Thursday. 5/9/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Run the risk

This week, a cautionary tale unfolded in Helsinki concerning the Finnish fashion and homeware brand Samuji. Founded a decade ago by Samu-Jussi Koski, Samuji amassed a cult following for its clean womenswear silhouettes and punchy prints. It opened a New York flagship in 2016 and at its peak in 2017 it garnered €2.2m in annual sales and had stockists from Tokyo to LA.

Yet, like so many independent brands, the cash flow dried up (international expansion is a risky thing) and, last week, Samuji issued a heartfelt call on its website and social-media feeds asking the public to save it from bankruptcy. “As we sometimes do in life, when trying to grow a business, we misjudge some of the risks and find ourselves in an economic situation that challenges our business,” the brand wrote on Finnish crowdfunding platform Mesenaatti. It was aiming for €400,000 (although €150,000 would save it from immediate bankruptcy); it made just over €200,000.

For now it looks like Samuji will live to fight another day but the incident is sobering. The fashion industry celebrates beautiful things but many of the small brands propping it up survive because they are canny with money and are always hustling to get their designs in front of customers. Samuji’s emotional plea reminds us of the perils of being an entrepreneur; there is a lesson here for us all.

Brexit / UK

My way or the highway

UK politics has undergone a full makeover this week – and it’s not pretty. On Tuesday night prime minister Boris Johnson lost a key ballot, with 21 of his own MPs – many of them longstanding Conservative party fixtures – defying his wishes by voting to block a no-deal exit from the EU. Johnson has stripped these rebels of their roles and barred them from standing in the next general election, which he is now attempting to call sooner rather than later. “This is an insane tactic,” Lance Price, Tony Blair’s former director of communications, told The Briefing. “Johnson has sent a message to everyone who voted for these MPs that there is no room for them in the party. He has permanently tarnished the Conservative brand.”

Protests / Hong Kong

Win some, lose some

It was a victory for the protesters who have been on the streets of Hong Kong for months. The Chinese territory’s Beijing-endorsed leader Carrie Lam yesterday made a television address to withdraw the controversial extradition bill that would have allowed residents to be tried on the mainland, a challenge to the “one nation, two systems” convention in place since Hong Kong’s independence from the UK in 1997. Suspended since June, the formal removal of the bill seems unlikely to end the crisis, even if it quells demonstrations in the short-term. Lam wouldn’t cede to four other demands from protesters, including curbing police brutality and implementing full democracy. With Lam refusing to resign and democracy activists far from appeased, the stand-off could continue for some time yet.

Railways / Switzerland

End of the line

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) is in crisis mode following news of CEO Andreas Meyer’s resignation. After what will be 13 years at the helm – during which he has modernised the railways and advanced digitisation – he will leave the post in 2020. The timing could not be worse. The company reached a tragic low last month when a door defect led to a fatal accident in Baden; since then, concerns over insufficient maintenance measures have multiplied. On top of that, the FV-Dosto long-distance double-decker trains from Bombardier have caused a host of problems and punctuality – something the Swiss pride themselves on – has suffered. Meyer has been accused of being a fair-weather captain but insists he simply wants to leave the business before the age of 60.

Architecture / The US

Build up your hopes

The US Rust Belt isn’t the first place one would normally look for examples of mid-century architecture. But Buffalo, in New York state, is home to an array of modernist gems from names such as architect Max Abramovitz, who worked on the UN headquarters in New York, and Louis Sullivan, the founding father of American modernism. This is why building-conservation group, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, is staging its first ever Modernism Week. Starting tomorrow, a series of lectures and walking tours will give attendees a chance to delve into the city’s architectural heritage, learning about its impact on contemporary urbanism elsewhere. The event’s showpiece lecture, by urbanist Irene Ayad, will unpick Sullivan’s groundbreaking Guaranty Building and the role it played in the development of the modern skyscraper, which forever changed the way our cities are built.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Fiol Prosecco

Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo is the co-founder of Fiol Prosecco. Gian Luca grew up in a wine-producing family in the Prosecco region and, after years of working for Armani and Moncler in Milan, he was looking for something to take him back to his home in Treviso. Along with childhood friends Pietro and Giovanni Ciani Bassetti, Passi de Preposulo launched luxury brand Fiol that, he is hoping will boost the profile of prosecco as a premium product.

Monocle Films / Switzerland

Swiss spectacle: Fête des Vignerons

We clink glasses with winemakers at a once-in-a-generation festival in the otherwise tame town of Vevey. Fête des Vignerons is a parade of Swiss viticulture wisdom complete with cows, costumes and carousing.

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