The Monocle Minute

In association with Brand Hong Kong x Monocle logo

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 27 September 2016

Image: Kiana Hayeri

Plastic fantastic?

After decades of sanctions Iran is keen to get people spending again. The Central Bank has issued the country’s first credit cards, tapping into a long-latent purchasing potential that it hopes will kickstart the economy. Shopping centres have been springing up around Tehran and other major cities since the nuclear deal but with brands treading carefully, many lots remain vacant. Hobbled by years of isolation, getting Iran rigged up to the global financial system continues at a sluggish pace, particularly as many foreign banks are still wary due to hefty fines for breaching the sanctions that remain. Getting Iran better acquainted with the power of plastic brings the country a little more in step globally but there’s still a long way to go.

Image: Getty Images

Slang terms

Japan’s big cities have made it easier for non-Japanese speakers to get around on their own but officials still worry that the language barrier might discourage tourists. Eager to make a good impression, the central government is spending ¥10bn (€88m) to improve voice-activated translation technology ahead of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games. The funds are primarily for the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology’s VoiceTra app, which currently accommodates English, Spanish, Chinese and 27 other languages. The app is being tested in various industries, including telecom, banking and tourism, but despite the progress there are limitations: translations tend to struggle with slang, colloquial expressions and long sentences.

Image: Roland Halbe

Appetite for the arts

That Rome’s contemporary-art museum Maxxi is housed in a striking structure was never in question – the building was thought up by the late architect Zaha Hadid – but its insufficient exhibition space has elicited controversy on more than one occasion. To finally quell the critics the museum’s president and former minister for culture Giovanna Melandri announced that the museum will receive a makeover that will double the space dedicated to its permanent collection. The overhaul will feature a new entrance at street level, which completes Hadid’s original design for the building established in 2009. Following the redesign planned for next spring, works by the artists such as Mario Merz and Michelangelo Pistoletto will take their place on the museum floor. With great chefs also slated to take to the museum’s restaurant and Bibliobar, there’s never been a better time to be hungry for culture.

Image: Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Creative control

We’ve seen a flurry of new creative directors appointed by fashion houses this year and many of these designers will unveil the first fruits of their labour at Paris Fashion Week, which begins today. Chief among them is Anthony Vaccarello, the 34-year-old former Versus Versace designer, who will unveil his debut collection at the helm of Saint Laurent tonight. Vaccarello has big shoes to fill after Hedi Slimane’s trailblazing four-year reign at the Parisian brand, although the young Italian-Belgian is certainly equipped to continue the racy aesthetic that Slimane famously set for the house. Looking ahead, editors and buyers are excitedly awaiting the inaugural lines from Lanvin’s Bouchra Jarrar, showing tomorrow, and Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri, to be presented on Friday. Watch out: there’s a new fashion hierarchy in Paris.

From Monocle 24

Image: Nemanja Maras

Are the arts responsible for gentrification?

We take a look at the relationship between the arts and gentrification in Madrid, Belgrade and London. Are artistic communities the driving force behind new neighbourhoods or is it the developers? And how well do the two work together?

From Monocle Films

Novel ideas – Tsutaya

As big-media retail chains disappear, Japan’s most successful book, music and magazine seller opens a new project that challenges everyone. Monocle Films visits a refreshed retail landscape.

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