offensive: opening new stores in the States. Last week Monday, Rimowa opened a flagship on 313 North Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. The very next day Hugo Boss opened another sleek space on 132 Greene Street in New York City. Both openings were marked by invite-only celebrations where celebs and insiders mingled alike.
At Rimowa's soiree on Rodeo Drive, Jessica Alba held court as hostess, while in New York a who's who including Lance Bass, Kate Schelter, Emma Snowdon-Jones and Robert Verdi mingled with the company's execs.
For a moment, these dazzling store openings have captured the public's attention. But will they hold it? For the American market, answering that questions with style -- and substance -- could make the difference between a memorable event and a memorable brand.