Thursday. 23/5/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Redressing the balance

Could the role of the influencer – that social-media junkie who clogs up Instagram feeds with selfies, contrived outfits and #ad posts – be overrated? This week the Streetwear Impact Report has been published by streetwear aficionado Hypebeast, in conjunction with auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers. It’s a deep dive into an industry that has exploded in the past decade, cannibalising the luxury sector and making brands such as Supreme and Off-White very rich. One key finding in the survey is who, when it comes to streetwear, shapes shoppers’ decisions. Musicians have the biggest impact (cited by 65 per cent of respondents), followed by industry insiders (designers and editors). But influencers – who gain their currency from having big social-media followings and post numerous outfit changes daily – come in third, referenced by just 32 per cent of respondents.

Considering how much time and money brands invest in influencers (which, by the way, is a horrendous word), it’s a sobering result. But it makes sense. Younger generations cite a desire for brands to be “authentic” yet this is at odds with the way influencers work – a group often paid to wear what they wear. How are we to know what they really like? Perhaps it’s worth halting all that scrolling and instead turning to real life for cues. My enduring style inspiration is just guys on London’s Underground. They are a more honest set of style leaders so I think I’ll stick with them.

Society / Japan

Family man

At home, Japan’s prime minister is known as Abe Shinzo but in the West he’s Shinzo Abe. That inversion has been the case for at least a century but Tokyo now wants western nations to follow the Japanese convention of referring to people by family name first. This week foreign minister Taro Kono (or is that Kono Taro?) said he will be asking media companies to change the way they write Japanese names in time for the G20 summit in Osaka in June. The idea has been debated on and off by policymakers in Japan for nearly two decades but its revival (timed with the beginning of a new Japanese imperial era) suggests a country that is becoming more confident in asserting its agenda on the global stage. For more, listen to The Briefing on Monocle 24. Oh and for what it's worth, Monocle will be sticking to house style.

Culture / Memphis

External affairs

Opening (or expanding) a museum is a proven tactic for a city looking to elevate its status – and it’s a strategy that works even better when a world-famous architecture firm is enlisted to help. Memphis’s Brooks Museum of Art – Tennessee’s oldest – has bagged Herzog & de Meuron for the job of designing its new building. The Swiss firm has already worked on some of the US’s most beautiful new art venues – including Miami’s impressive Perez Art Museum (pictured) – and there’s a good chance that this will also prove to be a looker once plans are revealed next year. Striking architecture is always a boon for a museum but the hope here, as with the many other cases where big-name studios are called upon, is that the cultural offer within matches the attention-grabbing shell without.

Politics / UK

Making up the rules?

UK prime minister Theresa May’s fourth (and, you’d wager, final) Brexit proposal isn’t proving popular – and is likely to be voted down on 3 June. Meanwhile, detractors in her own party are employing some lateral thinking on how to remove her. Party rules forbid another vote of no confidence until December (12 months after the prime minister survived the last vote) but some senior Conservatives are calling for the regulations to be rewritten. It would enable them to see off May but would set a dangerous precedent. “It would mean any time there’s a difficulty, the players are liable to change the rules halfway through the game,” says Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “But there is such desperation right now that unless she offers to stand down, it is a real possibility.”

Aviation / China

In it for the long haul

Boeing has been in the doldrums, hit by a sustained brand bashing following two fatal crashes involving its 737 Max jetliners. However, it could soon be feeling further headwinds. Three Chinese airliners – state carriers Air China and China Southern, alongside China Eastern – are seeking compensation for the sustained grounding of the aircraft as the US manufacturer seeks to guarantee safety. The Chinese airlines want recompense for everything from delays to the delivery of new aircraft to disruption to services. Boeing will need to tread carefully: alongside North America and Europe, China is a vast market for the company – it anticipates the latter will need about 8,000 commercial planes over the next two decades. Not a bridge you’d want to burn.

M24 / The Foreign Desk: Explainer

Was Australia’s shock election result really that shocking?

As the results of Australia’s federal election were counted on Saturday night, those expecting a win for the left-wing Labor party had a bit of a shock. Despite years of opinion polls suggesting that opposition leader Bill Shorten only had to turn up, power was retained by conservative prime minister Scott Morrison and his Liberal party. But was it really the surprise that it seemed?

Monocle Films / Portugal

Porto Revival

Monocle visits Porto to learn how one city leader is determined to stop gentrification destroying his home.

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