Thursday. 7/10/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Spice traders

Most people think of band merchandise as primarily consisting of printed T-shirts, hoodies and posters. But if, like me, you grew up in the 1990s you’ll remember when the Spice Girls arrived on the scene and stretched the concept to its limit. In 1997 I had Spice Girls-themed everything: watch, pencil sharpener, sweets, diaries.

A legion of schoolgirls (and their accommodating parents) helped the Spice Girls to create a branding empire and to reshape the way that musicians could make big money in the process. Earlier acts – such as Nirvana, The Ramones, Kiss, AC/DC and Madonna – had also benefited from merchandise sales but for the Spice Girls they were more than just a side business. They represented millions of euros’ worth of deals that could supersede ticket sales. That’s why the recent news that the reunited girl band have struck a new deal with Universal’s merchandising arm Bravado is as big as that of their sellout comeback tour in 2019. It means that, in addition to a special-edition box set marking their 25th anniversary next year, more mugs, dolls and stationery might soon be on the way.

Is there still an appetite for all of this tat today? You need only look at the way in which contemporary US rappers are investing in limited-edition “drops” of clothing to understand that today’s music marketing tactics have grown from the seed that the Spice Girls planted decades ago. As physical sales dwindle, global tours are curtailed and streaming fees remain paltry, merchandise can become a musician’s only solid source of income. Spice World appears to be alive and well after all.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Taiwan & USA

War games

Taiwan’s defence ministry issued an ominous warning yesterday that China will be capable of mounting a full-scale land invasion of the self-governing island by 2025. It comes as nearly 150 military aircraft entered Taiwan’s airspace in the past week and talks took place in Zürich between US and Chinese officials with the aim of dialling back the recent tensions. “The kind of harassment that’s going on is largely about demoralising Taiwan, rather than a signal that an invasion might be imminent,” Isabel Hilton, founder of ‘China Dialogue’, tells Monocle 24’s The Briefing. Many now believe that Taiwan needs to focus less on air defences and more on an “asymmetric defence strategy” that raises the cost of any potential occupation, says Hilton. The intention of Taiwan’s warning seems to be to refocus allies such as the US on the longer-term picture. “It’s very difficult for Taiwan to defend itself without the assumption that others would come to its aid," says Hilton.

For the latest on Taiwan, the US and China, tune in to today's edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Mark Blower/Frieze

Arts / UK

Past masters

The Frieze Art Fair tents are returning to Regent’s Park in London next week. Across the park Frieze Masters, the art franchise’s sister fair, is also reopening its doors on 13 October. Featuring everything from rare antiquities to luminaries of the 20th century, Frieze Masters is akin to visiting a vast array of museums spanning the cultural history of the world.

“It’s all about looking at the art of the past through the eyes of the present,” Nathan Clements-Gillespie, director of Frieze Masters, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. Highlights include a solo exhibition of unseen works by South African artist William Kentridge and the celebrated Spotlight section dedicated to pioneers of the avant garde. New this year is a section called Stand Out, where the premise “is to take the decorative out of decorative arts”, Clements-Gillespie said. “Just because objects had a functional purpose doesn’t mean they are any less works of art than a canvas or a sculpture.”

Image: Alamy

Society / Japan

Student movement

There’s a queue of people waiting to enter Japan: students rather than tourists. A survey conducted in July found that 93 per cent of foreign students – 15,877 people – who enrolled across 480 Japanese language schools this year failed to receive a green light to enter the country; another 7,000 have been waiting since last year. And with Japan still closed to most foreign arrivals, there’s been no clear sign of the queue letting up.

Instead, many students are starting to give up, switching their destination to neighbouring nations such as South Korea and Taiwan. And while this is not to say that Japan should open borders to all comers, the long-term impact of barring students, particularly on Japan’s soft power, shouldn’t be ignored. Young global talents who are inspired to learn the language and move to Japan deserve to be cultivated; they’ll be the unofficial Japan ambassadors in the future. Who wants them to say sayonara?

Image: Getty Images

Cinema / South Korea

Getting the big picture

Asia’s largest film festival got under way in South Korea this week with a lavish opening ceremony and a determination to celebrate the experience of going to the cinema. The 26th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) will screen more than 200 films over 10 days and every feature-length title will be shown exclusively on big screens across South Korea’s second city. BIFF’s new director, Huh Moon-young, has promised to create a “festive playground” this year in marked contrast with 2020’s scaled-back event. “Film festivals are all about gathering to watch a film and share feelings about it with each other,” he said at a press conference last month. Though only a handful of international stars will be on the red carpet, 70 countries will be represented in the festival programme. BIFF concludes next Friday with the world premiere of Anita, a biopic about the late Hong Kong screen icon Anita Mui, who was a huge star during Hong Kong’s cinema heyday.

M24 / Monocle On Design

The varied world of architecture models

We explore the weird and wonderful world of architectural models at a new exhibition in London and learn a few tips to transform our wardrobe. Plus: why a city-based architect is focusing on improving rural life.

Monocle Films / Global

Tailoring’s youthful refit

They might not fit the archetype of the high-end tailor but a new generation of smart young outfitters are now at the cutting edge of bespoke menswear. We get the measure of four such craftsmen in London, Berlin, Hong Kong and Perugia.

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