Monday. 24/6/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Picture of health

Goop, the wellness empire helmed by Gwyneth Paltrow, continues its march to conquer the free world. The company has been valued at about $250m (€221m) thanks to sales of Himalayan bath salts and vagina eggs to help “cultivate sexual energy”. Earlier this month it announced it’s launching a menswear label, it has just opened a shop-in-shop in department store Harvey Nichols and this coming weekend In Goop Health (the brand’s annual summit) takes place in London.

There’s a line of thinking that, in our increasingly secular world, we want things to believe in: food, health and wellness have become a religion of sorts for many urbanites. And because Paltrow was one of the first to catch onto this – Goop launched back in 2008 – she has become the movement’s high priestess. What’s less clear is why the brand continues to thrive.

These days consumers want to be well informed about the provenance and benefits of the products they buy; Goop, however, has famously played it fast and loose with the facts (it was sued for making false claims about the benefits of its vagina eggs). Additionally there are now so many well-designed and well-researched market alternatives that, on a recent visit to the brand’s Notting Hill shop, I was unmoved: it’s nice enough but the space and its (very expensive) products felt unremarkable. I understand urbanites’ need to tie their colours to the wellness mast but Goop is hardly the Holy Grail.

Geopolitics / The US & Iran

Strike out

Tensions between the US and Iran are reaching crisis point: on Thursday, Donald Trump backpedalled on a decision to launch airstrikes against the country, according to an unknown source from The New York Times. This week Tehran is due to breach the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action by exceeding its limit of low-enriched uranium stocks – and there are no signs of a climbdown. Iran is leaning more heavily on European leaders to come forth with economic packages that would offset the sanctions imposed by Washington but this is becoming less likely with each passing day. Pushing the situation to the brink of war is a move straight from the Trump playbook; a quick de-escalation of the affair will enable him to brand himself as the deal maker.

Politics / UK

Hunt in the hunt?

This week the UK Conservative party’s 160,000 members begin the countdown to a vote that will determine whether Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt becomes the next prime minister. Both men are fierce competitors who have occupied the position of foreign secretary in Theresa May’s government – but where Johnson is a bombastic extrovert, Hunt is a softly spoken technocrat. The wiser (although not exactly desirable) option for the leadership would be a win for the latter. Hunt is the more meticulous of the two, considered competent and trustworthy when it comes to communicating the party diktat in television interviews. The difference, where it counts, is that Hunt voted “remain” in 2016 and most Tories would rather see a Brexiteer in Number 10. Barring the occurrence of career-ending upset, Johnson’s bumbling brand of ruthlessness will see him win at a canter.

Press / Poland

One way or another

Journalists in Poland have been left confused by contradictory announcements from senior government figures. Deputy prime minister Jaroslaw Gowin said last week that the ruling Law and Justice party (PIS) would “repolonise” the country’s media (bring foreign-owned media outlets under Polish control) if the party is re-elected later this year. But Poland’s chief of staff, Michal Dworczyk, said that there are no such plans. Instead he suggested that PIS could implement a deconcentration law to restrict the size of news organisations. Dr Stanley Bill, senior lecturer in Polish Studies at the University of Cambridge, believes that this would have dire effects on media freedom. “If this went through, Poland’s aim will certainly be to help media organisations that are friendly with the government,” he says.

Tourism / Japan & South Korea

On the borderline

While there’s no shortage of diplomatic strife when it comes to neighbours Japan and South Korea, tourism between the two countries is booming. A survey by the Korean Tourism Organisation (KTO) showed that 375,000 people travelled from Japan to South Korea in March this year, which is the highest monthly number since relations were normalised in 1965. KTO says that whereas Japan's previous Korea boom was driven by middle-aged women (many of them fans of Korean TV dramas), the new tourists are likely to be younger women drawn by K-Pop, food, fashion and beauty. Politics, it seems, doesn't concern this generation – but it could affect their travel plans. With knotty diplomatic conflicts ranging from territorial disputes to comfort women, the fear is that there will be a question mark over the mutually beneficial visa-free tourism that the countries enjoy.

M24 / The Stack

Glenn Greenwald

This week we speak to journalist and author Glenn Greenwald on the biggest scoop of the year in Brazil. Plus: Laura Snapes on celebrity profiles and Monocle’s editor Andrew Tuck gives us a preview of what’s to come this summer.

Monocle Films / Italy

Masters of glass

The small Venetian island of Murano has a grand glass-blowing reputation. In the glow of the furnaces, Monocle Films witnesses a new generation of designers at work.

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