This week’s Franco-German treaty might have grabbed headlines as the two nations agreed to collaborate on defence and development – but there are plans to join forces on cultural matters too. Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel decided that, by 2020, their countries would open at least 10 joint cultural centres, where branches of Institut Français and the Goethe Institute would be run under the same roof with bilingual staff. First up are outposts in Bishkek (in Kyrgyzstan), Erbil (the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan), Palermo and Rio de Janeiro. Cultural institutes are one of the most obvious – and easily measurable – signposts of a country’s soft power. With nationalist interests coming to the fore in Europe, this could be an important step towards the Franco-German alliance becoming the global face of the continent.
With murmurings that fashion’s athleisure bubble may be about to burst, could the next market for high-performance brands be outer space? Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has tasked Under Armour – the US brand known for football gear – with creating space suits for the company's forthcoming commercial space flights. It’s not the first time that fashion brands have kitted out astronauts: Neil Armstrong’s space suit was designed by a Delaware bra manufacturer, while Virgin Galactic has worked with Y-3, the Adidas line by Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, in the past. This new venture – which will see Under Armour dress pilots and passengers as well as employees at the space firm’s New Mexico base – could be a valuable lifeline for the Baltimore sportswear brand, which has struggled with slumping sales recently. Perhaps it can be saved by reaching for the stars?
Those who suffer from papyrophobia should steer clear of Frankfurt for the next four days: Paperworld, the world’s biggest festival devoted to paper and stationery, arrives at the city’s Messe today. While it isn’t everyone’s idea of a lively start to the weekend, we encourage you not to write it off. This year’s theme is “the future office”, a subject that has sparked fierce debate in businesses across the globe as digital communication supplants our use of the flat white stuff. More than 1,600 exhibitors from 66 countries will be showcasing their new wares and those with a penchant for penmanship will be able to observe new writing instruments from Monocle favourites, such as KaWeCo and Caran d'Ache.
The annual Sundance Film Festival, which runs until tomorrow, has once again turned Utah into a magnet for cinephiles. Many of them will be wondering whether streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon, will outbid major film studios or leave the 11-day festival without any noteworthy acquisitions. A few years ago they came away with a slew of independent films – including Mudbound and Manchester by the Sea – but last year came out of the festival having bought nothing. Netflix is also having a creative impact on Sundance: its new thriller, Velvet Buzzsaw, will premiere there tomorrow. Late Night, starring Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling, is also expected to draw a crowd and the festival will close with Troop Zero, a film by female writer-director duo Bert & Bertie that tells the story of a misfit girl’s mission to go to space. A fitting finish to a star-studded event.