Friday. 7/6/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Peter Firth

Deep breaths

Madrid’s urban low-emissions zone has had marked success since it was introduced in November: the air in the city centre is cleaner and residents are breathing easier. In May, ecologists found that levels of nitrogen dioxide were at their lowest since records began in 2010. So why is the region’s presidential candidate Isabel Díaz Ayuso vowing to scrap it?

Nostalgia, apparently. Ayuso has said that traffic jams ebbing through town both day and night are part of Madrid’s vibrant “identity”, implying that a city with empty roads looks eerily wrong. Meanwhile the European Environment Agency reports that 30,000 people in Madrid die each year as a direct result of air pollution. Preserving a city’s eccentricities is one thing; insisting that cars and buses continue to choke citizens is another. Ayuso’s poor reasoning shows that Madrileños will be in for a bumpy (and smoggy) ride if she wins the presidency.

Politics / UK

Political strains

After three painful years, Theresa May steps down as Conservative party leader today. Time then to settle into a period of post-traumatic stress. The deadline for potential successors to apply is 17.00 on 10 June and the race won’t end until the week of 22 July. But while the Tories pontificate, Labour is saddled with a leader who lacks fresh ideas. It’s a missed opportunity, according to Lance Price, former director of communications under Tony Blair. “If Labour had a different leader I’m sure it would be trying to take advantage of the divisions within the Tory party to present an alternative,” he says. “But Jeremy Corbyn is showing no signs of setting out a clearer vision.”

Geopolitics / Japan & Iran

Willing – and able?

Next week Shinzo Abe will be the first Japanese leader to visit Iran in 40 years. The countries are celebrating 90 years of diplomatic relations but Abe is after more than a photo opportunity: he wants to persuade president Hassan Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to tone down their hostility towards the US. But what steps Abe might propose to defuse those heightened tensions is unclear. His friendly ties with Tehran and Washington, and Japan’s heavy dependence on oil from the Middle East, make Tokyo a natural go-between. But his lack of experience in mediating conflicts could hamper his efforts to achieve anything more than acting as a backchannel messenger for the two sides.

Fashion / London

Wearing thin?

After receiving much hype on its debut in 2012, London Men’s Fashion Week has since stumbled. Its line-up has mostly been swallowed by Paris’s increasingly dominant menswear week and by London’s women’s event, where brands such as Burberry show co-ed collections. But all is not lost: there’s some fizzing talent to be found at this summer’s shows, which begin tonight. Designer Craig Green remains the event’s linchpin and Martine Rose is known for her tailoring-meets-streetwear designs and surprising show settings: last season she sent models down a suburban London street. And take note of Nicholas Daley, who hosts his first runway show tomorrow afternoon; his appealing workwear pulls from his Jamaican and Scottish roots. Keep reading The Monocle Minute next week for updates from the men’s shows in Florence, Milan and Paris.

Design / Global

Shape shifter

Urban apartments are shrinking everywhere but Ikea believes it has the solution for city dwellers whose tiny apartments are overstuffed with furniture. At its annual design conference this week, Ikea unveiled Rognan, a robotic piece of space-saving furniture designed with US start-up Ori. The touch-pad-controlled room divider can be rolled left or right to expose its functions: bed, wardrobe, desk and sofa. Rognan is designed to make better use of an apartment’s footprint; Ikea claims that it could save 8 sq m of room space. Whether a robot can mitigate the discomfort of living in cramped spaces remains to be seen but Rognan is slated for a 2020 launch in Hong Kong and Japan – arguably the two markets where it’s needed most.

M24 / The Urbanist

Urban rulebook

What does it take to be a good citizen? Authorities can set the tone but in the end it’s residents who define the places they live. We look at what’s required to make our cities thrive – and yes, it means following a couple of rules here and there.

Monocle Films / Norway

Celebrating fashion in Oslo

After lagging behind its design-minded neighbours, the Norwegian fashion industry has finally moved out of its comfort zone and stepped up its game. We meet Oslo’s most promising designers and see how they are being taken seriously on the international stage.

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