Breaking Good

Interview by Jerry Goh
Image courtesy of Monocle

Keeping an eye and an ear on the world, media mogul Tyler Brûlé is always on the lookout to expand the Monocle landscape. What started as a print magazine in 2007—a briefing on global affairs, business, culture and design—has evolved into a brand that sees retail shops opening on almost every continent, cafés in Tokyo and London, a radio show, M24, that just turned two, and most recently, The Monocle Guide to Better Living, a 400-page yellow book distilling Monocle’s distinctive and consistent vision of improving one’s quality of life, one Taillefer shirt at a time.

Amidst his hectic flight schedule, we sit Tyler down for a brief chat.

The Monocle empire has reshaped the way the media industry is perceived. With retail spaces, cafés, and radio shows slowly falling into place, was everything part of the grand plan or were there surprises along the way? Is there any unventured territory on your blueprint?

Retail was always part of the plan (we had Porter bags in issue one) but I don’t think we ever had shops or a proper e-commerce business as part of the plan. The good thing about being independent as that we can be quite agile and seize opportunities as they crop up. The café is a good example of this. As for what’s on the horizon, I do think we can expand our retail network (don’t we all want good newsstands and coffee?) and I think there’s something we could do in the area of residential development—though I don’t think they’d be Monocle branded.

Those are some exciting plans. Monocle’s event at BooksActually saw a crowd that Yong Siak Street never had before; your recent book launch here was a huge success too. How do you compare Singapore’s market regionally or even globally?

Singapore’s a curious market as it’s particularly hungry for a global view and also wants to see how the world validates its achievements and chronicles its failings. Given its hub status, it’s got the right ingredients to make it a very strong market for publishers.

Indeed. How about Singapore’s creative culture? What do you think of its potential?

I think its creative culture is a bit stunted. The same goes for its SME culture. No doubt it’s improving but there needs to more of a free hand to let things happen spontaneously (you can’t engineer everything) and also invite in more international talent—think Berlin and how it’s a magnet for international creativity.

Read more in The U Press N˚4 (Singapore edition).