Monday 12 August 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 12/8/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Obsess

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Copy and paste

Last week I went shopping on my laptop. But I wasn’t presented with the usual neat rows of clothes against a white backdrop. Instead I toured a yoga studio – scrolling about a room filled with women stretching and dressed in new-season workout gear – before heading to a Manhattan apartment where my cursor hovered over round velvet cushions and bronze floor lamps. Feeling claustrophobic I headed for the mountains: models stood by a dirt track in the latest hiking apparel.

So what was I doing? Browsing the new e-commerce website by Obsess, a startup specialising in virtual-reality e-commerce. It was founded in 2017 but has mostly focused on B2B services, setting up websites for brands including Tommy Hilfiger and Levi’s. Now it’s doing its own thing. The company is backed by investors including Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates and its founder, Neha Singh, wants to propel e-retail forwards. She’s been quoted as saying, “Nobody has tackled changes to the e-commerce experience in 25 years.” She wants to make it “fun”.

The use of virtual-reality technology in e-commerce is an interesting proposition. But I tend to think that e-commerce and physical retail work best when each one emphasises its unique attributes: for e-commerce, convenience and speed; for physical retail, engaging experiences. Obsess is striving to turn online shopping from a quick purchase into an “experience”; it’s stepping into bricks-and-mortar territory. Do I want an “experience” on my laptop though? I’m not convinced.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Argentina

About turn?

The results of Argentina’s primary vote have signalled that the country may be ready for a change of course ahead of October’s presidential election. Despite restoring much of Argentina’s credibility among world leaders during his first term in office, it appears the country’s incumbent, Mauricio Macri, has lost favour after a series of broken economic promises and staggeringly high unemployment figures. The first round of Argentina’s election cycle – in which voting is mandatory – is intended to give the country a sense of the political course it’s on ahead of polling day. All is not lost for Macri: the coming months of campaigning will be crucial.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / Southeast Asia

Fresh start

As Jakarta struggles with a burgeoning population and ailing infrastructure, further hints have emerged about where Indonesia is likely to relocate its capital city. Isran Noor, governor of East Kalimantan in Borneo, declared last week that president Joko Widodo is eyeing an area of forest called Bukit Soeharto for the development. The 68,000-hectare plot has its advantages: it is close to two airports and is a safe distance from the region’s volcanically unstable Ring of Fire. But building here means decimating the biodiversity of the area and trampling swathes of forest. While the government might be keen to wipe the slate clean with a new city, the ecological cost seems too high.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Germany and the US

Base jumping

An ongoing spat between Germany and the US over defence spending and military support has resulted in Washington threatening to move its 35,000 soldiers on German soil elsewhere. The acerbic reaction comes after last month’s refusal by Berlin to send naval forces to a US-led mission off the coast of Iran or troops to Syria. As if that wasn’t enough to annoy Donald Trump, Germany spends 1.35 per cent GDP on defence, which is short of the 2 per cent suggested by Nato. Let Germany defend itself, says the commander in chief. There is a willing recipient of the troops located to the east: Poland has long lobbied for a greater US presence within its borders to deter Russian bullying.

Image: Omotesando Koffee

F&B / Global

Bean feast

One swallow does not make a summer but the arrival of two stylish Japanese coffee chains in London could indicate the next wave of caffeine consumption. Kyoto coffee company % Arabica is due to open two shops in the UK capital this year in choice locations: Broadway Market and Covent Garden. It follows the arrival of Omotesando Koffee in Fitzrovia at the end of last year. Both brands bring a Japanese eye for design and attention to detail to the competitive coffee market, which has been dominated this decade by Aussie-ground flat whites. % Arabica opened its Kyoto flagship in 2014 and has close to 40 locations around Asia, the Middle East and Europe. As fans pour in, founder Kenneth Shoji has plans to roll out franchises across Europe and North America.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Monocle Minute

Travel warnings for Hong Kong

Another weekend of protests grips Hong Kong, the US threatens to withdraw troops from Germany and can the rise of virtual retail replicate the real thing?

Monocle Films / Chicago

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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