Thursday. 18/7/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Putting your foot in it

It was day one of my summer holiday when the ribbing started. “What’s going on mate, are you a chef?” quipped my friends, gesturing at the black clogs from a famous German brand on my feet. It was my comeuppance: in London the day before I had questioned a stylist friend on her Havaianas flip-flops. I believe I said, “Are you wearing them ironically or do you actually like how they look?”

See, summer is the season of the sandals wars. Warm-weather shoes inspire more ire than most other fashion items and each year a different model dominates. Recently Adidas and Birkenstock have overrun the beaches of Europe with slides and Arizona sandals respectively. These German titans are being challenged by America’s Tevas and Japan’s Suicokes, whose riffs on the frankly hideous Reef Velcro sandals are proving popular.

Yet it looks like Brazil’s most famous fashion brand might have the next word: after a couple of years of slumping sales, Havaianas (and similar thong-sandals by other brands) are tip-toeing back into fashion. The rubber flip-flops were sported by a number of industry folk at the recent summer menswear shows, a harbinger of trends that will soon become mainstream. By next season we’ll all be shoving them into our beach totes.

Politics / The US

Safe pair of hands?

The current US administration is woefully understaffed, from government departments to ambassadorial positions. But the hunt for a new secretary of defence – unoccupied since Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis stepped down at the end of last year – may be over. Prospective candidate Mark Esper’s Senate hearing earlier this week was uncontroversial save for an exchange where Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren laid into him over his previous work lobbying for defence contractor Raytheon. There are reasons to be optimistic, however: Esper’s confirmation – which could come as early as this week – may well quell the sabre-rattling over Iran. Unlike Donald Trump’s fire and fury, he has previously stated that diplomacy, rather than war, is the answer for current tensions in the Persian Gulf. That’s resulted in a few tentative sighs of relief in global diplomatic quarters, no doubt.

Business / France

Taking its toll

The financial practices of large digital firms will be called into question today as finance ministers from the G7 nations (pictured, L-R: François Villeroy de Galhau, governor of the Bank of France; Olaf Scholz, Germany's finance minister; and Bruno Le Maire, France's finance minister) meet in Chantilly, France. A number of digital giants have made headlines recently by pushing the boundaries of ageing international tax laws, with the declaration of profits in low-tax countries a particular problem. Earlier this month France took action by introducing a levy on digital firms operating in the country, a measure that provoked the threat of legal action from the US. Despite those tensions, more than 130 countries are now thought to agree that an international overhaul is needed.

Retail / Italy

Balancing the books

Independent bookshops around the world have shown that they can survive competition from Amazon and other big chains by ramping up the quality of service – but a little help from state regulation wouldn’t go amiss. In Italy a new law has capped the discount that booksellers can apply to their titles to a maximum of 5 per cent (down from 15 per cent). The idea is to prevent larger players slashing prices in bulk. In a bid to encourage reading and book-buying in the long term, the law also includes proposals to establish libraries in all public schools and sets aside €500,000 a year for the programming of an annual “book capital city”, as well as offering tax credits for new independent retailers. Other countries would do well to take a leaf from Italy’s book.

Business / Japan

Rain, rain go away

In 2018 there was talk of a deadly heatwave but this year Japan’s summer has been a washout. An unusually long rainy season has been the culprit; beaches, beer gardens and swimming pools are deserted. Until Tuesday the Tokyo metropolitan area had enjoyed fewer than three hours of sunshine per day for 20 days running; it’s the longest streak since the Japan Meteorological Agency started collecting such data in 1961. Businesses are counting the cost too: electricity consumption is down and vegetable-growers are reporting that their crops are pallid due to a lack of sunlight. Sales of ice cream and beer, in particular, have slumped too. Some businesses, however, are benefitting from the poor weather: sales of dehumidifiers and futon driers have reportedly doubled since last year. Evidence points to more extreme weather in the future – retailers who rely on seasonal sales will have to learn to adapt.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Raeburn

Graeme and Christopher Raeburn are the brothers behind Raeburn, the east London fashion studio whose “remade, reduced, recycled” ethos is a benchmark for sustainable design. After a decade as head of design at cycling brand Rapha, Graeme returned to the company. Then earlier this year, to mark the 10th anniversary of Christopher’s first Remade collection – a series of pieces crafted from a single recycled parachute – the Christopher Raeburn label became simply Raeburn.

Monocle Films / Quality of Life Survey

Most liveable city, 2019: Zürich

From the revived Le Corbusier Pavilion to a slick airport extension, we take lessons in living better from this year’s winning city.

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