Saturday 23 May 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 23/5/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


All to play for

The Victorians had some bright ideas: getting children to sweep chimneys, for starters (calm at the back, I’m teasing you). In the 1840s campaigners saw the opportunity to do good and improve people’s health with the creation of public parks. There had been pleasure gardens before but this was different: there were to be ponds to row on, elaborate flower beds, places to sit and rest, cricket pitches, greenhouses filled with plants brought back from the empire (OK, so perhaps the Victorian hobby of conquering the world looks a bit suspect now too).

But also in those parks were bandstands where, come summer, you could hear a brass ensemble (for younger readers, in case you are wondering, the DJ had not been invented just yet) while you dozed in a deckchair. Bandstands survived and thrived for decades, although in more recent times they have often been neglected and become the refuge of teenagers drinking illicitly on a rainy night.

If cities are going to be slow to reopen clubs, music venues and theatres, then these simple structures could come to our cultural rescue once again. But we need more of them. Let’s phone David Chipperfield, Liz Diller, David Adjaye and any other architect who’ll listen, and ask them to create a pop-up model for our parks. It will be easy to keep our distance on spaced-out deckchairs; fledgling bands will have an audience again; it will be safe and healthy in the fresh air; and we might create a new park-and-music legacy. Then, after that, we should look at resurrecting the great Victorian dark satanic mills – marvellous employers, you know.

I was sitting near a petite, chic woman dressed in white jeans, a sharp jacket and those trainers that only the rich buy – you know, the ones with a bit too much gold on. She was also sporting a mask. As she read something that must have been distracting on her iPad, I watched as she began to unwrap a bowl of food. I also watched as she used her fork to corner a piece of potato. And next I watched as it rose upwards and found not a mouth but a gauze wall. Her eyes swivelled and caught mine. But there was no way back. It was there: a little smear of oil and potato on her mask. “Spud yellow”; I have a feeling it might be the season’s unintentional lipstick colour.

Could all the handwringers chirping on about leaving the city and going to live in the countryside get a move on, please. I know lots of people who would like your apartment; just leave your keys on the table. And when the locals turn their noses up at the influx of arrivistes, please don’t ask to come back. I’ll let others defend their cities but central London has worked pretty well in recent weeks; far from flawless but it’s got through with its corner shops and bakers, good spirit and all those nice parks. And I see no need to abandon our great cities now.

Although I did walk past my friend Maggie’s shop that’s just around the corner from my house and it was all boarded up, she does window displays that lift the spirit, knows everyone and everything, and has been a presence throughout the recent weeks. I messaged her. Apparently since the lockdown eased, there’s been a spate of break-ins by junkies. It’s funny but of all the groups of people urged to get back to work by the prime minister, I had heard no mention of burglars. But it seems they are keen to resume their trade. Hopefully shops will reopen on 1 June in the UK and then life, eyes and community security will help sort the problem.

But the sun has been out all week and, with infection numbers falling, there’s more hope on the breeze. And maybe very soon we’ll be enjoying life like our colleagues in Zürich are today; shops and restaurants are back there. Because life on the streets is what we all need this summer. That and a tune drifting across the lawns of a park at dusk.


With open arms

On Monday, The Monocle Shop in Toronto will be throwing open its doors as retail life returns in the city. And don’t forget that our Hong Kong shop is also open, as are the store and café in Zürich; Tokyo is open by appointment only from Wednesdays to Fridays. Meanwhile, our London café is open for takeaway coffees, a tasty loaf and the latest editions of the magazine – and we hope that the London shop will resume its trade in the first week of June. Come and say hello – we’ve missed you


Keeping a cool head

Earlier this week, on the UK’s hottest day of the year so far, I walked through an east London park (writes Jamie Waters). Many Brits were treating the grass like a sandy shoreline, shedding clothes to reveal translucent torsos that looked as though they hadn’t seen rays for a decade. Yet a handful of hipsters looked summer-ready. One item united them: bucket hats. And one girl looked particularly seasonal in a banana-print model resembling something that Prada might dream up. Indeed, over the past year bucket hats have displaced caps, beanies and panamas as the apogee of fashionable headwear, gracing catwalks in Milan and New York. But they have a complicated past.

