The inspiration for this venture came about either in the living room of my Aunt Anita’s house in Toronto 32 years ago or around a table at Die Brücke in Hamburg circa 1991. Regardless of dates and location, the spark was the same – I’ve always been a fan of Germany’s news weeklies. From the age of six, my favourite magazines boasted yellow or orange borders. Whole afternoons could be lost flicking through back issues of ‘National Geographic’ and more recent issues of ‘der Spiegel’. A few years later, I developed a passion for ‘Stern’ with its bold photography, fondness for skin and racy subject matter.
When I left Canada for the UK in 1989, I never thought that I’d end up commuting between Heathrow and Hamburg’s Fuhlsbüttel airport on regular pitch missions to the magazines I so admired. In Hamburg, I managed to catch the tail end of Tempo magazine before it folded. It was there I met editor Anne Urbauer, who ended up going to Stern and was kind enough to keep me as one of her writers. Anne became both a mentor and generous commissioning editor, sending me on elaborate foreign assignments for the magazine. When she moved to the weekly newspaper Die Woche, I followed her. And when I was shot in Afghanistan in 1994, she helped me fight for compensation from the new-ish German news magazine Focus.
In London, I spent the next two years developing an idea for a new lifestyle magazine and in 1996 it finally hit newsstands as Wallpaper*. I edited the title up till mid 2002 and bought out the design agency Winkreative that I’d started under its umbrella. I wasn’t looking for new editorial outlets but, by 2004, I found myself with columns in the New York Times Magazine, NZZ am Sonntag and the weekend edition of the FT.
I wasn’t looking to start my own media venture either but a mix of reader feedback from my columns and casual consumer research at international airports (observing what magazines people buy before they head to their gates), conspired to make me think about developing a new project and call creative director Richard Spencer Powell out of editorial retirement. The brief we wrote was a simple one: a smart, forward looking, single edition global briefing for a highly mobile, international audience. We also decided it should:
01. Be a complete media brand with print, web and broadcast components
02. Deliver across all these areas in new formats
03. Focus on global affairs, business, culture, design and the best products/services on the market
04. Be an oasis from celebrities and low production values
05. Champion fresh talent for both words and pictures
06. Look ahead, not chase the ambulance
07. Accept no freebies
08. Likewise, not be given away for free
09. Open bureaux, so we have our own people on the ground
10. Do our bit to raise the bar
In May 2005 we pulled together cover and section concepts, that summer we brought our agency colleagues Saul, Rob and Rose into the mix for words and pictures and, by Christmas, finance directors Anna and Sabine had completed a business plan with my publisher designate Pam honing the ad proposition.
It took a trip to Japan, evening drinks in Sydney and a visit to Barcelona to raise the first round of funds and with the help of my friend Robyn Holt – who escaped Moscow to join as managing director – we completed the rest of our fundraising over dinner and more drinks in Stockholm.
With funding secured, Andrew Tuck left the Independent on Sunday to take up the post of editor. Throughout, my mentor Anne was a quiet yet influential adviser in the background.
We officially started work on this project in October and have quite literally covered the globe to deliver this debut issue of Monocle. Along the way we’ve opened bureaux in Tokyo and New York, headed up by Fiona Wilson and Ann Marie Gardner respectively, commissioned an original manga from writer and artist Takanori Yasaka and hired Dan Hill from the BBC to bring this to life on the web and other channels.
Monocle will have 10 print editions a year while developing both daily and weekly frequencies on monocle.com. If you have any comments, please forward them to me at email@example.com. Before I sign off, there are a few people I would like to thank for helping bring Monocle to life: Maria, José, Diego, Sagra, Richard, Fumio, Peter, Magnus, PG, Nancy, Etsuko, Mina, Noriko, Jerry, John, Herr Nachmann, Dr Helling, Daniel, Joan, Anna, Kokubo-san, Rikard, Masumi, Eugen, Rico, Eva, Ola, Marcy, and most of all Mats and mom.