Singapore does not lack its critics, and Tyler Brule has been a vocal one. The founder of UK media group Monocle has not held back his frustrations with local service staff and has bemoaned the lack of more exciting hotel choices in his Financial Times column.
Still, there is no denying this commercial powerhouse and, recognising that, Brule opened a permanent Monocle store in quiet residential area Chip Bee Gardens, following the success of a pop-up store in 2013. The nondescript outpost in Jalan Kelabu Asap carries a mix of Monocle periodicals, and fashion and design collaborations with the likes of Comme des Garcons and Porter, among others.
Speaking over the phone from Hong Kong, Brule, 46, tells The Peak: “Singapore’s superb location provides a great opportunity to reach the regional market. To truly have a competitive edge over other big cities, organic growth must be the differentiator – which is happening right now. Singapore’s current spirit of young entrepreneurship is unmatched. They are more willing to take risks than the previous generation.
With growing affluence, the momentum of the city and innovation are gathering pace. It is powerful to see such energy and talent.”
The Estonian-Canadian, who is based in London, started Monocle magazine in 2007, which has since established itself as the go-to briefing on global affairs, design and culture. It has also expanded into film, a radio station and retail stores. The group was valued at US$115 million (S$156 million) last September, reported Australian Financial Review.
Monocle’s travel guides are handy to many people, but, when asked for his top spots in Singapore, he draws a blank – rare for Brule whom The New York Times referred to as Mr Zeitgeist in 2012. He has stopped over for only half a day so far, he says. He is set to visit this month and plans to stay at least overnight, so he can discover the city-state. “My first visit in 1991 was, I suppose, in a decade when Singapore hadn’t quite grown into herself – like a teenager. Now, Singapore has become confident, like an adult in her late 30s.”
For more stories on foreign personalities who have set up shop in Singapore, download the digital edition of The Peak March 2015 here.