The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 14 January 2016

Image: Alamy

Seoul traders

For the first time in Pitti’s history a South Korean has been named as the guest menswear designer. Juun Wok Jun – the man behind label Juun J – has made the cut thanks to his experimental reinvention of menswear in striking, voluminous pieces. His country’s fashion credentials have also played a role in the fair’s decision to crown him: “Before making a choice like this we look at the figures and how the market is growing, as well as style,” says Raffaello Napoleone, CEO of Pitti Immagine. At Pitti Uomo’s last edition, 277 South Korean buyers visited the fair – only two fewer than those from the US. “It’s a market that is following the same interesting growth that the Japanese market had in the last decades – so we presume South Korea will be one of the markets for the future,” adds Napoleone. In a few short years Pitti could be set for a wave of hallyu: the South Koreans’ term for the creative innovation spilling out of the country.

Image: Getty Images

Creative thinking

Last year Singapore showcased the “economic miracle” that was its half-century ascension from third to first world; this year it’s the turn of the city-state’s growing cultural scene to grab the world’s attention. Kicking off this weekend, Singapore Art Week will prove a strong opening round with more than 80 events packed into nine days; these range from a “concrete island” architecture bus tour (air conditioned, we hope) to exclusive exhibitions at the new National Art Gallery. Its anchor fair Art Stage Singapore will allow collectors to view works from Southeast Asia’s top prospects – including Thailand’s textile artist Ploenchan Vinyaratn – alongside art from further afield displayed by respected names such as White Cube. While Singapore’s vibrant cultural dialogue continues to gain momentum, it will be interesting to observe any policy movements on censorship laws, which can shame the island nation’s more liberal thinkers.

Image: Getty Images

Sad song

Japan is reeling from shocking news: Smap, the country’s most durable boyband, is on the verge of splitting up. Rumour has it that four members of the group, an immovable feature of Japan’s popular-culture landscape since forming in 1988, want to break away from their agent Johnny & Associates. Fifth member Takuya Kimura, known as Kimutaku in Japan, wants to stay put. Smap, an acronym for Sports Music Assemble People, have released more than two dozen albums – though their music has long since taken a back seat to their high-profile television roles and lucrative commercial endorsements. The group’s weekly variety show Smap x Smap has been running on Fuji TV since 1996, with everyone from Lady Gaga to Brad Pitt making an appearance. Reports of an imminent split, still unconfirmed, appeared in Sports Nippon this week. Expect a lengthy mourning period.

Image: Reuters

Trouble for Trudeau?

There has been a recurring theme in Justin Trudeau’s short premiership so far: Canada’s economy is in trouble and it’s getting worse. The deepening slump in the price of crude oil – which slipped below CA$43 (€28) a barrel on Tuesday for the first time since 2003 – should be a clear signal to the new PM and his finance minister, Bill Morneau, that the oil-and-gas industry is not the cash-cow it once was. Trudeau’s Conservative predecessor Stephen Harper did little to diversify Canada’s economy away from the oil sands of Alberta and worryingly, the Liberal government’s strategy seems equally thin on the ground. But manufacturing is up, start-up sectors are blossoming and the renewable-energy industries are ripe for investment. Canada should no longer be held hostage by oil and gas; its economy’s promise has been left unfulfilled for too long.

From Monocle 24

Filson

As outdoor-clothing brand Filson grows its customer base and expands internationally from its home in the Pacific Northwest, the brand’s president explains how the company is keeping its focus.

From Monocle Films

Tasmanian craft

In Tasmania, talented craftspeople are making use of the island’s natural materials to design and build furniture, ceramics and more. Monocle Films tours the island to meet the designers and makers adding Tasmanian touches to the map.

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