Wednesday. 22/12/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Genevieve Bates

Lack of luxury

More than 51 per cent of sales by the top 100 luxury goods companies last year were made by just 10 firms. At the top of the league was LVMH, with sales that were more than double the value of the next in line, Kering. Of course, none of these firms are monoliths. LVMH encompasses 75 distinct brands from Christian Dior to Dom Pérignon. Deloitte’s annual Global Powers of Luxury Goods 2021 report also reveals that Gen Alpha consumers, meaning children born since 2010, are already being targeted by all the big luxury houses. Fond as I am of a glass of Dom Pérignon (particularly the 1990 vintage), in the face of such vast global expansion by the big luxury groups, it might feel like it’s time to retreat to quirky, local and less familiar brands.

I’m not quite ready to follow the example of novelist and bookshop co-owner Ann Patchett, whose essay “My Year of No Shopping” from her recently published book These Precious Days details how a hiatus from all except grocery and book purchases rewarded her with more free time, a greater appreciation of the things she owned and that others gave her. In a similar experiment, I recently went two years without buying anything new to wear – though my own arbitrary rules permitted secondhand buys, which meant that some luxury items that would be unaffordable if bought new were within reach.

For my next retail resolution, I’m wondering whether an elevated experience of the “buy less but better” ethos might be found by limiting oneself to smaller brands that aren’t found in every corner of the globe, such as Salon champagne, William Lockie cashmere or James Smith & Sons umbrellas. This approach won’t necessarily save money or the environment but it just might deliver a richer, more personalised experience – and that would indeed be a luxury.

Image: Getty Images

Health / Global

Proportionate response

As millions of us were gearing up for festive gatherings this weekend, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured), director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), intervened to urge us to consider postponing some holiday events to protect public health. The warning came as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly worldwide, becoming the dominant strain in many countries, including the US. Nonetheless, it’s important to point out that even the WHO is not advising against all holiday plans – just large events. “We’re not saying you can’t have small gatherings with your family if everyone is vaccinated and you’re careful about ventilation,” WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris told The Briefing on Monocle 24. “We’re simply saying, ‘Look at what your risks are and look at how to limit them.’” While exercising caution and getting vaccinated remain key, go to see your families if you can. We all deserve a bit of holiday cheer.

Image: Shutterstock

Media / Poland

High-stakes game

All eyes in Poland are on president Andrzej Duda this week amid calls for him to veto a new law that would bar non-European ownership of the country’s media companies. The bill has drawn the ire of the EU, the US and many Poles, some of whom protested at the weekend (pictured). Supporters of the bill argue that it targets Russia but the immediate effect would be to require US company Discovery to sell its majority stake in TVN, an independent television network and owner of a 24-hour news channel.

The US State Department warned that this would “severely affect media freedom and the foreign investment climate in Poland”. The question for Duda is whether he wants to risk Poland’s relationships with the EU and US. Inflaming tensions on both fronts could be a step too far, even for Poland.

Image: Getty Images

Retail / USA

Buying power

Digital shopping options might have expanded significantly throughout the pandemic but there is a good reason why many top brands are not betting the house on online sales driving all of their growth for the future. “People have been talking about the end of shopping centres for as long as I’ve been alive,” Matthew Whitman Lazenby, CEO of Whitman Family Development, owner of Bal Harbour Shops, in Miami, told Monocle 24’s The Chiefs. Lazenby says that there’s an emotional connection between buyer and retailer that happens while in-store that remains essential for many labels, particularly at a time when people are looking for real-world experiences. “Certainly there have been a number of retailers who have gone extinct,” he adds. “But the resurgence of the bricks-and-mortar world – particularly in the luxury end of the spectrum – shouldn’t surprise anyone.”

To hear more on how a rethink on layout and design is driving Bal Harbour’s success and plans for expansion, tune in to the latest edition of ‘The Chiefs’ on Monocle 24.

Fashion / Global

Breaking the link

It might feel sometimes as though human communication is inexorably migrating online but some key fashion players sought to buck that trend this year. On Black Friday, British handmade cosmetics brand Lush pledged to stop posting on its social media accounts across 48 countries, citing the damaging effect of such platforms on mental health. “We’re talking about suicide here, not spots or whether someone should dye their hair blonde,” said Lush chief digital officer Jack Constantine (pictured) at the time. Despite the fashion world’s reliance on such feeds to drive e-commerce sales, Bottega Veneta was among those making a similar move and shut down their social media presence earlier this year. Though derided as a pre-season stunt, the house never reactivated its feeds and has launched a quarterly print publication, Issue, in their place. While social media’s utility for long-distance contact is beyond doubt, expect a recalibration of its place in our lives – and in company communication – over the coming year.

Image: Juho Kuva

M24 / The Chiefs

Turkka Kuusisto

Monocle’s editorial director Tyler Brûlé is joined by the CEO of Finland’s Posti, Turkka Kuusisto. As Christmas looms, we ask one of the leading players in logistics whether we’ll be getting our gifts in time. Plus: how an innovative new flagship is designed to reinvigorate the post office as a physical space.

Monocle Films / Global

The Monocle Book of Homes

Allow us to introduce you to The Monocle Book of Homes. A guide to exceptional residences, the title is packed with beautiful photography, inspiring stories ­and few tips on making the most of your living space. So what are you waiting for? Come on in. Available now at The Monocle Shop.

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