The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 8 June 2017

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Changing channels

Jordan reasserts itself in the Middle East: welcoming Germany and shunning Qatar.

After a few years of relative diplomatic reticence Jordan is asserting itself in the Middle East once again. The German Bundeswehr has announced that it will pull out of Incirlik Air Base in Turkey after a prolonged and bitter spat; troops are instead heading to Jordan’s Al-Azraq base. Meanwhile, Amman has thrown its lot in with the Saudi-led push to leave Qatar out in the cold by turning off Al Jazeera yesterday throughout the country. After a multitude of challenges, including a dangerous proximity to the war against Isis, Jordan has been busy with domestic affairs. But since Abdullah II’s meeting with US president Donald Trump in April, the kingdom seems all too happy to play its old role as a safe – and co-operative – pair of hands in the region.

Hospitality

Image: Getty Images

Short stay?

US hoteliers are reluctant to invest in Cuba’s fledgling hospitality scene – and could bring it crashing down.

Cuba and the US may have re-established diplomatic relations after decades of hostilities but, a year after restrictions on Americans travelling to the Caribbean island were eased, many US hoteliers are still reluctant to invest. True, giants such as Starwood and Sheraton have already got in on the act (the former becoming the first US hospitality company to return to the island since the early 1960s) but others are waiting, including Hyatt. Cuba wants to have a supply of more than 100,000 rooms in the near future but they will need international investment. Meanwhile, President Trump is threatening to unravel his predecessor’s Cuba policy, reinstating restrictions on travel and business. The promised tourism boom may come to nothing after all.

Manufacturing

Image: Getty Images

In the bag

A French fashion house’s expansion will push up prices but people might be happy to pay.

“Made in France” has long been one of the most widely recognised stamps of luxury and, if Hermès’ latest move is anything to go by, it still wields great power. The Parisian house has announced that it will open two sprawling new factories in the next two weeks: a glove-making facility in Haute-Vienne, southwest France, that will employ 120 workers and a leather-goods factory in the northwest commune of Val-de-Reuil that will be run by 250 craftsmen. Hermès is doing very well at the moment: in 2016 it registered record profits of more than €1bn, buoyed by spiking handbag sales in countries such as the UK and China. It is heartening to see that it is choosing to invest in manufacturing on its doorstep, where there is an abundance of know-how and it can keep a close eye on proceedings. It may mean that handbags are more pricey but, as the firm’s remarkable 2016 profits prove, today’s customers will pay top-dollar for provenance and quality.

Design

Attack of the clones

Melbourne’s design fair is showcasing homegrown talent in a bid to get punters buying original pieces.

Australia’s lax copyright laws mean that replica furniture is big business. New designs are protected for just five years so contemporary designers can find themselves competing with cheaper versions of their own models. This problem led to the creation of Denfair, a design trade show set up in 2015 that acts as a much-needed showcase for the best furniture designers in Melbourne. In a short space of time it has become the show that attracts architects, interior designers, stylists and furniture retailers looking for the next big thing. When it opens today Denfair’s array of homegrown talent, from up-and-coming Adelaide studio Daniel Emma to current it-boy Adam Goodrum, will hope to persuade attendees to pick out something original, rather than tired old knock-offs.

From Monocle 24

AKQA

The Entrepreneurs

Ajaz Ahmed founded the creative and design agency AKQA after dropping out of university in the mid-1990s to help brands take advantage of the burgeoning digital revolution. The agency now has more than 2,000 employees across 21 studios around the world. This week Ahmed shares the secrets to a good campaign and why he sold a majority stake of AKQA to the advertising giant WPP.

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