Cultural Relevance and Carry Ons: Meet Hector Muelas of Rimowa

Going beyond his remit of creating a functional travel product, Muelas is playing an integral role in shaping a new approach to travel. Inspiring clients to travel with purpose rather than as a distraction, and inviting others to join this community, he is most certainly a man on the move – and everyone else is just trying to keep up.

is changing the way we think about travel. Hector Muelas
is helping us guide those thoughts. Previously the creative
director of marketing communications at Apple, the Barcelona-born
conceptualist then joined luxury goods conglomerate, LVMH, as
global vice president of content and creative (his CV also boasts
partner at Vice and creative at Wieden + Kennedy). It’s safe to say
that Muelas is an ideas person. His latest posting as chief brand
officer at premium luggage brand, RIMOWA, alongside CEO Alexandre
Arnault, is proving his most mesmerising role to date.

Redefining travel since 1898, RIMOWA’s 120th anniversary marks a
metamorphic moment for the brand. The
-based luggage company has seen a lot of change across
three centuries, from the first aluminium trunk created in 1937 to
the inception of the brand’s iconic groove (inspired by the first
all-metal aircraft) in 1950. Yet RIMOWA’s philosophy has always
stayed the same: “Expert travellers need expert travel

Muelas seems more than equipped to provide these solutions to a
youthful band of jet-setters – a new clientele for RIMOWA.
Refreshing the brand with a modern ID, since joining Muelas has
been busy creating a culturally relevant label that is as cool as
it is clever, alongside RIMOWA’s CEO Alexandre Arnault. Responsible
for some high-stakes social media collaborations – namely those
with street brands Supreme and Virgil Abloh’s Off-White – Muelas’
and Arnault’s approach has viral appeal. Using contemporary
colours, new materials and zeitgeist monograms while maintaining
RIMOWA’s trademark aluminium grooves, RIMOWA luggage has become
travel companions to model Adwoa Aboah, tennis player Roger
Federer, Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa and others of their ilk. It’s
clear that the long-revered label is having a very modern

Going beyond his remit of creating a functional travel product,
Muelas is playing an integral role in shaping a new approach to
travel. Inspiring clients to travel with purpose rather than as a
distraction, and inviting others to join this community, he is most
certainly a man on the move – and everyone else is just trying to
keep up.

What would you like to achieve during your time with RIMOWA?
What is the key message you want to get across?

We’re building a brand and an important step towards that is
communicating RIMOWA’s purpose and values. We are lucky enough to
have 120 years of stories and insight to draw upon, and we want to
make that applicable today. The goal is to be a culturally relevant
brand that has a meaningful role that is expressed in subtle ways.
Looking into the history of RIMOWA it has always catered to
purposeful travellers – those who travel in order to achieve – and
we want to continue that legacy while helping our customers go
about building their own.

Do you think luggage is replacing what handbags used to be,
serving more than its functional purpose?

Yes, absolutely. Luggage has gone from being a practical object
designed to carry your things to an important symbol – that could
be cultural, personal or about status. In a time when there are
millions of travellers, people want their suitcase to say something
about them. That’s why it is important to have a brand with a
purpose; we want our customers to feel like they are entering a
community rather than simply buying a product.

You previously worked at Apple, which has become the first
trillion dollar company in the world. Do you think that a luggage
brand like Rimowa could become a similarly cult-ish brand?

I would argue that RIMOWA already is a cult brand. It’s
definitely a community brand that has been driven and built by an
influential group of people for the last 20-30 years, and that
continues to be the case today. For me, it’s not as important to be
as big as Apple but to be as meaningful as Apple. That’s a
beautiful ambition to have on my hands.

Where are you from and how has that shaped or inspired

The short answer is Barcelona but I’m a little bit American and
a little bit German, and have lived in many cities. Today, I know
very few people who 100% identify with a culture or a place. The
way we travel and the fact that we travel so often means we
establish emotional connections with places, and that’s what makes
up our identity.

Could you tell us a bit more about that, and how you think the
modern world is affecting this change?

I don’t think that nationalities or religions are cutting it
anymore; it’s about mindset. You might be from a small town but
identify yourself by liking or sharing a certain set of cultural
values – be it music, behaviour, sexual orientation, aesthetics –
and that is how you begin to define yourself. The internet has
allowed us to build a new sense of belonging in the same way travel
has; they both allow us to discover the new things and new
references that we can identify with.

What are some of your favourite places and why?

will always be a very special place for me. It taught me a lot
about aesthetics, consumer behaviour, user experience and the
possibility of finding a balance between looking forward while
respecting the past. I really like the Balearic
too, and Menorca
is a place where I would like to grow old.

What would you do to improve airports?

Airports are interesting because if you look at the statistics
people are choosing to spend longer in them these days; it’s not
about killing time anymore. They need to be more consumer-centric –
why not make them experiential or about the culture of travel?
Travel behaviour has changed and I don’t see the hotel industry or
airports upgrading to meet this demand. Why don’t all hotels put
USB chargers next to your bed? Why am I not able to connect my
Netflix account to the television in the hotel to continue watching
it on the plane? It’s in the details.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Always asking questions, but mostly by exposing myself to things
that make me feel a bit uncomfortable. Hanging out with people or
going to places that ordinarily I would not be attracted to is a
really good source of inspiration. I recall a quote along the lines
of: “In order to get better you need to recognise that you’re an
idiot” – and that really strikes a chord with me.

What are you reading at the moment?

David Lynch’s autobiography.

What SUITCASE do you use?

My favourite suitcase is the original cabin size RIMOWA in black. It’s
always cabin size – I can’t stand checking in anymore. I really
like spending time in airports, and I’d rather enjoy it than stand
around queueing.

Discover More
Feminism, #FreePeriods and Reclaiming Pink with Scarlett Curtis