Thursday. 4/7/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Living the dream

This week, fashion editors join the world’s wealthiest clients in Paris for Couture Week. Here Europe’s most storied maisons – Chanel, Dior, Givenchy et al – unveil one-of-a-kind designs that are often made by hand and can take hundreds of hours to construct.

But couture is about more than wildly expensive frocks. While it is unashamedly elitist, it is also a welcome escape from reality. In general, fashion is a deeply commercial industry, driven by the need to shift product. Couture, though, is fashion as art: only a tiny percentage of the population can afford bespoke creations. The shows are more about dream-weaving and showcasing what these houses can do when cost, time and manpower is of no concern.

Couture can seem like a relic from another era. But in the current climate of fast retail, constant scrolling on Instagram and rapid AI developments, celebrating the unbounded potential of people – whether genius creative directors or talented seamstresses – and being spirited to another world is a soothing balm.

Affairs / Italy

Out of the dock

The German captain of rescue ship Sea Watch has been released by the Italian authorities. Carola Rackete was arrested a few days ago for forcing her way into the port of Lampedusa, despite police trying to block her attempts to bring to safety more than 40 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean. Judge Alessandra Vella has ruled that the captain has not broken Italian law but has acted in accordance with her duty to save lives. The decision has enraged interior minister Matteo Salvini, who has launched a scathing (and, yes, predictable) attack on Italy’s magistrates. Meanwhile the debate on whether the actions of Rackete and her peers encourage perilous journeys will continue.

Business / Singapore

Shore thing

Since its independence in 1965, Singapore has used sand dredged from the sea bed to increase its land mass by a quarter of its original size. Last year the city-state grew by 2.7 sq km, importing 59 million tonnes of sand from Malaysia at a cost of €307m. Singapore’s northern neighbour is its main supplier, accounting for 97 per cent of the imported material in 2018. But yesterday it was revealed that Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad had in fact banned sand exports to Singapore months ago – reportedly in frustration at Singaporean expansion. Shipping is the biggest cost of importation so looking further afield will be costly; bargaining for a good price will be a test of Singapore’s grit.

Environment / Japan

Tailored approach

Fast Retailing Group – the Japanese retail giant behind Uniqlo – doesn't do things by halves. Yesterday it announced that it will be reducing its reliance on single-use plastic by up to 85 per cent by the end of next year; in real terms that means cutting 7,800 tonnes of plastic annually. All 3,500 of the group’s shops around the world, including Uniqlo, Theory and Comptoir des Cottoniers, will begin switching to paper bags from September; packaging will be reduced substantially too and reusable bags will be on sale. Fast Retailing says that its ultimate aim is to comb its supply chain in an effort to eliminate all unnecessary plastic from the business. Given that fashion is all too often a worryingly unsustainable industry, any such efforts are to be welcomed.

Infrastructure / Miami

Don’t bet on it

Getting new public-transport infrastructure off the ground in the US is never easy: those tasked with introducing it face numerous hurdles from government bureaucracy to taxpayers. Miami has arguably fared better than other US metropolises with its Brightline train and Metromover (pictured) link. But now it faces another test: whether to launch a bidding process for a new monorail linking it with the island of Miami Beach. An unusual pair is pushing for this to go through: casino behemoth Genting in partnership with Chinese manufacturer BYD Motors. Next week the county will vote on whether the project moves forward. We shouldn’t get carried away just yet though: a link to Miami Beach has been discussed since the 1980s.

M24 / The Foreign Desk: Explainer

Is Iran bluffing?

As a reaction to the withdrawal of the US from its nuclear deal with Iran, foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed that Tehran possesses more than 300kg of enriched uranium, exceeding the previously agreed limit. But with few allies, what options does Iran have if its bluff is called?

Monocle Films / USA

Chicago: The Monocle Travel Guide

The once-gritty meatpacking neighbourhood of Fulton Market is now Chicago’s top culinary hotspot. To celebrate the launch of our latest travel guide, Monocle Films samples some of its many delights.

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