As Monocle notches up two years, we take a look back at where we started and unveil some subtle tweaks to our brand for volume 03. We’ve always celebrated small businesses that manufacture at home and in an ever-more homogeneous world, local firms and quirky far-flung regions seem more precious than ever. It’s a year when people who care about craft and quality can win.
Two years ago 25 of us hunkered down on a quiet side street running along Marylebone Station in London to commission, write, design, edit, redesign and re-edit a magazine title we believe you’ve become rather fond of. Initially a few of you were rather surprised by the range of the topics, others were intrigued by our global outlook and still more by the quality of paper we chose.
Since Monocle hit the newsstands in February 2007, we’ve been following the exact same course we charted when we sat down to write the mission and put the final touches to our business plan. With a keen interest both to inform and connect a global audience in search of stories delivered from points less covered on the planet, we’ve grown cautiously but confidently to a team of 38 (32 in London, four in New York and two in Tokyo) and have honed our focus on uncovering emerging and forgotten brands, highlighting potential flashpoints, celebrating the beauty of small businesses and talking to people with interesting and inspiring stories to tell.
To mark our second anniversary you’ll notice we’ve made a few very subtle tweaks and changes and if you look really hard you’ll find we’ve also upped our news-gathering capabilities. On page, we’ve tinkered slightly with our grid, added some new regular features (see “National Icon” on page 70 and “Why It Works” on page 90), found some fresh illustrators and launched a whole new supplement in the form of our first ever national survey, with Mexico in the spotlight. In the field, we’re adding to our correspondent network by assigning new posts in South and Central America and Moscow and we recently took our audio bulletin The Monocle Weekly on the road to Vancouver and Tokyo. Looking ahead, we’re aiming to add new correspondents and also increase the frequency of film releases on our website. A year ago we weren’t even thinking about moving into retail but today our shop in London has become a little gathering place for friends and family of Monocle and hopefully by the time our April issue comes out we’ll be able to let you know about our next location. (FYI: we’re thinking US West Coast).
Over the past 20 issues there’s been a subtle yet constant theme that’s highlighted the opportunities that have been unearthed by daring, stubborn and visionary entrepreneurs. In Japan we’ve found no shortage of family firms that have stuck to their core skills and focused on quality and have flourished – no matter how dark the economy.
In Denmark we’ve found businesses from hotels to bakeries that have gained global recognition because they’re interested in being the best and not the biggest. At home in the UK we’ve been impressed by the risk-takers who’ve helped improve the urban landscape by fighting against bullying yet tired-looking chains and delivering original products mixed with informed politics. In a world where everything is starting to look more alike rather than unique, each person or company is an outpost that challenges convention and points to a new way of marketing, selling and building community. In the issues ahead outposts both far-flung and metaphorical will be a running theme and to kick-off the series we have dispatched Ian Mount to dip his toe into the South Atlantic and gauge the opportunities in Stanley on the Falkland Islands.
While we’d never be so cheeky to suggest you pack up the family and fly on a Royal Air Force flight to set up your new home, Mount’s report does remind us that there’s plenty to be done out there and that 2009 is the perfect year to have a proper think about not who you want to work with or for, but how and where. It may or may not come as much of a surprise but some of the happiest, most interesting people we’ve met over the past 24 months are those who live right above the shop. You might want to consider being their neighbour.