Historically they’ve been thought of as – variously – dorky, preppy and utilitarian; worn by fishermen, soldiers, golfers and senior citizens. But around the same time that Henry Fonda donned a bucket hat and specs to play a curmudgeonly old man in On Golden Pond (1981), hip-hop stars, skater boys and ravers began injecting buckets with a cool edge, rocking versions by brands such as Stüssy and Kangol. Fashion-conscious urbanites are just the latest members to join this ragtag crew. I desperately want in – ideally dressed as Miss Banana’s twin. But, alas, I am tall with a pea-sized head that does not suit such things. So if you find yourself in east London and spy a gangly Aussie whose head is being swallowed by a banana-splashed bonnet, please remove their hat. And burn it. I’ll thank you later.


Kathryn Gustafson

Acclaimed landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson is known for her sculptural projects, which include the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in London’s Hyde Park and Chicago’s Lurie Garden. Usually splitting time between her studios in Paris and Seattle, Gustafson tells Monocle about her favourite design bookshop and about growing her own strawberries and pumpkins.

What news source do you wake up to?
I try to start every morning with an American and a French news source because I live between both countries. I’m in Seattle right now on an island called Vashon, so I’ll listen to the area’s NPR station and also Washington’s NPR. I’ll probably look at Franceinfo too. When I’m travelling I try to always watch the local news because I design a lot for the public and it helps to understand what the local concerns are.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
Tea. Loose leaf. I’m a little bit of a connoisseur in that I wake up feeling like having a different tea every day. My tea cupboard is one of the messiest things in the world.

How are you handling working from home and staying in touch with colleagues?
I don’t go into the office very often, probably two days a week at the most. I’ve been doing this style of work for 20 years. The pandemic has impacted us in that we can’t go to a lot of our sites to test mock-ups and ideas. I did have the opportunity to go to my Eiffel Tower site during the lockdown; to have 50 hectares in the centre of Paris completely empty was extraordinary. It will never happen again in my lifetime.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
I love classical music and I love opera. Otherwise I don’t really listen to music. I guess 99 per cent of my brain is visual. I’m not a multi-tasker so if I need to concentrate on something then sound gets in the way.

Magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
I look at The Economist. I look at Vogue because I love fashion. And I like Monocle very much.

Bookshop you can’t wait to return to?
Peter Miller in Seattle is a wonderful bookshop. It’s an art and architecture bookshop but it also has objects and design pieces. Peter is a wonderful person to talk to, so it’s like seeing a friend at the same time as looking at books.

Is there any cultural gem that you’ve rediscovered now you have more time?
Historical novels. My favourite book in the world is War and Peace by Tolstoy; it’s like going on a voyage that you never want to stop. But also books about designing space, such as Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.

Sunday brunch routine?
I was raised in France so my big meal isn’t in the morning; it’s lunch or dinner. I am obsessed with cooking, though. I grow a lot of food here: strawberries, raspberries, squash, pumpkin, onion, spinach, garlic...

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
Book. Book. Book.


Access all areas

‘Tokyo Godfathers’, Satoshi Kon. If making your way through the Studio Ghibli back-catalogue on Netflix has reawakened your taste for anime, don’t miss this re-release of the 2003 classic by Satoshi Kon. Restored in 4K and now available in a dubbed English version, Tokyo Godfathers is being distributed digitally by Gkids. The tale of three homeless men chancing upon a foundling on Christmas Eve (and their decision to reunite the baby girl with her family) might be very seasonal but its heartwarming qualities provide a welcome extra shot of goodwill.

‘Pew’, Catherine Lacey. The presence of an enigmatic outsider has proven fertile ground for novelists over the years – a mysterious figure arriving in town can often bring out some strangeness in the residents. Catherine Lacey’s Pew is a fine addition to this tradition, as the ambiguous titular character triggers upheaval in the US Deep South.

‘How I’m Feeling Now’, Charli XCX. Many of us might have tried but Charlotte Aitchison (aka Charli XCX) has actually managed to use her time in self-isolation productively. The English singer-songwriter wrote and recorded this, her fourth studio album, after the country entered lockdown. It’s a stunning electropop release: singles “Claws” and “Forever” lend themselves wonderfully to dancing in your living room and, hopefully soon, in a club.


Gulf Shore thing

Since 1890, The Baldwin Times has covered Baldwin County, one of only two counties in Alabama that are lucky enough to touch the Gulf of Mexico (writes Will Kitchens). Blessed with white-sand beaches and small-town charm, the county has emerged as one of the state’s fastest-growing regions. Among its new-ish residents is journalist Allison Marlow, who hails from Boston. Along with her family, Marlow moved to Alabama five years ago following stints in Iraq (as a combat correspondent for a North Carolina newspaper) and South Korea. Now managing editor of The Baldwin Times, which is published every Friday, Marlow tells Monocle what’s making news in her adopted home.

