Thursday. 25/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Natalie Theodosi

Retail shake-up

It’s one of the biggest mergers that the fashion industry has seen in recent years. Yesterday, luxury conglomerate Richemont announced the sale of 47.5 per cent of its online platform Yoox Net-a-Porter (already the offspring of consolidation in the sector) to online retailer Farfetch. Investment vehicle Symphony Global bought an additional 3.2 per cent, leaving YNAP with no majority shareholder. The news raises tough questions about the future of online retail.

Farfetch, founded by Portuguese entrepreneur José Neves, has long pitched its marketplace model – allowing brands to manage their online inventory – as a better alternative to YNAP’s classic wholesale business, where a buying team selects and purchases stock that it wants to show. You can now expect YNAP to move towards the Farfetch model and Neves has also suggested that he could fully acquire the company.

The landmark deal radically shifts the fashion industry’s power structure, turning Farfetch into a behemoth after multiple recent acquisitions including Condé Nast’s fledgling fashion news platform Style.com, beauty retailer Violet Grey and Milan-based New Guards Group. Richemont chairman Johann Rupert, meanwhile, said that the deal was part of a broader vision to create an independent online platform for its luxury brands, such as Cartier. But offloading the loss-making YNAP was no doubt the biggest motivator. “This seems like very good news; Richemont will finally remove YNAP from its perimeter, a continuing source of losses,” says Luca Solca, a luxury analyst at research firm Bernstein.

As for the original Net-a-Porter group, its star seems to be fading after a tumultuous decade that included a merger first with Yoox and later with Richemont. Its golden era as the industry’s top retailer, run by founder Natalie Massenet and complemented by elegant editorial content, is gone. The deal is also a sign that the luxury e-commerce model as we know it no longer works. Whether on online marketplaces or their own sites, brands are looking to regain control.

Natalie Theodosi is Monocle's fashion editor.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Ukraine & UK

United front

There was a time when critics suggested that Boris Johnson’s trips to Ukraine were planned to avoid the worst scandals back home. Now that Johnson is on his way out of office, the UK prime minister’s visit to Kyiv yesterday – on Ukraine’s independence day and exactly six months since Russia’s full-scale invasion began – could be celebrated for what it was: an ironclad commitment to stand by Ukraine’s side. Johnson, whose government sent weapons to Kyiv earlier and in greater numbers than most, was given Ukraine’s highest award for foreign nationals and promised that Ukraine “can and will win this war”, an important pledge at a time when many see the conflict with Russia grinding into something of a stalemate. Exactly how the UK will support Ukraine over the next six months under Liz Truss, who is widely expected to take over as prime minister next month, remains to be seen. Whatever happens, Ukraine is one of the few places where Johnson’s premiership will be deservedly celebrated long after he leaves office.

Image: Alamy

Tourism / Greece

Crowd control

The Greek tourism industry is having a banner year: the number of visitors is expected to exceed the record of 33 million who travelled here before the pandemic in 2019. That’s more than three times the country’s population. Some 5.12 million passengers arrived in July – up from 4.49 million in 2019 – and the Bank of Greece is forecasting annual tourism revenues of €20bn. But the surge is not without problems: scarce parking and high property demand in coastal hotspots is making life hard for residents of places such as the Cyclades archipelago.

Greece’s other islands are also overwhelmed: Santorini has begun limiting cruise ship arrivals as officials fear that they can’t meet the increased tourism demand. Even so, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is in Qatar this week, closing energy deals and promoting his country as a travel destination for citizens of Gulf states. For a nation as dependent on tourism as Greece, Mitsotakis should be careful not to let overcrowding kill the golden goose.

Image: 2018/2019 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd./Perrotin

Culture / USA

New frontiers

In their efforts to expand beyond the traditional art markets over the past few years, commercial galleries have pitched up in locations where potential wealthy customers like to holiday. But global player Perrotin’s decision to open a space in Las Vegas this month, inside the Bellagio Resort and Casino, still stands out as an outlier.

The Nevada city clearly isn’t short of people ready to part with their money but an art scene hasn’t really taken hold – until now. Perrotin’s decision to have a shop selling prints, editions and art objects, rather than a gallery, is also a symptom of the art world’s increasing interest in “merchandise” at a lower entry price for budding collectors. Perrotin’s Seoul gallery, which opened in 2016, was at the forefront of the Asian art world’s shift towards South Korea – perhaps this latest move will do the same for Sin City.

Image: Ivo de Bruijn

Transport / Netherlands

Pedal power

Dutch company VanMoof is on a mission to get more people to ride bicycles. With built-in wide-beam lights, keyless locking and anti-theft technology with GPS tracking, the company is convinced that it’s created the ultimate city bike. Founded in 2009 by Taco Carlier and his brother Ties, the aim is to get people to trade in their cars for one of their zippy alternatives.

“In Amsterdam, about 50 per cent of all commutes are on bikes,” Taco tells Monocle as he shows us around the company’s new headquarters in Amsterdam for Monocle’s September issue. The way they see it, the rest of the world should follow suit. And while VanMoof's goals are certainly ambitious, Carlier is optimistic. “I’m convinced that in the next 10 to 20 years, we’ll see just as many cyclists on the streets of Paris, London, New York and San Francisco.”

Buy a copy of Monocle’s September issue, which is on newsstands now, or subscribe today for the full story.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / On Design

St Catherine’s College, Oxford

We learn about Arne Jacobsen’s designs for an Oxford college in the UK and pay a visit to a Florentine milliner. Plus: the future with the electric car brand Genesis.

Monocle Films / Global

The Monocle Book of Photography

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