Tuesday. 26/2/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Macron back in good company

The best brands can flex with the times, absorb cultural shifts and tweak their DNA to stay relevant. But, at their hearts, they have a set of values that gain appeal through deliberate repetition. These brands pull in a diverse crowd but ultimately they speak with a singular clear voice.

President Macron is a brand – and one that has been tested to its core on the streets of Paris by the gilets jaunes, or yellow vest, movement every weekend since last November. Now, as we report below, fresh poll numbers show that he has weathered the storm and is seeing his popularity rise modestly again. This gentle rebound owes much to the listening project he has conducted across France in recent weeks, where he has been widely lauded for his calm explanations and gentle atonement for any misunderstanding between the presidency and the people. Yet his understanding of brand means that he has not undermined his core values – he has just restated them with improved clarity.

Meanwhile, the gilets jaunes protesters have seen their all-inclusive brand tarnished beyond hope, having provided space in their ranks for racists and anti-Semites. They have lost all control of their image and reputation.

“Brand management” gets a bad rap: it’s too often seen as little more than PR. It’s not. It’s the ability to stay relevant while moving with the times – and remaining anchored to a core set of beliefs. Macron could yet give a masterclass in its delivery.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Moldova

Russian doll?

In Moldova, the pro-Russian Socialist party is fighting to form a coalition government after securing 31 per cent of the vote – but no clear majority – in Sunday’s elections. Its former leader, Igor Dodon, who has been the country’s president since 2016, has capitalised on popular discontent with the ruling EU-leaning Democratic party following a number of corruption scandals. Moldova has been strengthening its ties with the West, notably by signing a political and economic association agreement in 2014. But if Dodon can secure a government, the country will likely join the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and shift its association Kremlin-ward, becoming a strategic foothold for the latter in eastern Europe. If that happens – and bear in mind that Moldova currently depends on Russia for about 95 per cent of its natural gas – forcing Dodon into vassalship will be easy for Putin.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / France

Over the hump

The worst of Macron’s yellow-vest travails appear to be behind him: a survey by French pollster Odoxa revealed yesterday that the French president’s popularity has risen for the third consecutive month. In December, as protests broke out across the country, the percentage of people who thought that Macron was a good president fell to 27 per cent. Today it stands at 32 per cent – the same level as before the protest started in November. Disenchantment with the gilet jaunes is growing: while Macron has made a series of concessions, the undercurrent of anarchism and anti-Semitism within the ranks of the yellow vests has gathered force. The poll showed that more than half the country now wish they’d hang up their luminous garb and revert to their usual weekend activities.

Aviation / USA

Field day

Washington state is getting a new airport – and it might just be one of the nicest in the US. Owned and operated by private company Propeller Airports, Paine Field has a waiting room with comfy armchairs and soft lighting, while passengers can get to the gate in 10 minutes. With Alaska Airlines and United Airlines scheduling 24 daily flights to nine domestic destinations including Denver, Las Vegas and LA, it will provide much-needed alternative routes for those sick of travelling through traffic when heading to Seattle-Tacoma International and boost businesses in the Puget Sound region. After decades of protests over environmental concerns (that have now been allayed), this New Deal-era airport is finally getting the air time it was built for.

Fashion / Paris

End on a high

The marathon that is the autumn/winter womenswear season continues this week with its final and strongest leg: Paris. At last month’s menswear shows in the city, brands owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH dominated; those owned by Kering, LVMH’s biggest competitor, sat it out, preferring to present their men’s and women’s clothes together during the womenswear season instead. That means that this week we’ll see big co-ed displays from Kering’s Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, while LVMH’s heavy-hitters – Louis Vuitton, Dior and Celine – will hold women’s shows. There will also be debuts from Bruno Sialelli at Lanvin and Louise Trotter (formerly of Joseph) at Lacoste. The show everyone is waiting for, though, will take place next Tuesday: it will be the final Chanel collection designed by the late Karl Lagerfeld.

Image: Stefan Oláh

Vienna’s ground-floor gas stations

The Urbanist: Tall Stories

There’s little room in Vienna for stand-alone service stations so petrol pumps had to be put into the ground floors of buildings. But many of these small and quirky stations are now disappearing.

The secret to putting on perfume

In our ‘Secret to...’ series we look at the best way to wear a fragrance with Frances Shoemack, founder of Abel perfumes.

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