Wednesday. 29/1/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Cutting its cloth

The notion of closing borders is totally at odds with the melting pot that is the UK fashion industry, fuelled as it is by designers and makers from myriad cultural backgrounds. Indeed, few UK industries are as deeply tied to the European continent as fashion. But there are other important, potentially devastating economic factors at play here too.

This is why the fashion industry is pushing for the negotiation of a comprehensive EU trade deal that would avoid tariffs on goods. The British Fashion Council has cited estimates that a no-deal Brexit, switching from EU to World Trade Organisation rules, would cost the UK fashion industry between £850m (€1bn) and £900m (€1.06bn) a year, due to export and import tariffs on raw materials and finished products. When you consider the shoestring budgets that small brands are playing with, such tariffs could be the difference between staying afloat and going bust. Some brands have already taken practical measures to mitigate this: Studio Nicholson, a London-based label with a big customer base in Japan, has opened a warehouse in Portugal to house its Europe-made stock so that it needn’t touch down in the UK at all.

There’s an argument that Brexit could encourage UK brands to produce locally. The idea of bolstering homegrown manufacturing is appealing and the UK still has some great factories, especially for knitwear. But whether these sites are capable of taking on a big influx of orders is another matter; the UK’s factories have become much depleted in recent decades because many brands now produce their wares offshore. “Until we know what our trade deal with Europe is, it’s hard to comment on the possible threats or opportunities that our separation from the EU will bring,” says Patrick Grant, creative director of brands including E Tautz and Community Clothing. “But what I do know is that fashion’s long-established supply chains stretch across Europe and if we’re to stand the best chance of seeing the benefits then we need open the borders for goods.”

Elections / Ireland

Plausible alternative?

Irish parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have dominated the country’s political landscape since the 1930s but hardline nationalists Sinn Féin and their leader Mary Lou McDonald (pictured) could be about to challenge their duopoly. Polls suggest that the party could win as much as 20 per cent of the vote in next week’s general election, breaking out of its traditional territory in Northern Ireland. The party, which supports a referendum on Irish unity, has scored by focusing on domestic issues such as healthcare and housing, and attracting younger voters less impacted by its past and more able to shrug off its alleged links to dissident Republicans today. “People born in the 1990s can’t remember the awful role that Sinn Féin and the IRA played in perpetuating violence during the Troubles,” the BBC’s former Ireland correspondent, Denis Murray, tells The Monocle Minute. But, he adds, Ireland’s mainstream still has a chance to change course. “Much as a large part of the electorate would like to see a change, the leader of one of the old parties will be the Irish Republic’s next prime minister.”

Urbanism / San Francisco

Applying the brakes

From today, the busiest road in San Francisco – Market Street – is permanently banning private vehicles. The move is part of the city’s “Better Market Street” plan to revitalise a 3.5km stretch of the thoroughfare, making it safer for pedestrians and cyclists while maximising the use of public buses and streetcars. City residents who are concerned that barring traffic from Market Street will create gridlock on other roads should look to New York to allay their fears. Last October, Manhattan launched the 14th Street Busway, which operates similar restrictions to those of Market Street. The scheme has enabled buses to travel more quickly and increased their ridership on the route by 25 to 30 per cent, while the impact on the travel times of cars on nearby streets has been negligible.

Design / UK & Denmark

Block booking

London’s Coal Drops Yard shopping complex became a whole lot more colourful yesterday when designer Camille Walala (pictured) unveiled her giant installation “House of Dots”, a collaboration with Denmark’s Lego. “House of Dots” comprises about two million Lego tiles and eight shipping containers, and has been built with the help of 180 children. It aims to drum up publicity for the launch of the new Lego Dots range – mosaic-tile-like Lego pieces aimed at teaching kids to be more creative. At a time when the bright screens of smart devices are replacing the crayons and pencils of children’s play, the Lego brand continues to encourage a more hands-on approach to creativity. Lego is keeping its design credentials to the fore with this project and we imagine that it won’t only be little hands that are inspired to ditch their devices and dust off their plastic bricks. It might also drum up some trade for the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Coal Drops Yard which, though beautiful, is low on footfall.

Society / South Korea

That’s hanji

South Korea’s Samsung was a first-time stallholder at this week’s Paperworld, the world’s largest trade fair for paper, office supplies and stationery that has taken place in Frankfurt since 1990. The technology giant exhibited its new digital flipchart. But it’s the analogue world that remains the primary focus of this fair and South Korea arguably stole the show here too. Drawing a large crowd was the Korea Craft and Design Foundation’s exhibition on hanji, a traditional paper made using the bark of mulberry trees. The versatility of this softly textured and highly durable material was showcased by a handful of the country’s brightest young design talents crafting everything from fans and masks to wrapping paper. The lesson is one for all of us: a bit of digital life is good but don’t forget to put pen to paper every once in a while.

M24 / Food Neighbourhoods

Vientiane

Monocle’s Nicholas Toomey takes us on a culinary tour around the capital of Laos.

Monocle Films / Spain

Speciality retail: Barcelona

Offering the best in local produce and rare wines, Vila Viniteca continues the Spanish retail tradition of a no-nonsense ‘colmado’ in the historic neighbourhood of el Born.

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