The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 5 February 2016

Image: Getty Images

Wardrobe malfunctions

The doors have barely closed on the autumn-winter menswear season but, for many designers, the stress of conjuring up 2016’s first lot of collections clearly took its toll. On Wednesday, Ermenegildo Zegna's Stefano Pilati became the third menswear designer to resign from an Italian house this week, following Monday’s announcements by Berluti’s Alessandro Sartori and Brioni’s Brendan Mullane. These are worrying times for the industry: the trio of exits follows last year’s glut of womenswear departures, none more famous than Raf Simons’ exit from Dior “to focus on other interests”. Most concerning is the fact that so many of these exits (including Pilati’s) come on the back of three-year stints: it’s hardly enough time for a designer to make their mark. The pressure for designers to craft six collections a year is ever intensifying; surely it’s time for the industry to look after the people who are feeding it?

Image: Getty Images

Flight plan

There are murmurings of an airline battle brewing over the Gulf as the region's carriers observe Iran's return to the skies. The Islamic Republic has 118 jets on order and a history of ambitious aviation; the Shah even had two Concordes on order prior to the 1979 revolution. Yet concerns over competition are perhaps a little pre-emptive: industry insiders reckon it’ll take at least a decade before Iran can even hope to turn Tehran into a transport hub. In the meantime the country will need to get its domestic routes firing again, do some political pruning – right now women need to wear headscarves in Iranian airspace on Iranian jets – and start a much-needed refit of its airports. All of that starts on the ground.

Image: Getty Images

Turning the screw

For the bargain price of CA$3.2bn (€2.1bn), hardware chain Lowe’s has scooped up Quebec-based equivalent Rona, the latest example of a Canadian firm being purchased by a US business looking to make headway into northern markets. Indeed, the weakened loonie seems to only ensure that more Canadian companies will meet the same fate. While the latest acquisition will keep Rona's brand identity afloat, industry observers are uncertain about the long-term effects. “All too often the net result of mergers of this kind is job loss,” says Doug Stephens, author of The Retail Revival. There's also the question of whether smaller domestic suppliers to Rona will be able to compete against Lowe's current suppliers. However, these firms aren't completely helpless. "Canadian companies have to ensure their capital is being used effectively or they could end up the subject of a hostile takeover," says Francine Kopun, business reporter for the Toronto Star. “The other thing they can do is remain privately owned.”

Image: Getty Images

Sugar rush

February is always a bonanza for Japan’s chocolate manufacturers – Valentine’s Day sees Japanese women giving sweet treats to partners, friends and colleagues – but the Chocolate and Cocoa Association of Japan is expecting bumper sales this year. This week the influential NHK morning show Asaichi advised viewers that a daily dose of chocolate (with more than 70 per cent cocoa) is good for digestion, high blood pressure and even staving off dementia. Japanese need little extra encouragement to buy chocolate: they spent ¥486bn (€3.7bn) on it in 2014. A recent survey by department store Printemps Ginza revealed that 69 per cent of the women asked planned on buying chocolate for someone else on Valentine’s Day. But more than half will be splashing out on all-important jibun-choco: chocolate for themselves.

From Monocle 24

Image: Moyan Brenn

Espionage and mystery in Istanbul

On the surface, Istanbul seems like a city of soaring minarets, Byzantine beauty and grandiose views. But beneath it all is a much grittier city where intrigue has often lurked behind an ornate façade – and it is this that surfaces when the camera is on.

From Monocle Films

Image: Shinichi Ito

Japanese bars

Pull up a pew to discover classic Japanese bars with soothing lighting, knowledgeable and immaculately turned-out staff and loyal clientele.

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