Patti Smith with her suitcase and (right) creative director Sebastian Lyman
When a global icon posts pictures of your product on Instagram without even being prompted, you know you’ve got a valuable ambassador. Such was the case with Patti Smith, who apparently adores her RIMOWA suitcase. Currently she’s headlining the brand’s latest campaign, “Never Still”, contributing a specially-written poem that helps usher in a new era of travel.
As you may have seen, Patti is not alone – adding their voices to the campaign are Rihanna, LeBron James and Roger Federer, who all talk about their own relationships with travel. Patti, however, is at the heart of the work, with a film depicting her journey from her home by the seashore in Rockaway to the bustle of Manhattan.
“The journey captures the idea of returning to a world that’s opening up,” says Anomaly Berlin creative director Sebastian Lyman, who worked with RIMOWA – and indeed Patti – on the campaign. He found time to tell us a little more about how it all came about.
First some background about you. What led you from Canada to Berlin?
After working in Toronto and LA, I wanted to live somewhere where I could experience a totally different perspective, and a bit of a different set of values. Berlin felt like this beautiful mix of culture, vibrancy, history, art, weirdness...it basically gives you the freedom to care less what others think. I also felt that not a lot of North Americans in advertising were moving here, so my background and skill set were much more valued, more so than say Amsterdam or London.
You’ve worked on luxury brands like Mercedes Benz, Porsche and of course RIMOWA, as well as on mainstream brands. What do you specifically have to bear in mind while working for luxury brands?
Firstly, the standard for craft and aesthetics is exceptionally high. Luxury has a unique connection with the worlds of art, music, design, film that most mainstream brands don’t. And it also demands boldness and audacity. So a lot of what we do is approaching things as kind of “cultural chemists”. Bringing together people, ideas or stories that seem opposing, but create something surprising; it’s conveying your brand message through the unexpected.
Secondly, contemporary luxury involves much richer storytelling. It’s easy to also get lost in the aesthetics or create things that are beautiful and strange but ultimately vapid. It’s important to be highly strategic, and also highly emotional in order to give the work substance.
But in COVID times, something we always try to bear in mind when working on luxury is to make sure we are a bit more tonally empathetic. The different categories within luxury are more inclusive than ever before, and so we want to be able to stay aspirational while also talking to people more on eye level. It’s not uncool to be a bit optimistic and positive these days.
Patti Smith is at the core of the RIMOWA campaign with a poem about travel. How did the relationship with Patti come about and especially the idea of the poem?
Patti is a real RIMOWA owner. She’s had her suitcase since the mid 90s, and would actually post pictures of it on Instagram. It already carries so much meaning to her, so the partnership was truly organic from the beginning.
As a personality we really felt she was the one voice that could embody the 2021 iteration of our “No one builds a legacy by standing still” message. Travel has shaped her life and her work so much: she’s never stood still...she’s really built a legacy that gives her the stature to help us usher in this new era of travel. And how many people really have the gravitas to be the voice of a campaign that includes Rihanna, Roger and LeBron?
Regarding the poem, we knew we wanted a kind of statement piece to serve as the backbone of the campaign…a piece of inspiration for the world to get back out there. No one would have felt right just using her voice or her image. When you have one of the greatest writers and poets of our era, you let them work their magic. We’re proud to have co-created this special brand poem, because to us it really transcends what traditional advertising messaging is capable of.
The logistics were managed by the amazing team at RIMOWA, who secure all of our icons and build all of these incredible relationships.
Despite the idea of returning to or somehow “resetting” travel, the campaign feels as though the pandemic doesn’t exist. Is that because planning began before Covid-19 took hold? Or did you deliberately minimize what’s happened in order to look forward?
The campaign is about the next chapter, and delivering a feeling of inspiration and hope. To be “Never Still”, as is the brand DNA, is to always move forward. It’s not about minimizing what has happened the past two years, but more about allowing people to look ahead again with optimism and excitement. And, to reconsider the role of travel in their lives. As LeBron says in his film, now it’s not about how far you go, but why you go. Even though we don’t reference the pandemic, we want the campaign to give people the sense that they have the opportunity to kind of redefine travel in their own way.
A blunt question. All the people in the campaign are icons. They don’t lack for money or fame. Why would they agree to be in an ad? I’ve never understood the psychology behind that.
Everyone in the campaign are real RIMOWA owners who genuinely love the brand and their suitcases. There is a real cachet to RIMOWA, and the love that some of the world’s biggest icons have for it is truly special. We’re very fortunate.
Not to speak for Rihanna, LeBron, Roger or Patti, but I would imagine too that it’s because travel is such an emotionally charged topic for them. It’s at the heart of who they are and what they do, so allowing them to share their unique perspective on it, gives them a larger role in the campaign that’s deeper than simply serving as spokespeople.