The Monocle Minute

In association with Brand Hong Kong x Monocle logo

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 30 March 2017

Technology

Cell regeneration

Samsung offers customers a Galaxy if they’ll write off that Note fiasco.

Yesterday’s announcement at glitzy events in London and New York revealed the smartphone on which Samsung is pinning its business success of the year. The Samsung Galaxy S8 turns so much of the front of the phone into screen that there’s no room even for the company logo. In turn, this means that the phone is smaller than you’d think, but the display bigger. It has plenty of innovations, including a beefed-up iris scanner so the phone knows it’s you and unlocks instantly, and Bixby: Samsung’s search feature that works by voice, text and image. Other additions include the facility to stream different audio to multiple Bluetooth speakers – handy if you want to listen to music while junior borrows your phone to watch Peppa Pig, say. But essentially, its success will come down to how much people like the look of the handset – and whether they feel ready to trust Samsung again after last September’s Note 7 debacle.

Business

Hours of fun

South Korea wants its workers to get their weekends back.

South Koreans work some of the longest hours on the planet – an average of 2,113 hours a year at the last count (compared with 1,790 in the US), with 43 per cent putting in overtime more than three times a week. The government has decided it’s time to redress this unhealthy work-life balance and, last week, a National Assembly committee agreed to reduce the maximum weekly work hours from 68 to 52 by 2018. The revision of the Labour Standards Law is meant to ban weekend overtime entirely. The public sector is being targeted too: from May, civil servants will finish work at 16.00 on the last Friday of the month and state-run companies are being asked to do the same. But not everyone is happy with the changes. One South Korean think-tank estimates that reducing working hours will force companies to spend an extra KRW12.3trn (€10.3bn) on labour costs every year. Undeterred, the government plans to expand its programme of financial incentives for companies that offer flexible working hours or allow employees to work from home.

Fashion

A design for life

Uniqlo’s LifeWear collection combines fashion and philosophy.

Can a brand be both mass-market and design-savvy? It’s certainly something Japanese fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo has so far managed to do. During the launch of its autumn/winter 2017 collection in New York on Wednesday, the spotlight was on its LifeWear concept and its new campaign. John C Jay, president of global creative for Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing, called the idea “our entire philosophy”, while senior vice-president Yuki Katsuta added that it was “essential made better”. And with collaborations from Northern Irish designer Jonathan Anderson (also creative director of Loewe), French designer Ines de la Fressange and a new men’s and womenswear collection by the brand’s fledgling R&D unit in Paris overseen by Christophe Lemaire, it may be just that. “The essence of LifeWear is more orientated towards the senses and not a trends approach,” says Uniqlo’s design director Naoki Takizawa. “It’s a completely different category to what already existed in the market.”

Architecture

Shake shacks

Art show of Japanese architect’s post-earthquake designs comes at a prescient time.

The disaster-relief efforts of celebrated Japanese architect Shigeru Ban are the subject of an exhibition in Sydney. Two of his most esteemed structures have been recreated in the courtyard of the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation: a hut made from paper tubes in the wake of the 1995 Kobe earthquake and a bamboo shelter designed in response to the 2016 earthquake that shook western Ecuador. It’s a fitting time to shine a spotlight on this Pritzker prize-winning architect. Well-designed rapid-response architecture is needed now more than ever as natural disasters, overcrowded cities and refugee crises are leaving millions of people in need of quick housing solutions. Read more about this topic in the 2017 issue of The Forecast.

From Monocle 24

Exposure

The Entrepreneurs

Raoul Shah founded the powerhouse communications agency Exposure in 1993. He’s since pioneered the art of product placement and represented big-hitting clients from Nike and Converse to Coca-Cola and Uniqlo. Raoul explains how PR has changed over the past quarter century, shares the secrets to keeping clients happy and tells about that time he launched Jay Z’s luxury champagne brand.

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