The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 9 January 2018

Diplomacy

Image: Shutterstock

Rocking horse

Macron’s gift to his Chinese counterpart is a wily move – China’s pet politics often bear fruit.

Emmanuel Macron certainly knows how to do gifts. Yesterday on a trip to China to meet Xi Jinping he offered his fellow president an eight-year-old horse called Vesuvius from the Presidential Cavalry Corps. Ignoring the name – didn’t Vesuvius kill a lot of people? – it’s a clever and daring move. China is, after all, the country that understands the art of animal diplomacy, using the cuddly looking (if secretly a bit ferocious) panda as bait for trade deals and a bamboo-chewing sign of Beijing’s approval. The gift came about after Xi apparently admired the cavalry’s mounts during a recent visit to Paris. Xi’s plans for the horse are unknown but we’re not very hopeful; what became of, say, the puppy Turkmenistan gave to Vladimir Putin last year after the photo opportunity had passed? (“Come here for a tummy tickle,” seem unlikely words to ever fall from Mr Putin’s lips.) But as Macron woos the Chinese, Vesuvius will have done more than many human ambassadors. The only problem is – what to give Mr Trump next time?

Technology

Image: Shutterstock

Stop sign

The year’s biggest consumer electronics expo kicks off today but are electric cars heading for a breakdown?

This year’s edition of CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) officially kicks off in Las Vegas today and will see tens of thousands of techies descend on the city for gadgetry and geekery. This year the limelight will fall – and not for the first time – on new automotive concepts. Ahead of the show, a team of former BMW and Apple employees (and their Chinese backers) unveiled a new and highly digital electric-car brand: Byton. Electric cars, however, are struggling, with Tesla recently admitting that production of its mass-market Model 3 is behind schedule. The real cautionary tale, though, is Faraday Future. The high-end electric marque launched its first car, the FF91, at CES 2017 to much fanfare but has since stalled. The moral of the story? Don’t always believe the hype when it comes to “game-changing” car brands.

Fashion

Image: Pitti Uomo

Playing to the crowd

One of the biggest events on the fashion calendar kicks off today but off-site affairs are proving equally as alluring.

Florentine menswear show Pitti Uomo, which kicks off its most recent edition today, has long been revered for its spacious halls filled with first-class brands. However, it’s the one-off events held in historic buildings across the city that are increasingly drawing the big crowds. This evening journalists and buyers will gather at two keenly anticipated events: the International Woolmark Prize final, held in the stately Stazione Leopolda former railway station, will see designers showcase clothes made from Merino wool (look out for the UK’s men’s entrant, Matthew Miller); following that fashionistas will head to the centre of town for the opening of Gucci Garden. The new boutique from the Italian luxury label is opening in the 14th century Palazzo della Mercanzia and will sell an exclusive capsule collection of Gucci products that cannot be purchased elsewhere; it will sit alongside a new restaurant from chef Massimo Bottura.

Food

Image: Getty Images

Leaving a sour taste

A powerful food lobby group in the US is resisting transparency — and at risk of putting its members off.

It seems that something has spoiled at the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) in the US. For more than a decade the lobby group has been the leading voice in the industry but fissures have developed as the US food market has shifted. A split has developed over proposals to make information about added sugar and GMOs a requirement on food labels, which companies are increasingly happy to do – the GMA less so. Over the past six months, eight of the largest members of the group have left – including Campbell Soup, which joined the much smaller Plant Based Foods Association. The exodus of companies represents a chasm in the US food industry, with some manufacturers looking to embrace a more transparent approach as consumers have grown increasingly conscious of what goes into the food on their plates. If groups such as GMA don’t catch up with the growing shift, they’re likely to go stale.

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

Dubai World Trade Centre

Tall Stories

When one thinks of Dubai, one thinks of its grand gestures. Today we hear the story of one of its first skyscrapers, the Dubai World Trade Centre.

From Monocle Films

What luxury means today

As smart global consumers become more discerning in their choices we are seeing the rise of a new and more thoughtful brand of luxury. Monocle Films travels to Bali, Melbourne and Manchester to meet three businesses that are championing craftsmanship, provenance and originality in their luxury offerings.

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