Economist 3/9/16

  1. Fashion week used to serve a distinct purpose. Designers would prepare collections and present clothes to the press, to major retailers and to select other industry insiders. Fashion editors would then prepare sumptuous magazine spreads featuring the clothes they liked best. Retailers would order this or that dress. About four to six months later, those clothes would appear in shops.Technology has upended all this. As soon as models sashay down the runway, photographs are posted online and shared endlessly through social media. Fast-fashion brands copy designers’ styles (though the industry prefers the euphemism “interpret”), often stocking look-alikes in their shops before designers’ own clothes make it to department stores. When designers’ clothes do arrive, they seem stale.TJX buys brand-name clothes from stores that can’t sell them at full price, then offers them at a deep discount. Inditex owns Zara, the pioneer in fast fashion.Few designers like the current system. Less obvious is what they should do next.One idea is for fashion houses to show clothes to only certain people, such as retailers and some press. Designers would stage a bigger, public presentation four to six months later, when those clothes are available in stores.
  2. REPUBLIC AIRWAYS recently filed for bankruptcy, and hardly anyone noticed. That’s because hardly anyone has heard of Republic Airways. But many people unwittingly fly on it all the time. Republic operates flights for Delta Connection, United Express, and American Eagle—the big airlines’ affiliates for shorter and less popular routes. As many as half of all Delta-, United- and American-branded flights are actually outsourced to so-called regional airlines like Republic.The carrier’s boss cited several reasons for the bankruptcy filing, but chief among them was the “grounding aircraft due to a lack of pilot resources”.
  3. A common assumption is that piloting aircraft—with its high salaries, perks and glamour—must be one of the most competitive professions there is. Aerospace types point to regulations enacted by Congress in 2013 that upped the minimum number of hours of cockpit experience a pilot must have in order to fly for a commercial airline, from 250 to 1,500. (Most commercial pilots used to come from the military, but they now come largely from aviation schools, where enrollment has dropped significantly in the past decade and a half.) That much training takes not only time, but also money. And while salaries at the big commercial airlines are competitive, at the regionals new recruits can earn as little as $20,000. A low-salary, high-barrier-to-entry job is hardly an attractive prospect for people thinking about starting a career in aviation.Congress is unlikely to reverse its 1,500-hour requirement, for fear of being accused of prioritising airline profits over passenger safety. But the Regional Airline Association is trying to boost its recruitment efforts by pitching aviation careers to high school and college students.
  4. BMW celebrates its centenary on March 7th, has also become a benchmark for success in the motor industry.BMW began life in 1916 assembling aircraft engines. Restrictions on Germany’s planemaking after the first world war encouraged it to diversify, first into motorbikes, and then in 1928 into making its first car. In 1933 it launched the 303, ancestor to today’s 3 Series, and the first BMW to feature the distinctive double kidney-shaped front grille. Though stylish and technically advanced, BMW’s pricey models at first sold in small quantities. At the end of the 1950s sales of motorbikes, on which the company still relied, faltered as cars from mass-market firms hit the roads. Only an investment by the Quandt family, which controls BMW to this day, saved it from a humiliating takeover by Daimler.Having filled every imaginable niche, however, its growth seems to be slowing as it struggles to imagine new ones. Mercedes may overtake BMW by unit sales this year, as a slick re-styling of its models wins over buyers seeking an alternative to BMW’s more staid designs.Mass-market brands such as Ford and Citroën are pouring resources into “premiumising” some of their models, in a drive for bigger margins.
  5. PEOPLE from many walks of life poured onto the streets of Rawalpindi near Islambad, Pakistan’s capital, on March 1st to honour a convicted murderer.The crowd was full of fury, directed at the government of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, for the hanging the day before of Mumtaz Qadri. A former police bodyguard, he had assassinated his boss, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, in 2011.Taseer was a liberal-minded businessman turned politician who had earned the hatred of religious hardliners by lobbying for a presidential pardon for a poor Christian woman. She had been sentenced to death under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law that bans disrespect towards the Prophet and other “holy personages”.For killing Taseer, clerics declared Mr Qadri a ghazi or warrior.Given the strength of support for Mr Qadri, it was not obvious that the government would dare to execute him.That it did not do so is evidence of a growing readiness to stand up to intolerance and extremism.The Pakistani Taliban’s assault on a school in Peshawar in December 2014 that killed more than 130 children galvanised public opinion like nothing before. Since then the army, which in the past has used rabble-rousing Islamists to bash domestic and foreign opponents, has also turned its efforts to curbing extremism.
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