The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 26 October 2016

Image: Noel Celis/Getty Images

Can you be more Pacific?

When Hillary Clinton became Barack Obama’s secretary of state, much was made of the US’s planned “pivot” away from the Middle East and towards Asia. Obama was supposed to be America’s first “Pacific president” and Clinton certainly put in the air miles, meeting presidents and foreign ministers across the region. But the Middle East proved to be a difficult area to move away from, with Israel and Palestine, Iran’s nuclear deal and the Arab uprisings all taking up Obama and Clinton’s time and attention. If, as seems likely, Clinton is elected president in a fortnight’s time, she may try to pivot again. The eccentric behaviour of the Philippines’ president Rodrigo Duterte has alarmed Washington, while Japan and South Korea have been unnerved by Donald Trump’s outlandish comments about withdrawing support. The US may get its Pacific president after all.

Image: Orgatec

Business and pleasure

Köln’s biennial office-furniture fair Orgatec dates back to 1953 and is the largest of its kind worldwide. International brands from Germany’s Flötotto to Canada’s Molo have embraced this year’s motto “New Visions for Work”; none, however, have confronted the theme as imaginatively as Vitra. The Swiss furniture company – and star of Orgatec – has for the first time taken over an entire hall for its showcase, bringing together design, architecture and technology companies, including Artek and Mercedes-Benz, in a holistic portrayal of today’s working world. The so-called “Work” concept was created by architect Pernilla Ohrstedt and designer Jonathan Olivares in an effort to change not only where and how we work but also the way fairs function. “There isn’t one way to furnish an office today, there are as many office interiors as there are company cultures and individuals,” says Olivares of the trends on show. Over 50,000 people are expected to visit the international event at the Koelnmesse until 29 October and there's no doubt that what’s presented here, such as Barber & Osgerby’s Pacific chair, will soon populate offices around the world.

Image: Getty Images

Tired of being alone

In anticipation of this year’s Singles’ Day in China – the world’s leading e-commerce event – bricks-and-mortar retailers across the nation are starting to invest in retail experiences to boost footfall. A mall in Beijing has set up a haunted house to lure shoppers during the Halloween period and this is just one of the myriad ways that retailers are attempting to combat the country’s e-commerce industry, which is likely to reach a value of €921bn this year. Amid the annual double-digit growth of online shopping, Asia is keen to invest in traditional retail too. China, for example, wants to double its number of malls to 10,000 by 2025. Despite the strengths of e-commerce, businesses with a strong focus on service and experience – such as hotpot chain Hai Di Lao and bookshop Fangsuo – are the real role models.

Image: Getty Images

About time too

Another European region is preparing to turn its back on the EU by not turning back its clocks. The regional parliament of the Balearic Islands is asking the central government to allow it to permanently adhere to Daylight Savings Time, which would mean that the easterly island would not have to turn its clocks back this coming weekend along with the rest of Spain and the EU. The sun sets on the Mediterranean archipelagos about an hour before it goes down on the continent’s most westerly cities. The Illes amb Claror (bright islands) movement has been gathering popular and political support in recent years. By turning the clocks back an hour Balearic politicians argue that those on the islands use more electricity and lose valuable hours in which to do outdoor activities, and visit shops and other small businesses.

From Monocle 24

Image: Mud Rock

Mud Rock ceramics

Ceramicists Michelle Lim and Ng Seok Har founded Mud Rock in 2013. Singapore may be light on resources and crafts but there’s a growing customer base of people keen to take home a genuine piece of design that’s made right here in the little red dot.

From Monocle Films

Spread the word

There is a weight of passion, wit, intellect and fun to be found on Italy’s screens, coming from its speakers and in print. Monocle Films delves into the quirks of the country’s news and entertainment and finds the best of its leaders and merchants.

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