Friday 10 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 10/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Fashion / Natalie Theodosi

Digital detox

The luxury-fashion industry has faced its fair share of challenges this year, with creative directors stepping down from their posts, slowing sales and growing anxieties about the future of e-commerce. Matchesfashion, once an industry leader, has declared bankruptcy, offloading new-season stock on discount sites such as Walmart and compromising independent designers’ businesses by withholding payments. Given all of that, it’s understandable that investors have been erring on the side of caution, thinking twice before putting money behind another digital-first brand or retailer.

Online fashion businesses have commanded investors’ attention for the past 10 years or so but they have relied too heavily on digital marketing and ephemeral trend cycles. It’s now clear that this isn’t a formula that can withstand the test of time. That’s not to say that there are no longer appealing investment opportunities in fashion. Deals announced in Italy this week offer some clues as to where these might have shifted.

Image: Prada
Image: Prada

Richemont has acquired Vhernier, a brand founded in the early 1980s in the country’s jewellery-manufacturing centre of Valenza. Over the years, it has gained an expertise in handcrafted, modernist designs that appeal to customers’ demand for quality pieces. The company also fits into Richemont’s existing portfolio of leading French and Italian jewellery labels, ranging from Cartier to Buccellati.

On the same day, the Prada Group opened the doors to its knitwear factory in Torgiano, Umbria. The group plans to invest some €60m on boosting its production capacity this year and a significant slice of this will go towards expanding this facility. During the tour, Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada’s heir, current marketing director and head of CSR, spoke about vertical integration and being open to further acquisitions. It’s a tell-tale sign that return-on-investment is now much more likely to come from quality manufacturing and proven expertise, rather than online gimmicks.

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

The Briefings

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / Malaysia

Ape expectations

Johari Abdul Ghani, Malaysia’s plantations and commodities minister, cited China’s “panda diplomacy” as inspiration for a new gambit announced this week to donate orangutans to countries that buy palm oil from the Southeast Asian nation. The programme entails sending the apes to key trading partners, including the EU, India and China, in a bid to calm environmental concerns over the commodity.

Malaysia is the world’s second-largest producer of palm oil, a product that’s found in many supermarket goods, from ice cream to washing detergent. Demand for the plantations needed to make it, however, is driving deforestation in Malaysia and neighbouring Indonesia. Despite this, Ghani claimed that Malaysia is “committed to biodiversity conservation”. The EU plans to phase out products linked to environmental damage by 2030, so Malaysia might need more than animal diplomacy to keep its palm-oil industry alive.

Hear more about Malaysia’s orangutan diplomacy on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.

Trade / Germany

Back in business

According to new data from Reuters, the US overtook China to become Germany’s largest trading partner in the first quarter of this year. The figures suggest that the EU nation’s economy is going through a significant realignment. Concerned about investing in China and Russia, the country’s businesses have increasingly been looking across the Atlantic to the US, whose robust economy has made for better exports. Compounding this are factors such as a stagnating Chinese economy and an increase in companies producing goods closer to home. “The fact that the US has become Germany’s biggest trading partner illustrates a gradual decoupling from China,” Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro at ING, tells The Monocle Minute. However, Brzeski notes that Germany is still overly dependent on China for imports. Europe’s largest economy still has some way to go before its rebalancing is complete.

Image: Taipei Dangdai art fair

Arts / Taiwan

Fair play

The fifth edition of Taipei Dangdai Art and Ideas opens today. The fair, which has grown into one of Taiwan’s biggest art events, attracts a wide range of local and international galleries, as well as a new generation of young Taiwanese collectors. The 78 galleries participating this year include those from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong, blue-chip names such as Perrotin and David Zwirner, and exhibitors from as far afield as Uganda and Australia. The event coincides with this week’s opening of Fubon Art Museum, a new space in Taipei with a debut exhibition of Rodin sculptures.

The museum draws from the Fubon Art Foundation’s extensive private collection. Taipei Dangdai Art and Ideas is an important part of Taiwan’s creative scene that offers residents more exposure to international artists. With the Chimei Museum in the southern city of Tainan and Taipei Fine Arts Museum launching new exhibitions this week, Taiwan’s once-sleepy art scene is alive and kicking.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Nigel Shafran

Photo of the week / Nigel Shafran

On the right page

Workbooks 1984-2024, published by Loose Joints this week, explores the notes, sketches and creative process of UK artist Nigel Shafran. The book gives us an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at four decades of his storied career in photography. Shafran’s images feature in museums across Europe but it’s in book form that his work makes its truest mark.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Foreign Desk

Panama’s proxy president

Panama has voted José Raúl Mulino as its new president. Andrew Mueller explains how, in reality, the endorsement belongs to his disqualified running mate, Ricardo Martinelli, a convicted criminal hiding under diplomatic asylum.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00