The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 24 March 2016

Image: Getty Images

Chase is on

While Bangkok’s congested streets are best navigated by Skytrain rather than car, the Thai capital plays a pivotal role in Southeast Asia’s automotive industry. Thailand is the largest vehicle manufacturer in the region and many of the machines on show at the Bangkok International Motor Show this week will be gracing production floors of the major brands based here. Yet the nation’s aim to build three million cars a year by 2017 has been marred by political unrest and economic instability; nearby Indonesia is now revving up to overtake Thailand. Meanwhile in Australia, the success of General Motors’ design studio in Melbourne has softened the impact of upcoming production facility closures. GM’s work on toughening up the grilles of the boisterous Chevrolet Colorado Xtreme and Chevrolet Trailblazer Premier will take centre stage at the Motor Show this year. The Motor Show is on until 3 April.

Image: Chris So/Getty Images

Something borrowed

Is the campaign to revive Canada’s troubled economy underway? Prime minister Justin Trudeau and finance minister Bill Morneau certainly hope so. In his first budget in office, unveiled earlier this week, Morneau stuck largely to the economic pledges that swept the Liberal party into office in October, namely, borrow to grow. It’s a departure from the austerity programme of his Conservative predecessor and the deficit-reduction that has become thematic of government policies around the world since the downturn of 2008. Will the Liberal policy succeed? Oil and gas prices – on which Canada relies heavily – continue to tumble so the spark of growth needs to come from elsewhere. Investment in the green economy could be the strongest option but the budget’s funds for new infrastructure and more money for indigenous communities might go a little way towards redressing the balance of an economy that is currently on its knees.

Image: Mr Hayata

Split decisions

Japan has already seen a marked increase in elderly divorces and now another social phenomenon is coming to the fore: sotsukon, or graduation from marriage. The word – a combination of sotsugyo (graduation) and kekkon (marriage) – refers to older couples who decide that although they might not want to divorce they do want an independent life, so stay married but live apart. The term was coined in 2004 by writer Yumiko Sugiyama but is apparently becoming increasingly prevalent. A survey of 200 married women aged 30 to 60 revealed that 57 per cent hoped for a sotsukon set-up in the future. Reports tell of couples, still happily wedded, who live at opposite ends of the country. The reasons seem to be varied: some women say they’re fed up with household chores, while both men and women say they want the freedom to pursue a dream that they couldn’t fulfil while working or raising children.

Image: Giorgio Montersino

Fur-ther progress

The fashion world took a step towards a more animal-friendly future this week when Giorgio Armani announced a fur ban across his Armani Group labels, starting from AW16. Many have called the pledge a watershed moment for the industry, with Humane Society International saying it is “probably the most powerful message yet that killing animals for their fur is never fashionable”. Armani is hardly the first designer to go sans fur – he joins the likes of Hugo Boss and Stella McCartney – but this move from one of fashion’s biggest players suggests that, thanks to the rise of quality synthetic alternatives, the tides have shifted. Just one thing to bear in mind before doffing your faux-fur hat to the 81-year-old icon: he made a similar promise in 2007 and was dubbed “Pinocchio” by Peta after featuring fur in subsequent collections.

From Monocle 24

Lily Cole

From sustainable knitwear to the frontiers of the “gift economy”, English model, activist and entrepreneur Lily Cole explains how to create an ethical business.

From Monocle Films

Isetan: shopping as spectacle

One of Japan’s most venerable department stores, Isetan stocks everything you’ll ever need. We hit the shop floor to discover the secret of its success.

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