Thursday. 5/3/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Moral fibre

On the runways of Milan and Paris, designers are commenting with increasing urgency on the need to embrace eco-friendly clothing and practices. Away from the catwalks, though, on high streets around the world, a different story is often being told. The sustainability drive is a good and necessary thing but one of the criticisms levelled at this movement is that “sustainable” items – a one-off piece made from recycled fabrics or an organic-cotton jumper – are often expensive. For many consumers, the decision to “shop sustainably” becomes not so much an ethical decision as an economic one.

For the eco-friendly movement to have more thrust, it needs to be widely accessible. There are some heartening signs. Secondhand shopping is being championed like never before – see, most recently, Nordstrom opening a pre-loved-goods shop in New York. Meanwhile, Helena Helmersson, former head of sustainability at H&M, was recently appointed the Swedish fast-fashion giant’s new CEO. The brand has engaged with sustainability and recycling in the past but many are hoping that Helmersson’s background will see her emphasise these topics, especially on the matter of overproduction, with increased intensity.

Elsewhere, reports suggest that clothing that takes less of a toll on the environment is gaining presence in mass-market shops, although there are concerns that brands are using words such as “sustainable” and “organic” as selling points without sufficient facts to back up their claims. This can’t be about lip service or greenwashing; brands need to find a way to produce clothes responsibly while keeping costs down. The pressure is on.

Media / Australia

Cutting wires

The crisis facing local journalism has become even more apparent this week with the announcement that the Australian Associated Press (AAP), the country’s biggest newswire service, will close in June. Founded by Keith Murdoch in 1935, the company supplies content to almost every major newspaper and broadcaster in Australia. “What you’re seeing [here] is one of the most concentrated media markets further concentrating,” says Latika Bourke, a correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald (itself part of a recent consolidation when its publisher, Fairfax, merged with the media conglomerate Nine Entertainment). It’s also a test for the country’s government, which Bourke says has offered little in the way of practical assistance. The AAP’s own report on its demise cited a failure of media regulation and pointed to the ease with which its journalism can be copied (or stolen) by digital giants. It’s worth considering whether laws should be strengthened to help keep on-location journalism off life support.

Technology / Canada & Abu Dhabi

Floating assets

Drones seem to be here to stay but developing new applications for them still requires financial risk. Just ask Canadian engineering firm Robert Allan, which yesterday announced a collaboration with Abu Dhabi Ports to develop the world’s first unmanned tugboats. Already a world leader in building the crewed versions, the Canadian firm has been seeking a chance to get in on the act.

“We were somewhat stalled in progressing to a commercial construction without an opportunity like this,” says Mike Fitzpatrick, the firm’s CEO. The plan is to develop a fleet of remotely operated tugs which, according to Abu Dhabi Ports, will not only cut costs and boost efficiency but also improve safety through their ability to operate in poorer weather. For more on the expansion of drone technology to the world’s navies, read the Defence Briefing in Monocle’s April edition, which is on newsstands on 19 March.

Urbanism / Austin

Looking both ways

Texas’s department of transportation recently revealed $4.3bn (€3.9bn) plans that would see additional lanes added to Austin’s downtown highway. And while in most cities the consensus among urban designers is that such roads should be removed to make way for civic spaces, here some critics in the state capital have taken a different route, pushing for the upgrade to include platforms above the highway that can become home to pedestrian and cycle routes, and sporting facilities. The Urban Land Institute believes that this would help “stitch” together communities currently divided by tarmac. In a city and state where residents still rely on their cars, this is a plan that could deliver realistic and measured change.

Art / USA

Life through a lens

The Armory Show, New York’s pre-eminent art fair opens today, hot on the heels of last weekend’s Art Dealers’ Association of America (ADAA) event. Exhibitor Troy Seidman, who owns Toronto gallery Caviar 20, says that sales at ADAA were robust despite lower attendance, boding well for this week’s four-day show. Seidman credits “the unrivalled local scene” for his optimism but also the content of his own stand: a 20-piece display of late works by mid-century New York street photographer Weegee alongside Nan Goldin’s intimate photos from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Caviar 20 is one of only a handful of galleries showing photography at the Armory and Seidman believes that his works have a strong appeal for people whose homes might not be able to house more epic images by the likes of Candida Höfer and Thomas Struth.

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Israel: third time lucky?

Last weekend Israelis went to the polls for the third time in less than a year. Andrew Mueller looks at Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances of staying in office – and out of prison.

Monocle Films / Los Angeles

All around the table: big screen in Los Angeles

Under the starry sky in Hollywood, we meet Rooftop Cinema Club founder Gerry Cottle Jr to talk about the enduring appeal of simple get-togethers and how public spaces in busy cities can become our living rooms.

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