Wednesday 27 December 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 27/12/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Gucci creative director, Sabato de Sarno

Image: Getty Images


All change

This year, fashion industry executives have been playing musical chairs more frequently than usual. Too many creative directors have been stepping down from their roles, resulting in major restructurings taking place inside some of the largest heritage houses. Rhuigi Villaseñor left his role at Bally after less than two years in the job; Matthew Williams and Gabriela Hearst recently departed Givenchy and Chloé respectively; while Gucci has just begun a new chapter following the exit of Alessandro Michele. In turn, fashion reporters have been going on a hunt for industry gossip: what will Michele do post-Gucci? Or who might be given the boot next?

It’s an unproductive conversation and an unsustainable system, requiring deep investment in ever-changing creative strategies. Reporters should really be asking what spurred this human resources crisis. The industry’s fast pace has a role to play but there’s also an issue with some companies’ selection criteria, prioritising fame or youth above skill and creativity. As they move into 2024, it’s time for brands to realise that the answer doesn’t always lie in the next bright young thing, hired straight out of fashion school.

Designers who are willing to put a brand’s heritage above their own personal vision – with experience of working in design studios and enjoying existing relationships with ateliers and factories – have better chances of success. It’s why Simone Bellotti’s version of Bally, anchored in the brand’s Swiss heritage, resonated so much better than its earlier attempt at streetwear. Equally, Sabato de Sarno’s new vision for Gucci, highlighting traditional house codes, is bound to yield results.

As fashion firms rethink their strategies and plan new hires for 2024, longer-term thinking and a brand-first approach will be essential to stop this game of musical chairs. The new year is set to be a challenging one, as global GDP slows down, but there’s also an opportunity here for these houses to return to their founding principles and build happier teams.

Natalie Theodosi is Monocle’s fashion editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


A view of Naples from the hilltop district of Vomero

Image: Getty Images


For the crater good

Faced with the possibility of an eruption from three active volcanoes surrounding Naples – and a recent increase in the number of earthquakes in the region – the Italian Department of Civil Protection is struggling to come up with viable solutions. From January 2024, the authorities will start surveying the safety of buildings in the Campi Flegrei – a large volcanic caldera in western Naples – in order to determine whether residents should be evacuated to different parts of Italy according to where they live. “Every municipality is associated with a given region,” Giuseppe de Natale, head of research at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, tells The Monocle Minute.

This means that the residents of Vomero, for example, would head to Sicily and residents of Puzzuoli would go to Lombardy. However, De Natale points out that the plan doesn’t include specifics such as the jobs that evacuees could undertake in their new locations. “A better solution would be to significantly decrease the population in the Campi Flegrei by giving residents an economic incentive to start a second life outside of the area – and before this becomes a critical emergency.”

For more on Italy’s evacuation plans, tune in to ‘The Globalist’, on Monocle Radio from 07.00 London time.

Image: Spenser Heaps


Dominating the slopes

Nearly 20 years since its launch, DPS is now the largest ski manufacturer in North America, a continent with no shortage of ski brands but very few ski makers. Since the company’s founding, the brand has sought to focus on high-end, carbon-fibre skis that provide users with better control when charging through turns in deep powder snow. But high-quality manufacturing is not the only factor in the company’s growth.

During its early days, DPS was the first to introduce the “spoon” ski shape – which allowed skiers to seemingly float above soft snow – and whose form was later adopted by many other brands. The product’s technical complexity means that DPS controls all aspects of manufacturing and cannot outsource as no other facility has the same expertise in carbon. DPS’s predilection for the material places its skis at a high price point but also turns them into a long-term investment for customers. As Thomas Laakso, DPS’s senior vice-president, tells Monocle during a recent visit: “When you buy it, you buy a ski that’s going to last longer than your interest.”

For our full report on DPS, pick up a copy of Monocle’s winter newspaper, Alpino, which is available to purchase now.


Course of action

Ethiopia’s youth are faced with acute unemployment and scarce opportunities but entrepreneur Daniel Hailu Endale is determined to change the narrative of his home country. His seven-year-old venture, Energy Ethiopia, is fast becoming a major training hub for engineering and technology skills in Addis Ababa, aimed at young people with limited financial resources. Many of those who pass through its programmes are presented with opportunities to work with companies providing technological solutions, while others become farmers and introduce new technologies to the agricultural arena. And there are now free training courses in coding for teenagers. Hailu Endale plans to expand his model across Africa, opening offices in DRC’s capital Kinshasa as well as Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial hub. There is also a global office in Dubai. Hailu Endale insists that Energy Ethiopia is not a company founded merely to make money but to transform Africa by providing solutions. “There are two dimensions to education: universities give young people a wonderful foundation but training provides the practical aspect that is often difficult to attain,” says Hailu Endale. “We fill the gap.”

For more business and opportunity-based stories in the new year, pick up a copy of ‘The Forecast’, which is available on newsstands now.

Beyond the Headlines

THE LIST / Global

Next best dressed

As the new year edges closer, Monocle picks three independent fashion brands to watch in 2024.

Jan-Jan Van Essche, Belgium
The designer has been running his eponymous label from an Antwerp atelier for more than a decade, building a close-knit circle of customers who appreciate his flair for purist design, natural fibres and Japanese-inspired silhouettes. After hosting his first fashion show at Florence’s Pitti Uomo fair earlier this year, Van Essche began commanding more global attention and is now in the process of expanding his retail network.

Fforme, USA
Paris-based Paul Helbers honed his craft as a menswear designer for The Row before launching his own label, Fforme, which has its headquarters in New York. It is known for impeccable tailoring, masterfully draped garments and high-quality fabrics. Retailers were quick to praise Helbers’ skills and invest in his brand so expect to see the label on shop floors worldwide from 2024.

Man-Tle, Australia
Founded by Aida Kim and Larz Harry in Japan, this young label is quickly making a name for itself for its utilitarian approach to dressing. Now based in Perth, Western Australia, Man-Tle offers workwear jackets, wide-leg trousers and tweed jackets – all produced in collaboration with fabric specialists Heavy Weight Clothing Pty and artisanal Japanese manufacturers.

Monocle Radio / Meet the Writers

Louise Doughty

English novelist and screenwriter Louise Doughty joins Georgina Godwin in the studio. Doughty is the author of 10 novels, including ‘Platform Seven’, recently filmed for ITV, and the bestseller ‘Apple Tree Yard’, adapted for BBC One. She also wrote and created the hit 2022 BBC drama ‘Crossfire’. Her latest novel, ‘A Bird in Winter’, was published earlier this year.


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