The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 11 December 2017

Geopolitics

Image: Getty Images

United we stand

North Korea’s bravado is having a welcome side-effect: improving relations between north Asia’s other powerhouses.

South Korea is officially back in China’s good books. South Korean president Moon Jae-in arrives in Beijing on Wednesday and the four-day visit is likely to focus more on missile tests in North Korea rather than the South’s deployment of a US missile-defence system. It’s the latest sign that Pyongyang’s posturing is bringing north Asia’s three regional powers closer together. Last week Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe didn’t send any offering during a visit by lawmakers to a controversial war shrine that irks China and South Korea. Abe is thought to want to revive an annual trilateral summit that last met in 2015 and Japan is due to host. Cosier relations come at an opportune time for South Korea. Ticket sales for the upcoming Winter Olympics could use a boost from increased inbound tourism and Moon will no doubt want Xi and Abe to warm two seats beside him at February’s opening ceremony.

Fashion

Digital dress sense

A Japanese fashion firm came up with an innovative way of keeping online customers happy – except now it’s struggling to deliver.

Online fashion retailing has a major wrinkle: consumers all too often end up buying clothes in the wrong size and then get fed up with the faff of returning them. Zozotown, Japan’s largest internet fashion business, believes it has the answer: a form-fitting suit with micro sensors that takes 15,000 body measurements and can be sent to your home. The company was swamped with 230,000 requests in the first eight hours and delivery of the hi-tech sizing suits is now delayed by at least two months – not what customers have come to expect from e-commerce. The backlog is bad timing for the owner, Start Today, as it plans to launch its own clothing brand called Zozo and broaden the appeal of its online mall. Combining technology and fashion could prove a successful combination for an unknown brand in Japan – provided it can iron out all of its early problems.

Culture

Image: Getty Images

Sticking to the script

To prevent unnecessary drama among its audiences, a theatre in Italy is advising on good manners. Pipe down in the gods…

When the lights go down and the curtain goes up, do you know how to behave yourself? To prevent audience misconduct while watching a play, a theatre in Italy’s northern city of Bergamo has introduced etiquette notes in the style of an airplane’s safety card, which is placed on all seats. Developed in association with the town’s Orio al Serio Airport, the vignettes cover the gamut of boorish theatrical behaviour, from noisy sweet wrappers to keeping coughing fits under control. Like their in-flight counterparts, these information sheets may seem superfluous to frequent flyers (or theatre-goers) but we applaud the intention. As manners become more casual (or plain rude) everywhere from the hotel lobby to the beach, it’s a useful reminder that there’s a point to preserving politeness in the round and keeping the stalls smartphone-free.

Rail

Image: Getty Images

Roll with it

In a bid to get gridlocked Florida moving again, a new high-speed train is about to hit the tracks.

The US state of Florida is hitting the rails. The first privately owned high-speed train line (but still quite lethargic compared to some European and Asian trains) is set to open this month in Florida with lofty plans to transform the gridlocked highways by keeping three million cars at home. The Brightline trains will run along the state’s most packed population corridor – about six million residents – from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale, with plans to expand to downtown Miami and Orlando. The $3bn (€2.5bn) Brightline is not the only new high-speed rail in the works in the US. There is also the much-publicised California High-Speed Rail, which has struggled to get moving to connect the vast state. These projects are certainly a step in the right direction for the car-happy US.

From Monocle 24

Secret service

The Menu

The UK’s best known front-of-house manager Fred Sirieix on what is behind great service at restaurants. Also: London’s new football stadium that’s aiming to become a top culinary destination and what we’re missing out on in Mexican cuisine.

From Monocle Films

Celebrating fashion in Oslo

After lagging behind its design-minded neighbours, the Norwegian fashion industry has finally moved out of its comfort zone and stepped up its game. We meet Oslo’s most promising fashion houses and see how they are being taken seriously on the international stage.

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