The hotly anticipated first issue of Monocle, wallpaper* founding editor Tyler Brûlé's new international magazine, officially hits tomorrow but we were fortunate to receive an advance copy , heavy and dense and packed with photographs and features and interviews and fascinating global minutiae. Where Brûlé wallpaper* could legitimately have been described as 'style with substance,' Monocole is the inversion, arguably well summed-up as 'substance with style' — this is a very different magazine. Self-described in the tagline as "a briefing on global affairs, business, culture & design" (right, narrow mandate, where wallpaper*'s pages were glossy with images of glistening models and chic accoutrements, Monocle's are almost ostentatiously matte, with a much higher text-to-image ratio and a seeming emphasis on using the eye as an adjunct to the brain.
Yet there are telling similarities, not only in the overall aesthetic (Creative Director Richard Spencer Powell has been with Brûlé since the early wallpaper* days) but in many of the items within (and we couldn't even begin to be exhaustive here, with 242 pages that are, yes, replete with high-end ads — glistening model quotient, filled — but still, packed). The same nose for news seems behind a piece on Afghanistan's top DJ, Massood Sanjer, or a look at Quantas low-cost airline Jetstar, though the execution and presentation of both is obviously way different. The cover story on the stealth powerhouse that is the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force — the country's postwar constitution forbids a navy per se — is far more Foreign Affairs, and runs over 18 pages with three writers (though the hed - "Naval Gazing" - is pure Brûlé). There is still the love affair with Swedish design (the featured Stockholm bachelor pad is typically, ruthlessly minimalist) and the compare-and-contrast taxonomy of business-class-only flights on p. 112 seemed like it could have been pulled from wallpaper* (or, as I recall, Line). Also, there are still pretty people, though instead of thick-lipped boy models with Speedo-encased packages they're men like Michelle Bachelet's Finance Minister André Velasco, who leaves us anything but Chile. And of course the model in the office-themed fashion spread is as gamine as ever, and in Itlay, senz'altro.
The temptation to namecheck every far-flung location is overwhelming here, though Monocle relieves me of it somewhat in it's "Edition" feature up front which tells us that Monocle dispatched "over 60 editors, writers, researchers, translators, photographers and fixers" for the issue reporting from "some 50 locations across six continents" which we think leaves out Antarctica. (Philistines.) Appropriately-labeled globe diagrams show reportage from Dubai, Dar Es Salaam, Florence, Rio, Melbourne, Chile, Innsbruck, Taipei, Nicaragua, Genoa, and Wisconsin (hello, Wisconsin!); inside we see Northumberland, Rome, India, Düsseldorf, Ecuador, Norway, Luanda, Canada, Iceland, and Finland. Incidentally, that "hello, Wisconsin!" reference actually fits right in with Monocle, which has its share of oblique pop references (one hed reads "Bandwagon-esque" which can't be an accident). That Zeitgeist-tapping pop sensibility is most clearly evidenced in the attached manga, a stylish pull-out comic drawn anime-style, complete with high-end product placement (Audi, Prada etc.). It's sort of surprising in this context, but very, very cool.
Monocle is international in scope — wildly, impossibly so — but there are still a few localized (sorry, localised) namechecks for those provincial enough to believe that New York is the center of the media universe: There's Graydon Carter on p. 142 in the Sundance deal wrap-up by Once In A Lifetime Brit producer John Battsek, in which he calls the Carter-produced Chicago 10 "a fantastic story with amazing characters and some of the best archive footage I've ever seen" but sadly "repetitive, noisy and frustrating"; there's Ann Curry choosing the UN Delegates Dining Room for 'her last meal and testament' (the lady likes a Châteauneuf du Pape); there's Dan Brown's follow-up to the The Da Vinci Code (rumored to be called The Solomon Key, hedging bets with that other Testament and — brace yourselves — reportedly on shelves this spring). There's also New York bureau chief (actually, "Bureau Chief Americas" per the masthead) Ann Marie Gardner, formerly the editor of the NYT's T: Style mag. Otherwise, though, the mag is doggedly international from start to Finnish. I have no doubt that if Brûlé is reading this, he just winced.
Monocle's website goes live tomorrow at 9am EST.
Disclosure: I contributed three items to wallpaper* back in the day, and spent a near-all-nighter assisting with copyediting on Line after I missed my flight home from London, which sure beat Heathrow.