Friday 13 January 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 13/1/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Natalie Theodosi

Quality time

Take a glance at recent headlines about the future of luxury fashion and the outlook might appear bleak: most new-year predictions seemed to warn of revenue dips and the need to cut costs. But this week there’s a more positive mood in Florence, where menswear trade fair Pitti Immagine Uomo has welcomed back international buyers from countries such as Japan and South Korea, alongside guest designers from the UK, Finland, Belgium and more.

Brand owners are acknowledging that price hikes are inevitable for everything from raw materials to production and transportation. Reassuringly, however, no one seems willing to simply fall back on cost-cutting. Instead, designers are committing to quality, European manufacturing and partnerships with speciality menswear shops. Some mainstream department stores might have slowed down their investments in favour of riding the streetwear wave but there are plenty of other opportunities to do business with boutiques that continue to recognise the value of a good garment, according to Marie Ramberg, who represents Swedish shirt-maker Stenströms. “We’re still confident because we’re a brand that people can trust will deliver on staples,” she tells me. “That’s a strength during difficult economic times.”

She’s right: for many, the appeal has shifted from newness for its own sake to well-made, hard-working products. Examples at the fair include a smart velour polo shirt from up-and-coming Spanish label Unfeigned and Valstar’s luxurious brushed-wool and cashmere coat. Some in the fashion crowd might roll their eyes and dismiss such an approach as boring but Belgian designer Jan-Jan Van Essche proved them wrong on Wednesday with a captivating catwalk show and dance performance in the city’s Santa Maria Novella church complex that featured nothing but classic designs and great tailoring. It was a reminder that being the loudest person in the room isn’t the only way to make an impression.

Natalie Theodosi is Monocle’s fashion editor. Hear more from her time at Pitti on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’.

Image: Getty Images


Oil and troubled waters

The choice of president of the Cop28 climate conference, which will take place later this year in the UAE, is raising eyebrows. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber (pictured) heads the country’s state oil company, ADNOC. He is also the minister of industry and technology, and the UAE’s climate envoy. The appointment intensifies questions over the credibility of the conference; the host nation has already faced criticism over its status as one of the world’s biggest producers of oil and gas. “Sultan Al Jaber has a track record of engagement in efforts to combat climate change but he is the chief of an oil company with one of the largest carbon footprints in the world,” William Law, editor of the London-based Arab Digest tells The Monocle Minute. “You can call it sleight of hand or a bold strategy – but, either way, it could easily backfire with big consequences for the environment.”

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Cuba

Island exodus

The number of political prisoners in Cuba is continuing to rise. According to figures just released by Madrid-based human-rights organisation Prisoners Defenders, the Caribbean island added 29 politically motivated detainees in December last year, bringing the total to 1,057. One of the most high-profile cases involves rapper Maykel Osorbo, a Latin Grammy winner and member of the dissident San Isidro movement, who has been imprisoned since May 2021 after a range of allegations including public disorder.

Prisoners Defenders claims that there are thousands of arbitrary arrests made in Cuba every year and that there are currently 36 minors among the political prisoners. Whether because of the US embargo, tough living conditions or dissatisfaction with the political situation, Cubans are continuing to emigrate in large numbers. More than 227,000 left last year and a similar figure is expected in 2023.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Italy

Way off target

Many cities have a pest problem: foxes roam London, for example, and crows are a common sight in Tokyo. Rome, meanwhile, is contending with an increasing number of boars on its streets. Italy’s government has adopted an aggressive strategy to address the problem. Last month the ruling right-wing coalition introduced a measure allowing hunters to shoot wild animals in urban areas – but some people have embraced this with too much relish. Earlier this week a man was arrested on the outskirts of the Italian capital for carrying a crossbow and knives without a licence during an early-morning hunt. Animal-rights organisations such as WWF have condemned the new law, arguing that it’s ineffective and puts citizens at risk of being accidentally shot. City halls should look at the root causes of such invasions instead of coming up with solutions on the hoof.

Image: Art SG / Debbie


City-state of the art

The inaugural edition of Southeast Asia’s largest art fair, Art SG, opened yesterday in Singapore and runs until Sunday. Blue-chip and independent galleries have filled exhibition booths at Marina Bay Sands, displaying work by about 1,000 artists from more than 30 countries. “I’m Singaporean and we’ve been waiting for a major event like this for a very long time,” fair director Shuyin Yang tells The Monocle Minute. She describes Art SG as “an international-level art fair, grounded in Singapore and Southeast Asia”.

Galleries such as Richard Koh and Gajah Gallery are spotlighting emerging painters and sculptors from across the region. Relaxed travel restrictions mean that Chinese gallerists are running their own booths and mainland buyers can browse in person. Firms such as Hong Kong’s WOAW Gallery are also opening new branches in Singapore – a further sign that the city-state might have a bright future as a regional art hub.

Image: Getty Images


Brixton Windmill, London

Louis Allen takes us to a centuries-old building that still stands in London’s Brixton neighbourhood and is emblematic of the area’s agrarian past.

Monocle Films / Global

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