“Nothing has a vibe anymore,” Carlos Quirarte said last Thursday, quickly adding the disclaimer that “people use the word vibe, or whatever, way too much.’’
As a restaurateur and urban Pied Piper who, over the past decade, has turned one establishment after another — the Smile, Le Turtle, Ray’s, Jac’s on Bond — into outposts for a certain demographic of urban cool kids, Mr. Quirarte ought to know a vibe when he catches one.
So, too, should his ride-or-die, the actor Justin Theroux, who’d accompanied him that evening to a party celebrating an exhibition of, well, luggage.
On the face of it, an event built around some extremely stylish, fanciful, cleverly customized, costly suitcases (about $650 to $2400) holds limited promise. And yet, like so many other events in an era when real-life experience often takes a back seat to its digital doppelgänger, this one had it all.
Wherever one turned there were vitrines and backdrops and lighting calibrated perfectly for Instagram setups. Wherever one turned there were people absorbed in taking photos of … themselves.
“People are so busy trying to create FOMO for other people now that they’re not even where they are,” Mr. Quirarte said.
To be fair, the suitcases being celebrated weren’t any old random baggage. They were Rimowa. Designed and produced by a family-owned carriage trade company founded in Germany in 1898, Rimowa was a relatively obscure manufacturer for years until, in 2016, LVMH purchased a majority stake of the firm. Suddenly Rimowa took on the aura of an “It’’ bag — or maybe it’s more accurate to say “It’’ valise.
It is also a brand that, after LVMH bought it, forged collaborations with luxury logo behemoths like Moncler, Fendi, Supreme and Adidas and designers from Virgil Abloh to Kim Jones at Dior, who each rejiggered the luggage to their specifications.
Examples of these, and of many other collaborations, were installed throughout an exhibition — the occasion for the party — tracing the history of a business that began as a saddlery, evolved over time into a luggage brand and whose transformations paralleled shifts in how people moved about in the world and what they carried.
“I always loved them and I always wanted to get one because I was into having something that can go through JFK and LaGuardia and come out in one piece,’” said Spike Lee, who had joined the party and could be found lounging on a platform with, behind him, a Rimowa bag he lent to the show.
The bag was an aluminum Original Cabin style, made to tuck into an overhead compartment. Mr. Lee, as it turns out, rarely checks.
“I only do carry-on but mine is banged up anyway, and covered with stickers,” he said. “The more dings and stickers the better because, if you ain’t got stickers, you ain’t been nowhere.’’
Mr. Lee’s was just one among the celebrity bags displayed at the event and exhibition — inaugurated in Tokyo in June, it is open to the public here until Sept. 17 and will eventually go on to Shanghai. Billie Eilish sent along a see-through polymer overhead stuffed with her T-shirts. Martha Stewart’s big aluminum trunk had the names of countries and cities she has visited printed by hand between each ridged groove.
The party, held at the Chelsea Factory, spilled onto the sidewalk where the D.J. Benji B blasted hip-hop and a crowd that included the musician Moses Sumney, the designer Heron Preston, the K-pop singer Rosé from Blackpink, the British rapper Central Cee and the model and actor Luka Sabbat swigged from splits of Moet Champagne, silently mouthing the raunchy lyrics to “Ballin’” featuring Roddy Ricch and, yes, posing for selfies.
Or most were. In a corner outside, like a couple of delinquents cutting school, stood the artist Cass Bird with her girlfriend, Jenna Lyons, a newly minted star of “The Real Housewives of New York City,” taking a smoke break.
If anyone alive could make a case for having solid luggage and lots of it, Ms. Lyons is surely that person.
Those familiar with Ms. Lyons from her days as president and executive creative director at J. Crew and now as a reality star on Bravo, know that the woman loves clothes.
Asked whether she was a carry-on bag type, Ms. Lyons did a double take.
“Seriously?’’ she asked. “I have needs, I have product, I have outfits. My shoes alone are a whole suitcase. I’m rolling when I travel, believe me. And I check.’’