The opener | Monocle

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Paris, je t’aime

We’ve found ourselves smiling more on our bike rides around Paris. Pourquoi? It’s the uplifting images that have been appearing on various pieces of forlorn street furniture declaring things like “L’amour gagne toujours” (“Love always wins”), “La vie et belle et vous êtes comme elle” (“Life is beautiful and so are you”) and “La beauté sauvera le monde” (“Beauty will save the world”). These joyous spots are the work of Toqué Frères, a pair of street-artist brothers who have taken it upon themselves to charm the French capital. They have won us over.

Wheel deal

Friends on Bikes is a programme in Zürich that has caught our attention. Kristin Hoffmann founded the project in 2016 to promote and strengthen the mobility, independence and confidence of refugees in Switzerland. The initiative – a collaboration with Zürich-based non-profit organisation Solinetz – offers free bike lessons for adults, including how to ride them, traffic rules and cycle safety, all with the aim of getting people rolling on their own two-wheelers.

The programme has been so successful that Hoffmann now hopes that the mentees will become mentors, and even break out the puncture kit to help with repairs.

What we’d like to see more – or less – of in October 2017.

We’d be happy to see a few of the below implemented while a couple of other things could be gently removed from the global landscape.

  1. Full marks to Qantas for canning its connections through Dubai. Well done! It never made sense and it’s good to see Singapore back on the Kangaroo Route. Bring back Bangkok too.

  2. Turn it down. Why do too many hotel bars need to come with a bassy soundtrack? What happened to a gentle piano in the background and ample air space for conversation?

  3. Fill your mug with bouillon and call it lunch. It’s a good way to keep the kilos at bay in the run-up to Chrismtas.

  4. 7.5/10 for h&m’s new Arket concept shop. More space for food and better- quality fabrics is what’s currently missing.

  5. Upstart Swiss outdoor furniture brand Milo (featured in edition three of our Summer Weekly newspaper) deserves some big orders to fill up public terraces.

  6. And Wander parkas do wonders for a drizzly autumn day.

  7. Honolulu’s real-estate agents are finally waking up to the importance of the city’s modernist residential gems. The city should too and apply wider protections on outstanding properties.

If the shoe fits

In sportswear, the battle between East Coast and West coast is between Boston and Portland, Oregon. Nike hails from Portland, New Balance from Boston – and it seems the industry’s talent pools will remain in these two cities. Adidas’s global creative director is in Portland and Under Armour is moving in nearby. Reebok is set to unveil its global HQ in Boston, lining up alongside Converse and New Balance. Game on.

Cheesy cuppa

On a recent trip to Beijing we witnessed the lines outside Hey Tea’s latest premium teashop stretching around the block. Customers were queuing for “cheese tea”: it’s literally tea topped with cream cheese. It has become a craze all over China and you will see similar scenes in Shanghai.

Where there’s a craze there is also an opportunity: the lengthy queues are in part due to a lucrative secondary market in which time-poor tea addicts pay professional queuers to wait for the cheesy brew for them.

Neighbourhood watch: the view from a Monocle outpost

Our Singapore bureau sits in residential Holland Village; the slow-moving neighbourhood usually only picks up pace over the weekends when young families fill the alfresco restaurants for brunch. Yet we’ve recently noticed a different set of folk wandering down the tree-lined laneways: dapper professionals.

Armed with workout kits slung over their shoulders, these slick operators have been breaking a sweat over lunchtime at a string of gyms that have opened in our snug enclave. It seemed puzzling when boutique Singaporean gym Ritual first moved in last September but Australian outfit f45 followed and then a Virgin Active opened in April. Despite our guilt over buying cinnamon rolls in full view of these fitness temples’ bright and elegant interiors, the gyms have undoubtedly brought a welcome boost in foot traffic to the area. Who knows, post-bun we might hit the treadmill…


Sarah McNally, founder of New York’s McNally Jackson, a panel speaker at Monocle’s Quality of Life Conference in Berlin, on the draw of retail. “All developers want a bookstore.” The fourth edition of our Quality of Life Conference will be announced soon.

Back on track

Detroit’s resurgence is well underway but it’s still a city of striking contrasts. A particularly jarring sight is its famous – and haunting – Michigan Central Station, a towering beaux arts building in the thriving Corktown district. It was the world’s tallest railway building when it opened in 1913 but, since closing in 1988, its future has been a concern.

However, plans for its renewal are gaining steam: early suggestions point to turning it into high-end apartments or, more interestingly, a buzzing retail and commercial hub. We hope to see Detroit’s architectural gem – as well as its other treasures – humming with life soon.

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