Ireland was not in a good place after the economic mayhem of 2008. The Celtic Tiger woke up to find itself with a bad case of mange. And as the bald patches started showing through, many talented Irish people deserted the country, and many companies simply went bust.
But Ireland – just like Iceland and Portugal – has witnessed an intriguing shift since the crash. It’s a shift that has seen people reconnect with the traditional, durable and steady skills that were once the backbone of the country’s craft industries but which had been neglected in the boomier years, a time when fast euros could be made from flimsy property deals. Ireland may have neglected its strengths in glassmaking, furniture-making and the nimble art of wickerwork but it turned out there was a new generation that was ready to pick up its hammers and sewing kits.
In one of this issue’s most refreshing reports we sent our design editor Tom Morris to meet the new makers and gauge the potential of these young companies to help refocus the nation’s international reputation as a place where you can get stuff made. What’s most unusual about the story is that it turns out that, some 50 years ago, a delegation from the Nordic nations came to Ireland to help advise the country on how it could become as well known for design as a Sweden or Denmark. Sadly nothing much happened then but, even if it’s a bit late, that is finally about to change.
The other reason I like this tale from the Emerald Isle is that it explains why we like our style issues. Style is all substance: how you make and present things is quickly reflected in jobs, investment, better communities, national pride and national brand.
The theme of style also makes a pop-up appearance in our business pages where we look at the unsung heroes of the fashion industry; the leather makers and shoe-sole manufacturers who keep the industry moving. And the business pages are also the home of a feature on micro-retail.
monocle has spoken out again and again about the need for property developers and city halls to ensure that shop spaces are built which are small enough for even a cash-concerned start-up to lease – and hopefully too small for the big bland chains to bother with. For this issue our acting business editor commissioned reports from three cities where you can find tiny shops and kiosks that thrive.
One of these is here in London: Columbia Road is home to a flower market where, every Sunday, plant stalls form a jungle strip down the street. The road is also home to numerous small retail ventures. My favourites are the coffee shops that fit into the front-door entrances to some of the apartments here. They are no wider than the owners’ shoulders.
Again this story is about the substance that goes with style; the mechanics of retail for fragrance makers and milliners about to take a punt at doing their thing without breaking the bank.
Or how about a story on how your staff look when they get to work? How do you get across the image and professionalism of your company’s team in one glance? Well how about a good uniform for starters? In the heart of our Style Directory you will find our story on the uniform makers who are helping everyone from restaurants to airlines look the part. And it’s fascinating to see how, for carrier ana, the ability to stand out – in a good way – as your crew marches through the arrivals hall is not about 1960s swagger but about using the way your team dresses to reinforce your brand values.
Finally – and this has nothing at all to do with style – make sure you read our story on Ambassadogs: the hounds of global diplomats. We first ran this feature last year and enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it a bit of an annual treat (again, for us as much as you). It’s no doubt going to end up as a cartoon series on Japanese television (yes, that is a hint).
Of course, the cat lovers in the office (there are a couple) have been a bit put out but I thought their idea of a series on the technocats (the pussy-footed accomplices of Silicon Valley executives) was just not quite right.