Thursday. 6/6/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Last year’s fashion

Barbie’s having a big year. Earlier this week, some three months after celebrating her 60th birthday, the doll took home the board of directors’ Tribute award at the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards, the US fashion industry’s premier platform.

Barbie has many supporters. They say she has shown young girls that any profession is possible, is more inclusive than most other toys (there is now a wheelchair Barbie), has collaborated with countless designers and has shown commendable staying power. However, critics say that she has remained a whip-thin, cookie-cutter-pretty and, often, blonde-haired and blue-eyed embodiment of an idealised female form.

Beyond all this, the award feels like a missed opportunity to celebrate a real person’s contribution to fashion. Many individuals are working hard to propel the industry forward. Brands bucking stereotypes, publications celebrating body positivity and designers of colour promoting diversity are changing the way we look; conversations about tackling issues in sustainable manufacturing and responsible shopping are changing the way we consume. Are these efforts really best summed up by a doll? The decision to give the award to Barbie is only a few days old but it already feels dated.

Politics / Thailand

Rumblings in the ranks

Since Thailand’s military junta took control of the country in 2014, a democratic vote to choose a leader has been repeatedly called off. Yesterday Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former general who has been in charge since the coup, was chosen to lead the country following a contested general election. While Prayuth has gone to great lengths to recast himself as a civilian leader, many see the new administration as a junta by another name. “There’s a much larger group of people outside of Bangkok with a different opinion about who should govern the country and how,” says Bill Hayton, associate fellow of Chatham House’s Asia-Pacific programme. “We can expect to see mounting pressure for the government to reform.”

Crime / Italy

Not guilty

Some in Florence are worried about bad apples creeping into the city’s more picturesque neighbourhoods. In April the Tuscan capital’s prefect, Laura Lega, introduced “red zones”: areas where those who had been reported to police for violence or drug dealing would not be allowed to enter. The theory was that keeping these people out would curb disorderly behaviour and crime in the city’s tourist-filled districts; the idea won Lega brownie points with interior minister Matteo Salvini, who enthusiastically suggested that it should be expanded to other cities. But this week a tribunal put an end to the experiment, reasoning that people can’t be presumed to be committing offences based on their previous transgressions.

Business / Japan

Paternity test

Japan offers men the best paternity leave in the world. But while male workers are permitted up to 12 months paid leave to bond with their children and help their spouses, only a tiny proportion are choosing to do so. Most are eschewing time at home to knuckle down at the office, worrying that prolonged periods away will scupper their chances of promotion or a pay rise. But, in another move to reform Japan’s working culture – see yesterday’s Monocle Minute – the government has formed a group to assess the idea of making paternity leave compulsory. Supporters of the idea say that it would lighten the load for young mothers (enabling them to return to work quicker) and make procreation a more attractive prospect, thereby boosting the birth rate. Reversing the deeply entrenched culture of diligence, however, will be hard work.

Retail / New York

Grand opening

Seattle-headquartered retailer Nordstrom is betting big on New York. On Tuesday, Monocle donned a hard hat for a preview of the brand’s new womenswear department store that’s due to open on 24 October. Located near Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, the vast complex combines three historic buildings that have been knocked through and adjoined with a new build; the façade will feature wave-like windows designed by architect James Carpenter. Inside, the layout will be open plan but with chainmail “veils” as part of a concerted effort to do away with box windows and pleated glass. While much is written about empty shopfronts and the demise of retail in New York, Nordstrom’s undertaking makes a bold statement.

M24 / The Foreign Desk: Explainer

Australia’s first Indigenous Minister for Indigenous Australians

For the first time in the 50-odd years that the role has existed, Australia’s Minister for Indigenous Australians is an indigenous Australian. This may seem surprising; or not, given Australia’s less-than-perfect history on this front. Andrew Mueller asks if this is something to celebrate or if Australia needs to use this as another opportunity to take a long hard look at its past.

Monocle Films / Sweden

Stockholm: The Monocle Travel Guide Series

Set in a glittering archipelago, Stockholm is one of our favourite summer getaways. Monocle's travel guide will help you locate Stockholm’s best hotels and most delectable restaurants, and show you what else to discover tucked away from the Swedish capital’s charming waterfront. Published by Gestalten, The Monocle Travel Guide to Stockholm is available now at The Monocle Shop.

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