Thursday. 18/4/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

What’s in store for Asia’s luxury brands?

In an interview published this week, Ravi Thakran – the group chairman of LVMH South and Southeast Asia, Australia and Middle East – laments the lack of Asian luxury fashion brands. “We have the finest of craftsmen but something is missing, whether it is the packaging, presentation or storytelling,” he told the South China Morning Post. Japan may be responsible for long-established heavyweights including Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto, yet it’s tough to pinpoint the next Asian global star. What is that “something” that’s missing?

There are cultural factors specific to different nations at play, from the tendency of Japanese brands to focus on the domestic market to Chinese brands struggling with the perception of their manufacturing being low end. But there are some unifying factors too. Being a successful luxury label requires an ability to conjure an aspirational world: one of the key ways to do this is via fantastical runway shows. However Asia’s fashion weeks – in Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul – do not have anything like the global heft of their European counterparts, meaning brands need to work that much harder (or go to Paris or Milan) to get noticed. Moreover, building a glossy image costs a lot and most investment from Asian luxury behemoths tends to go to western brands. Chinese conglomerates often choose to snap up European rather than domestic labels: Fosun bought French house Lanvin and Italian brand Caruso; Shandong Ruyi owns France’s Cerruti 1881. Promising Asian designers such as Rokh (a Korean based in London) are emerging – but they need some fuel to compete on the world stage.

Politics / Taiwan

Divine endorsement

Yesterday Terry Gou, Taiwan’s third richest man and owner of technology supplier Foxconn, unofficially announced his bid for Taiwan’s presidency. The sea goddess Mazu directed him to run, he told a crowd in New Taipei. However, one may deduce that other factors are at play. While tensions are still high between mainland China and Taiwan, Gou would prove to be a more China-friendly option than incumbent Tsai Ing-Wen and is in talks with the soft-on-China KMT party. “Foxconn’s business is very involved with the mainland. This means that he wouldn’t have much room to manoeuvre politically,” says Jonathan Fenby, author of The Penguin History of Modern China. “Polling has consistently shown the Taiwanese to be very sceptical of warming relations with China.” And with little political experience, Gou may well be overreaching.

Media / USA

Flying off the shelves

Now that the Murdochs’ assets in 21st Century Fox have been sold off, the company’s former chief executive James Murdoch is looking to build a new media empire (without his father and siblings) – and has decided to invest big in comic books. His decision to put $5m (€4.4m) into publisher Artists, Writers & Artisans (AWA) isn’t to be smirked at. The roaring success of Marvel movies – and the anticipation surrounding the likes of Avengers: Endgame – proves that there’s big money to be made in comic-book adaptations. With Marvel’s former publisher Bill Jemas at the helm, AWA has ambitions to turn its characters into films. Is the world of entertainment gearing up for a new, spectacular superhero fight?

Publishing / Japan

Novel idea

A messaging app is the last place a publisher might expect to turn to in order to unearth fresh writing talent. But Japanese chat service Line Corp announced this week – just ahead of next week’s World Book Day – that it is set to co-sponsor a new literary prize. The Reiwa Novel Award will earn its recipient ¥3m (€24,000), a book publishing deal and a guaranteed TV adaptation. The winner will be chosen from works submitted to Line Novel, a new online service where budding writers (or any registered user) can upload their literary efforts for free. Line Corp is partnering with Nippon TV and anime studio Aniplex on the prize. The company will also launch an app later in the summer where users can read works by up-and-coming and established writers. It’s heartening to see that there are ever more ways for great works of literature to find a fresh audience.

Retail / USA

Hitting the road

It’s all getting a little bit heated down in Texas – and it’s not just the spring weather. The latest chapter in an ongoing battle for control of the retail sector in the US’s second most populous state is centering on its supermarkets. Ever since Austin-based Whole Foods was sold to Amazon, the remaining grocery players have been upping the tech ante. The latest? The nation’s largest supermarket chain Kroger has just launched a self-driving delivery service in Houston (Walmart has been testing similar deliveries since last year). Texan brand H-E-B, meanwhile, has bought a home-delivery company called Favor. These choices may prove that the market craves convenience but wouldn’t competition over food quality and diversity serve consumers better?

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Hungry for success

Daniel Bach breaks bread with Big Mamma group’s Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux: French restaurateurs who opened their first Italian in Paris in 2013. Today they have nine venues, including a first outside France: a brand new trattoria in London’s Shoreditch.

Monocle Films / Copenhagen and Mexico City

Future cities – mobilising change

Monocle Films travels to Copenhagen and Mexico City with Audi to see how cities and their citizens are facing the challenge of building sustainable mobility in urban settings.

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