What’s the big story?
We had an interesting story about how some event centres in the county are installing UV systems to try to clean facilities. So that was a look at how people are trying to get life back on track here. Of course, another big story is Memorial Day coming up [on Monday]. All the events that would normally have everybody jumping aren’t happening, so we did a big piece on how they’re going to honour veterans without them. One organisation said, “Come hell or high water, we’re having our event.” There is definitely a split in how people are seeing [the pandemic] and we’ve been covering all the different ways that cities, individuals and organisations are approaching it. But we’re doing everything that we can to try to educate people and remind them that the virus hasn’t disappeared.

A favourite picture?
What’s been a real bummer about the virus is that we’re not getting much photo-wise. But a couple of weeks ago, Fairhope’s fire department, knowing that kids’ birthday parties were being cancelled, were showing up at children’s houses with birthday banners and the fire engines going. We had a great picture of a little boy who was super excited. That was a nice bright spot in what was an otherwise dreary week.

What’s your down-page treat?
I wrote a story about a country-rock band that had a song about moonshining. I don’t know how they did it but they convinced the sheriff to be in the music video; it’s hilarious. We try to capture all parts of our community.

What’s the next big event you’ll cover?
We’re looking forward to the National Shrimp Festival, which is here in Gulf Shores in October. It’s bonkers. It’s fabulous fun and we cover it from head to toe. Who wouldn’t want to write about and eat delicious prawns? We’ve all got our fingers crossed that it will go ahead.


Stay true to your values

On this week’s episode of Monocle 24’s The Entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie (pictured) told us that the key ingredient in building a robust business is staying true to your values as an individual. “For any entrepreneur with a business that’s starting out, really make sure that your motivation for being in business is aligned with your values and your personal story,” said Mycoskie. A case in point, Mycoskie’s most successful business, Toms shoes, was born of his desire to use his resources and ingenuity to give back to impoverished communities in Argentina, a country that inspired his initial shoe designs.

Responding to a listener question on The Entrepreneurs, Mycoskie used his latest venture, Madefor, as an example of launching a brand that consumers will connect with because of its backstory. When battling with depression and feeling rudderless after stepping down as the CEO of Toms, Mycoskie began working on his personal health, a journey that he’s channelled into Madefor. The company has created a 10-month programme to assist people in cultivating good habits in their lives to help them succeed, covering such topics as hydration and better sleep. “One of the most important things is to be really authentic and transparent... and then find a way to share that,” he says. “People really connect to personal stories much more than any marketing or advertising.”

Get your questions in now for next week’s panel:


Tailored update

For almost a decade, the tailoring brand Pelikamo has dressed the men of Zürich in flattering, restrained suits and off-duty attire. Now Sebastiaan and Mia Vadasz, the husband-and-wife team behind the brand, are targeting women. They’ve just opened Maison Miaki, a womenswear brand and shop in the same building as Pelikamo, in the city’s business district. “Especially in regard to made-to-measure, there is currently not a single noteworthy tailor for women available in Zürich,” says Mia of the thinking behind their venture.

Launching a brand and shop at this time is tough, even if Switzerland has fared better than many nations. Maison Miaki was originally slated to open a month ago. “The majority of our manufacturers are in Italy and, with the lockdown, there has been a massive delay in production. Not knowing when the collection will arrive has made the planning difficult,” says Mia. Additionally, physical-distancing rules have made it tricky to train the store’s employees, organise photoshoots and put finishing touches to its interiors. But despite all of this, Zürich now has a lovely new shop that offers appealing options for women who want to look smart – as well as coffee and locally made yuzu lemonade for thirsty shoppers.


How do I ride a bicycle?

Mr Etiquette knows how to conduct himself while pedalling along a cycle path, although lately he’s been feeling like the only person in possession of such knowledge. As the sun is shining – and public transport remains a no-go zone for many – plenty of new cyclists have taken to the saddle. And while Mr Etiquette welcomes any and all to join him in the bike lane, etiquette remains important even during a pandemic. So let’s lay out the ground rules for using bike lanes.

  1. Be on a bike. No, dear pedestrians, these lanes are not for you.
  2. Single file, please. This is no time for chit-chat while pedalling two aside.
  3. Don’t be shy about using hand signals.
  4. Ding. Ding. Ding. Buy a bell.
  5. Don’t you dare touch that mobile phone of yours.

It’s as simple as that. And, yes, it is OK for Mr Tiddly to catch a ride in the bicycle basket. Although why he wears goggles is beyond me.


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