From “Mr. Zeitgeist,” written by Alex Williams and published in the paper’s Fashion and Style section:
For the last 15 years, Mr. Brûlé, an Estonian-Canadian who keeps his perma-stubble artfully cropped like Tom Ford’s, has gone outside the publishing establishment and started two culture magazines regarded as bibles in certain design-savvy circles: Wallpaper and Monocle.
And he did so while upending notions of what a media company does.
While everyone hailed the iPad as the savior of print, Mr. Brûlé put out a limited-edition newspaper for the slopes of Gstaad and the beaches of Cannes. While retailers rushed online, Mr. Brûlé opened a chain of Monocle boutiques, a micro-extension of the magazine’s shopper-as-curator ethos. And while music migrates to the cloud, Mr. Brûlé started a radio station, with “an international playlist” that samples sounds “from Seoul to Stockholm.”
If Wallpaper targeted snowboarders who had made their first killing, Monocle targets the same reader after a decade of running a multinational corporation. A worldliness is assumed. Each issue is the size of a Sotheby’s catalog, printed on upward of nine different paper stocks, crammed with extremely niche articles about carbon-neutral airlines in Costa Rica and sleek Afghan restaurants in Dubai.
Celebrity profiles? Only if you count Abubaker Karmos, Libya’s chargé d’affaires in Canada, as a star.
For loyal subjects, Monocle was an exclusive club as much as a beach read. That may explain its unorthodox business model. To increase circulation, most magazines sell heavily discounted subscriptions. Monocle, on the other hand, charges more: it costs $10 at newsstands but $130 for a yearly subscription of 10 issues.
It’s interesting how Brûlé has defied so many media trends while being considered so trendy. Though I quibble now and then with the monthly magazine I receive and the radio programs I subscribe to, I admire what the man’s built and enjoy having access to what he and his crew make.