Friday. 10/5/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Hooked on a feeling

Already this month two bits of news hinting at the future of retail have snagged headlines. Rent the Runway, the innovative luxury clothing rental company, opened a flagship in San Francisco earlier this week, while department store Nordstrom announced it will unveil a pair of Nordstrom Local outposts in Manhattan in September.

The most interesting thing is the fact that none of these “shops” sell clothes. Instead, all are premises where customers can collect online purchases or rentals, drop off returns and try things on for size (Nordstrom Local also offers a tailoring service). They feel somewhat prescient. Bricks-and-mortar locations won’t disappear but will shops become mere showrooms? Nicely branded spaces where we try on samples but need to follow up with an online order?

Not selling things in-store means fewer shop-floor staff are required and brands don’t need to have inventory on-site, which saves precious space. But it’s a troubling notion too: part of the joy of shopping is the immediacy of the purchase, of taking the item home with you in a natty bag; having to wait to place an order on your laptop removes that pleasure. The format works for niche players such as Rent the Runway but more conventional retailers should realise it’s worth appealing to shoppers’ emotions – spontaneous sales are not something to be sneezed at.

Geopolitics / Japan & Russia

Love islands?

Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono is meeting his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow today in an attempt to strengthen ties ahead of Vladimir Putin’s visit to Osaka for June’s G20 summit. But there’s a hitch: the disputed islands known in Japan as the Northern Territories and in Russia as the Southern Kuril Islands. Soviet troops seized the islands in the final days of the Second World War but Tokyo’s refusal to recognise Russia’s sovereignty has hampered relations since the 1950s. Putin would like to put the issue to bed – and finally sign a peace treaty with Japan – but the two countries are yet to reach a consensus. Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe will be hoping that the meeting is fruitful: he is keen to promote Russian-Japanese co-operation in the international arena. The G20 summit will put relations to the test.

Politics / France

Shaky foundations

France’s National Assembly will come together today to debate plans to rebuild Notre Dame cathedral. Last month’s fire at the national monument seemed to unite a bitterly divided country after months of protests on the streets of Paris. Rallying around the rebuilding effort seemed like an open goal for President Macron, who said that the cathedral would be restored within five years. Not so: more than 1,000 architects and heritage experts signed a petition last month warning that the timeframe would result in a botched job. Then an Élysée statement, which invited a modern rethink for the fallen spire, angered traditionalists. Macron will be hoping that today’s discussions come off without too much heat.

Politics / Philippines

Cruel intentions

The Philippines is gearing up for its midterm elections on Monday, which are viewed as a referendum on president Rodrigo Duterte’s first three years in office. Support for the contentious leader has proven remarkably robust, despite international condemnation of his deadly war on drugs and growing criticism from the Catholic Church in the country. Former police chief Ronald Dela Rosa, who initially led the crackdown on narcotics, is among the senate candidates running for the president’s PDP–Laban party. His grisly campaign has focussed on the issuing of death sentences to convicted drug dealers. The country needs a palliative approach to crime and drug addiction, not politicians who are willing to ape Duterte’s cruel policies to wend their way to power.

Art / Venice

Point of view

Taking in the sheer amount of content on offer at the Venice Biennale is an overwhelming task but visitors would do well to remember to pause and reflect, rather than rush from stand to stand. At Ireland’s pavilion, Eva Rothschild’s monumental sculpture reminds us of the importance of taking a moment to be present. A tower of blocks called Amphi is designed to encourage visitors to climb up and take a seat; it’s about taking in a new perspective on the fair. “I thought of it as a social space so that people could spend time and engage with the exhibition from a different standpoint,” she says.

M24 / Monocle On Design: Extra

Straight to the moon

The idea of settling on the moon was once considered science fiction – but could it become a reality? Given the radical difference in atmosphere and vast lack of resources, we find out what materials could be used for building.

Monocle Films / New release

The Escapist 2019

Packed with sunny reports, heated opinion and luminous photography, The Escapist is essential reading this summer. Enjoy our far-reaching Travel Top 50, go off the beaten track in Morocco, discover why Biarritz is the perfect fit and much more. Please proceed to check-in…

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