Wednesday, 17 September 2008

[45] The Monocle

I don't believe I've ever met a person from The Monocle's target audience. I don't think I ever will.

The magazine offers a blend of international current affairs, business, fashion and design, however there is an often explicit focus on the high class and high price. The first issue I bought, back in early summer, as part of my research into freelance opportunities, came with a pull-out 'Aviation Survey' supplement, detailing advances in the airline business, along with advertisements and listings for private jet dealers. You can usually judge a publication by its advertising space, and browsing through the glossier pages of The Monocle is a culture shock of affluence and luxury: Luis Vuitton bags, private cabins on Emirates flights, Cartier watches.

To further its position as the aesthete's first port of call for all things chic, they have recently extended their sphere of influence with a shop. Far from the usual branded nonsense, The Monocle have enlisted designers such as Finland-based Artek to make a Monocle stool (£195) and Denmark-based Fritz Hansen for a limited edition table (£3,000), as well as their own scent (£55) and bag range (£95-£195).

I often wonder how much of the magazine's style and pompousness is laced with self-effacing humour. Previous features, such as 'The Top 50 Things to improve your life' and a list of the top 25 most liveable cities in the world, are driven by a snootiness and familiarity with all things business class. Other magazines feature lists in order to stimulate debate, but we are often talking about movies, books or video games - not cities in the world. Not that Monocle readers will retire to pubs (they probably have trendy bars or drawing rooms) to discuss the issue, but if they did, I imagine their debates would sound absurd ('Oh no, not Copenhagen, I much preferred living in Kyoto'; 'I simply cannot live without my doorman/driver/day-bed').

So why do I read it? Surprisingly, it is not merely morbid curiosity that makes me fork out the (too expensive) £5 for the cover charge. Even though it does give the humbler reader a glimpse into a stratum of society they will never inhabit, it is still quite a vital and well-written publication. Even though it is woeful on the topics by which I am usually taken (here under the heading of 'culture', usually populated with short, snappy reviews perfect for dropping references in dinner conversations), its focus on international news, business and media is always worth a look. Recent feature articles on Finnish education, the Columbian newspaper trade and a recurring feature involving interviews with various American correspondants from around the world are eye-opening and informative. These are the pieces which occur rarely in national magazines and newspapers, and this is where The Monocle excels. So, whereas I doubt I will ever be able to afford the life that The Monocle aspires to (not that I would want to), it is nevertheless a good resource for the wannabe world citizen.

Visit The Monocle's website - here
Watch The Monocle's feature on Things to Improve Your Life - here

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