Tuesday. 14/1/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Sportswear swap

Guys, are you ready to don sharp tailoring and polished leather lace-ups? The menswear crowd has congregated in Florence and Milan for the past week’s autumn/winter shows and, judging by the collections, it seems as though the pendulum has swung back to formal dressing (after murmurings for several seasons that it was heading this way). Combine this with the recent comment from designer and streetwear guru Virgil Abloh that streetwear is “definitely gonna die” in 2020 and you’d think that it was a done deal. But whether a more buttoned-up look will really permeate mainstream urban dress codes the world over this year isn’t clear.

For starters, Italy is the epicentre of tailoring so it’s natural for Italian brands to embrace formal ensembles more so than, say, US brands. More importantly, while there was barely a trainer on the catwalks, there were still plenty of comfy-looking kicks in the front row. The boom in sportswear and streetwear has made it acceptable to dress comfortably and casually nearly all the time. This shift has gone beyond a fashion trend; it’s become part of our lifestyles. We’re now more active and favour gear that can take us from one occasion to the next without fuss. So if brands are to tempt consumers into dressing more sharply, they will need to imbue tailored ensembles with sportswear’s comfort and ease (affordability is another factor).

In Milan, Salvatore Ferragamo did just this with oversized coats and trousers whose roomy proportions recalled the relaxed silhouettes typical of streetwear. Meanwhile, Caruso, with a new creative director, presented looks that were well cut but still fairly casual and colourful. And Traiano, a young Milanese brand, unveiled suits, jackets and pleated trousers made from a stretchy nylon (which doesn’t wrinkle and can be machine-washed) digitally printed with patterns that mimic wool and plaids. Sound futuristic? It just might be the way to get sportswear-obsessed shoppers back into two-pieces.

Geopolitics / USA

Grudge talks

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is hosting his counterparts from South Korea and Japan – Kang Kyung-wha (pictured, with Pompeo) and Toshimitsu Motegi – today. The tri-party talks in San Francisco are expected to focus on the stalled North Korean denuclearisation process, which has not progressed since Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un met in Vietnam almost a year ago. Kim’s renewed threat of a missile launch is likely to dominate discussions. However, the most positive outcome would be a thaw in relations between the three allies themselves: Japan and South Korea are still locked in a tit-for-tat trade war over wartime atrocities, while Washington has strained relations with its two closest Asian allies by pushing Seoul and Tokyo to pay more for US troops based on their soil. Cordiality between the trio is vital for regional stability and a prerequisite before taking on Kim again.

Conflict / Colombia

Fragile peace

Five years ago it would have been hard to imagine the Colombian government stepping in to save the life of a Farc rebel commander but that’s what happened this weekend. Colombian police say that they foiled an attempt to assassinate Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (pictured), better known as Timochenko, the former head of the now-demobilised Farc rebels. The killing was reportedly ordered by two former Farc commanders who frowned upon his signing of a peace accord with the Colombian government in 2016.

The planned attempt on his life underlines the deep challenges still facing Colombia’s peace process; while Timochenko’s assassination might have been thwarted, plenty are successful – more than 80 former Farc rebels have been killed since the deal was signed, according to Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, professor in law at Birkbeck College in London. The violence is the result of a conflict within Farc that is fuelled by rogue elements of the Colombian army. “There is a generalised feeling that the notorious paramilitary have come back or never went away,” he says. Peace in Colombia remains a process rather than a foregone conclusion.

Climate / Japan

On thin ice

Last year a record 2.74 million visitors poured into Japan’s northern city of Sapporo for the Snow Festival, the annual winter event that showcases almost 200 impressive snow and ice sculptures, which in the past have included the Leaning Tower of Pisa and giant cartoon characters. This year it’s not looking so promising. The 71st festival is due to start on 31 January but because snowfall last month was less than half the December average – the lowest since records began in 1961 – there might not be enough raw material for the sculptors to work with. Efforts to ship in the vast quantities of snow needed for the festival were brought forward last week in case of a shortfall and the festival committee remains positive that all will be well. But they might be overly optimistic: forecasts point to a less than snowy January too.

Design / Germany

Outdoor interiors

The designs debuting at Germany’s IMM furniture and interiors fair this week reflect the weather outside in the host city Köln – sunnier than usual (for January). Outdoor furniture will be the industry’s flavour of the year and, while it might appear that companies here are capitalising on the impending climate catastrophe as the world heats up, these releases are actually taking a rather thoughtful approach to addressing the issue. The attitude is best reflected in the popular Das Haus installation (pictured) from Valencia-based studio MUT Design. The exhibition features 11 new prototypes from the outfit that work in both indoor and outdoor settings (suited to the way that many in Europe will live in years to come). The stand’s design itself takes cues from Valencian residential vernacular, highlighting tried and true ways to beat the heat in a planet-friendly manner – sheer white convex walls maximise daylight, while retaining the sun’s heat within a space. It’s good to see designers thinking both about the aesthetics of our patios and the future of the planet simultaneously.

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Qassem Suleimani: the fallout

The effects of the assassination of Iranian military officer Qassem Suleimani and Iraq’s Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad on 3 January are yet to be fully seen. What is known is that it reignited or reaffirmed many of the tensions that previously existed. Tom Edwards chairs a discussion asking what could be next in an already unstable situation.

Monocle Films / Spain

Campus of creativity

“Foster independent thinking” is a key phrase in modern education but few places get it right. We visit Madrid’s Colegio Estudio to meet the enlightened teachers and alumni.

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