The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 6 September 2017

Politics

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Conflict of interest?

Italy’s Five Star Movement could have a chance of winning in Sicily – and becoming the very thing it’s campaigned against.

Ten years ago a revolutionary force in Italian politics was born but Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement has become a very different (and perhaps tamer) party over the past decade. With approval ratings hovering at 30 per cent, it has turned into one of Italy’s strongest forces and – willingly or not – it adopted many of the mainstream political mores it had sought to challenge. Regional elections in Sicily are fast approaching and many consider them a litmus test of what next year’s general election will yield. M5S is poised for a chance to win but at what cost? A decade in, it’s tough for any political force that portrayed itself as “the newcomer” to maintain its legitimacy and mission – but without its anti-establishment thrust the M5S could find itself truly bereft of ideas.

Business

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In good time

News from Hong Kong’s Watch & Clock Fair shows luxury timepiece sales are still ticking along nicely.

When doing business in Hong Kong and China it’s essential to wear the right shoes and the right watch. Particularly this week, as the Watch & Clock Fair is in town. As the leading importer of timepieces and the second largest exporter of clocks, Hong Kong is well-suited for this event, which annually brings thousands of trade show visitors to the city. “Despite luxury sectors in Hong Kong and China slowing down, our sales abroad have picked up quickly among growing markets, especially Japan and the US,” says William Shum, who quit his job in finance six years ago to start the Hong Kong-based tourbillon watch brand Memorigin. He is one of 820 international exhibitors showing off the latest timepiece innovations at the five-day exhibition. It’s fair to say that the mood in the industry is on an upward trajectory and it looks like time is on their side.

Culture

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Hollywood makeover

Venice’s film festival was starting to sink – until one man got involved.

The future of the Venice International Film Festival seems to be in good hands. But as its director Alberto Barbera explains, that wasn’t always the case: “It’s true the Venice Film Festival is the oldest in the world but it went through a difficult period. Especially with the competition against Toronto.” Venice wasn’t known as a place to sell a film and some US filmmakers even skipped the event altogether until Barbera reinvigorated the festival’s image by renovating theatres and luring world-class talent. His efforts seem to be paying off. The industry names are back – such as Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky, who is premiering his twisted new horror movie mother! at this year’s event – and the sales are flowing. “Some are even considering skipping Toronto,” says Barbera with a wry smile.

Food

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Hot potato

Japanese crisp-makers are using regional produce to spice up their flavours and woo snack fans.

There’s good news for Japan’s spud-lovers. The potato shortage earlier this year, which followed a heavy typhoon season in Hokkaido last summer, is over and production of potato crisps is finally getting back to full strength. Now two of the biggest snack-makers – Calbee and Koike-Ya – are vying with each other to woo customers with inventive locally seasoned crisps. Koike-Ya is plugging its premium limited-edition seaweed and salt crisps made with Danshaku potatoes from Imakane. Calbee is firing back with a new range of crisps under the “Love Japan” banner, which will feature flavours from all of the nation’s 47 prefectures: look out for Hokkaido mountain wasabi and chicken from Kagawa. Japan sure knows how to promote home-grown goods.

From Monocle 24

Image: Shutterstock

Licence to kiln

Section D

Is clay making a comeback? Design journalist Katie Treggiden discusses her new book that profiles 25 makers across six cities. And have you ever wondered why most passports are just one of four colours? We speak to an editor who’s been investigating how countries use design to express their international identity.

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