Thursday 2 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 2/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Image: Reuters

Transport / Gabriel Leigh

On the up down under

On Sunday evening, South African Airways (SAA) relaunched its direct service between Johannesburg and Perth after more than four years – and Monocle was onboard. There were South African dancers and cupcakes adorned with Aussie flags at the check-in, a procession of dignitaries, who were welcomed by CEO John Lamola, and a water-cannon salute on the airfield. The aircraft was packed. At Perth, dozens of spotters turned out to catch our arrival on a glorious, sunny Monday afternoon after its nine-and-a-half-hour Indian Ocean crossing. Excitement aside, however, it’s unclear whether this new route will help the company make its much-needed comeback on the world stage. The flag carrier came close to shutting down for good during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Perth route, last flown by the airline in early 2020, is just the second intercontinental service relaunched by SAA. It cuts total journey times by as much as 10 hours when compared to routing via Dubai or Singapore. The relaunch is evidence that SAA is expanding its roster of international flights, a significant step towards achieving the airline’s strategic growth plans. In October 2023, SAA reintroduced long-haul flights between Cape Town and São Paulo as part of this plan to focus efforts on emerging destinations in the southern hemisphere. The strategy, if successful, could pose a good example in the aviation industry. London and New York will also probably return to the network in the years to come.

The future of the airline, however, is largely uncertain. In March the South African government abandoned plans to divest a 51 per cent state in the company to a consortium. SAA leaders say that a capital injection will be needed to continue with the airline’s expansion. Despite this, the reintroduction of the Perth route has raised spirits – and there’s a sense of pride in seeing the South African flag return to distant shores once again.

Gabriel Leigh is Monocle’s transport correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Think tank: The US-Philippines Balikatan joint military exercise in Palawan

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Hawaii

Linking arms

Defence ministers from the US, Japan, Australia and the Philippines will meet in Hawaii today to discuss strengthening their military and security co-operation. The summit follows a trilateral meeting between Joe Biden and his Japanese and Philippine counterparts, Fumio Kishida and Ferdinand Marcos Jr, on 11 April, at which it was agreed that the powers would conduct more joint naval patrols to counter China’s increasing aggression in the Indo-Pacific.

The country’s muscular foreign policy has led to recent clashes with Philippine forces in the South China Sea. Canberra, Washington, Tokyo and Manila hope to contain Beijing through a collective show of co-operation but also an exchange of weaponry and know-how. The US has already begun selling advanced weapons to Japan and recently dispatched a Typhon missile system – capable of launching Tomahawks and SM-6s – to the Philippines for a joint exercise. Expect to see more of such deployments in the coming months.

For more on today’s four-way defence talks, tune in to Wednesday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.

F&B / Singapore

Bean and gone

This year, Singaporean start-up Prefer raised $2m (€1.8m) to scale up the manufacturing of its signature product: bean-free coffee. Its co-founders, Jake Berber and Tan Ding Jie, are betting that their substitute, a fermented mixture of soybean pulp, barley and bread, will satisfy the most ardent coffee aficionados. “It looks and feels just like ground coffee,” says Tan. Prefer’s product is cheaper, quicker to make and more sustainable than the original. It brews in the same manner and even produces a layer of frothy crema. But a lack of coffee beans means no caffeine. Prefer’s grounds make a great decaf, while customers looking for a kick can opt for a sprinkle of caffeine powder that the company extracts from tea. “As with any novel product, there’s a healthy amount of curiosity, as well as scepticism,” says Tan. But Prefer has managed to win over an important demographic: baristas. The product is already available in 14 cafés in Singapore and there are plans to expand to the Philippines.

For more agenda-setting business stories from our global network of correspondents, pick up a copy of Monocle’s May issue, which is out now.

Image: Rimowa

Design / Italy

Vested interest

Rimowa’s annual Design Prize ceremony took place this week at the James Simon Galerie in Berlin. The Köln-based luggage company invited students from German design schools to submit ideas for products that addressed the theme of mobility. Among the seven finalists were a hydrofoil boat for inner-city use, a stylish headdress for managing epilepsy and a decentralised system for litter-picking. The winner was revealed as Ro, a discreet vest designed by 22-year-old Janne Kreimer that calms the nervous system by stimulating acupressure points.

The award’s €20,000 cash bursary makes it one of the most financially rewarding prizes for young German designers. What really sets Rimowa apart from the inundation of industry honours, however, is its practice of pairing finalists with jurors for a month-long mentorship programme. This transforms the process from tiresome PDF-reviewing into a meaningful experience for mentors and mentees alike. “I won’t stop working until I have a product that you can buy in stores,” Kreimer tells The Monocle Minute. “But first I want to invite everyone involved to a party.”

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Masamitsu Hata

Best foot forward

Masamitsu Hata is the co-founder of Timothée Paris, a footwear brand that combines Japanese design with French creativity. Here, he tells Monocle about starting his company, his design training and how he sticks to his core values as his business expands.

There are many minimalist trainer brands in the world. Is there a lot of pressure to make your footwear different to that of other companies?
There’s no pressure; it comes naturally to me. I’m not trying to be somebody different or conduct market research to decide which styles would be most popular. I started, alongside my co-founder Pierre Riviere, by collaborating with artisans to make loafers and by gathering as many ideas as we could. We realised that we wanted to offer our clients an experience, not just products. The most important thing for us is to convey the idea of a journey. Our inspiration comes from exploring cities to find new streets, nice cafés and shops.

Tell us about your design training.
I grew up in a traditional Japanese family where people tend to conform to a specific role. I didn’t feel like I fit in. When I was a child, I read a Paris fashion-show report and I became obsessed with fashion. Soon after, a wave of luxury brands established themselves in Japan. When I was 14, I went to an Hermès shop and I was so excited to see all the cashmere and leather. It was like going to a temple. I studied in London and then moved to Paris to become a designer. Though it was difficult at first as a result of the language barrier, I managed to get recruited by John Galliano as an intern helping senior designers. He is one of my biggest inspirations.

How do you maintain your principles while your business continues to expand?
Our growth happens organically. We don’t have a huge marketing budget to attract consumers. We’re not rushing to be bigger, nor are we interested in selling millions of pairs of shoes. Our priority is to ensure that our products are good and that our current clients remain happy. It’s not about the money for us.

For our full interview with Masamitsu Hata, tune in to the latest ‘Eureka’ episode of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Peckham, London

Monocle’s George Ruskin heads to Peckham for a full day of eating in the vibrant south London community.


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