Many recently closed borders worldwide are suddenly cracking open, and the sort of people who love to cross them for pleasure is ready. The number of travelers passing through American security checkpoints each day is now closer to the booming days of 2019 than the tiny trickle that was being patted down and scanned a year ago. This means that many folks are gazing at the expiration dates of their dusty passports for the first time in a while and perhaps finding an unpleasant surprise: It is time for renewal. Noooo!
All photos are fraught, but the passport photo — an image through which you interact with authorities, borders, and your own citizenship — is primarily electric. It is also generally, and notoriously, unflattering.
Rimowa, the costly German luggage brand currently owned by the French luxury group LVMH, promises to change all that — for free. A new sign in the window of the Prince Street store in SoHo will invite you to what it describes as an “elevated” and “reimagined passport photography experience.” No appointment was necessary!
Inside, help yourself to the photo booth hidden just behind a lone metallic pillar. Please, New Yorkers and tourists, do not use this rare and tiny hideaway for sex, drugs, or defecation.
If you slide around that metallic pillar into the elegant tiny white capsule of a photo booth, you will be face to face with a screen that indicates where your eyes (and, of course, the friend of your eyes, the skull) should be. You have a countdown from eight to compose yourself.
The cubicle is small and bathed in white, shadow-free light. It will blast away any imperfections, washing you in a cold German ambiance: a real bargain Juergen Teller experience. The “photograph” (technically, this may be a representation of a photograph? A machine-assisted selfie?) will be shown to you on a screen. You may retake it as many times as you wish until you are satisfied or begin to hate yourself.
Then you may print it out and have it emailed to yourself.
Why would this expensive retail real estate full of equally expensive suitcases make this gift to you? Perhaps because you are also potentially opting into the Rimowa email marketing ecosystem by availing yourself of the offering. And probably because, if you feel pretty and sophisticated enough now, later, when time and fortune have smiled upon you and on your business and/or marriage prospects, you too will be ready for a rolling trunk that costs $1,710. If you stop to browse, you’ll notice that Rimowa luggage is identifiable by its distinctive ridges, like a Ruffles Sour Cream & Onion flavor chip. While traditionally tugged by people wearing cashmere or dead animals, now it is more likely to be toted by folks who look relatively normal except they have buffed skin and Lanvin sneakers, themselves notable for how chicly ugly and inexplicably costly they are.
(Of course, if the Rimowa case is the 2018 transparent Virgil Abloh collab, which is truly outstanding, it is more likely to be toted by folks who don’t mind that passers-by see all of their shoes, at least the ones they had chosen to pack.) “You’re traveling soon, and your passport is expired, and you have to go and take a photo. I think that’s a very unpleasant experience,” Emelie De Vitis, the chief marketing officer for Rimowa, said. “No matter what country you’re based in.” Hence the photo booth to ease you on your journey.