Friday. 5/6/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Robert Bound

Trip off the tongue

If you can get over the fact that some of the most menacing scenes in movie history have conjured weird magic from an innate human fear of corridors (The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Oldboy), then you might have sprung over the first hurdle in your return to flying somewhere on holiday. “Travel corridors” (or “air bridges”) have been proposed as direct routes between places with low rates of coronavirus. This will allow for relatively easy passage between, for example, northern Europe and the beaches of Mallorca. These alleyways of opportunity have been talked-up by the Portugese and Spanish foreign affairs and tourism ministries and mentioned in dispatches by the UK prime minister.

In terms of a naming strategy, the jetpacks-for-everyone utopianism of “air bridge” is favourable, suggesting a travelator in the clouds that ends directly at a table in the shade at Sa Foradada in Deià or the beach at Cascais. Nice. “Travel corridor”, however, will surely strike fear into the heart of anyone who’s landed at Heathrow Terminal 4 and made the 3,000km expedition through linoleum-floored purgatory to reach the taxi rank (eat your heart out, Mr Kubrick).

The possibility of being beamed across oceans has tickled the imaginations of both Stephen Hawking and the creators of the Japanese animation Doraemon, whose mystical “dokodemo” or “anywhere” door whizzes the eponymous character’s rotund feline form anywhere it desires. Thinking about it, a sort of a magical Tube station that took you directly to Costa Careyes in Mexico or the sun terrace atop St Moritz’s Piz Nair would certainly be something worth topping up the Monocle travelcard for.

In the end, it’s laudable and vital to reopen routes, wheel out the postcard carousels and lay tables with an eye to stemming losses and spreading joy again. But let us in at the branding stage and we’ll happily work out a streamlined solution. Until you call, I’ll be busy outlining my metro map of paradise islands linked by swaying palms.

Economy / Global

No one left behind

Governments around the world have unveiled bold measures to keep their economies afloat in recent months, ranging from increasing unemployment benefits to debt-relief plans. Now Spain’s government, led by prime minister Pedro Sánchez (pictured), has approved a minimum-income guarantee to help those most in need (about 2.3 million people) to recover from the economic aftershock of the pandemic. The payments will start this month and vary between €461 and €1,015, applied first to households with children and at risk of poverty. It comes at the same time that Stockton in California decided to prolong its universal basic income (UBI) pilot programme for another six months (read Issue 127 of Monocle and listen to this episode of The Urbanist for reports on the experiment). It’s still early days when it comes to testing UBI as an answer to society’s ills but it’s reassuring that countries are seeking innovative economic solutions.

Retail / China

Spending power

Which nation is top dog when it comes to customer spending? A new forecast by UK-based research firm Global Data predicts that China will overtake the US by 2023 as the world’s biggest consumer market for clothing. This follows a more general trend in which Asia-Pacific countries – also including India and South Korea – will make up ground on established territories such as the US and Europe. The forecast accounts for the fact that shopping habits will change in the coming months and years.

Already in China there’s been a swell in “revenge” spending, as consumers express pent-up pandemic-related angst by splashing their cash. And these countries will experience a sustained increase in domestic spending as Chinese and South Korean shoppers inject money back into their local markets rather than boutiques in Paris or New York. Expect brands to respond by focusing on building more “neighbourhood” shops rather than investing in flagships in tourist capitals.

Culture / USA

Reading matters

A number of media outlets in the US have been publishing reading lists and educational materials this week for anyone spurred to action by the protests to support the Black Lives Matter cause. But the question of where customers decide to purchase these books is also important. People are being encouraged to support black-owned independent bookshops, such as Eso Won Books in Los Angeles or Harriett’s Bookshop in Philadelphia. In New York an initiative called Black-Owned Brooklyn offers a directory for all kinds of businesses – from restaurants to florists – that are owned and run by African-Americans. “We’ve seen a huge burst of new followers over the past few days seeking to support black communities at this time,” say Tayo Giwa (pictured right) and Cynthia Gordy Giwa (left), the husband-and-wife team behind Black-Owned Brooklyn. “We’re proud to be a useful resource, as our aim here is to be actionable.” By using shops such as these, customers are also helping to support the long-term prospects of the neighbourhoods in which they’re found.

Design / Finland

Start to Finnish

From Alvar Aalto to Marimekko, Finland has been a leading force in the world of design since the early 20th century. But the Nordic nation has never had a design museum that quite lives up to its reputation. That might be about to change: this week the Finnish government earmarked €60m for a museum of architecture and design with the expectation that Helsinki’s city hall will match this funding. The plans have suggested using land on Helsinki’s south harbour (pictured) once set aside for a Guggenheim Helsinki, which was mothballed in 2016. There might be political and legal hurdles and another €10m to €30m will need to be garnered from private sources on top of the city’s contribution but estimates suggest that the museum could feasibly be completed in as little as five years. Monocle’s view? Crack on.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Leaders of change

Alain Sylvain, CEO and founder of New York brand consultancy Sylvain Labs, tells us how personal experience informs leadership during troubling times. Plus: we head to Islay off the west coast of Scotland to meet Douglas Taylor, CEO of Bruichladdich distillery.

Monocle Films / Spain

All around the table: wine in La Rioja

This Spanish region is home to many large-scale producers, but at Castillo de Cuzcurrita things are done differently. Vintner Ana Martin Onzain unveils how their aged wines – grown and made exclusively in this small village – bring people together.

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