Thursday. 18/6/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Cap and trade

One of the byproducts of the pandemic has been to accelerate a series of trends that were already in motion; this includes our consumption habits. Buying “less but better” has become a popular mantra in recent years due to concerns about sustainability and waste. And in the past couple of months this talk has escalated: in lockdown people are reflecting on what they actually want and need – plus, in many cases, they have less money to spend.

Recent reports by forecasting firms, including US-based consulting firm Bain & Co, say that people expect to buy fewer clothes in the wake of the crisis (though not necessarily to spend less money), while a survey by streetwear site Highsnobiety revealed that respondents are keen to embrace “silent” fashion (clothes without flashy logos) and are frowning on conspicuous consumption. More considered buying is good and necessary – the fashion, design, cosmetics, technology and other industries produce too much stuff and churn through trends at alarming rates – but I do wonder about the ripples that a rethink will cause.

Brands and factories make their money from manufacturing and selling lots of things. If shoppers are buying fewer products, adjustments will need to be made. Will there be a general hike in prices – and quality – to accommodate consumer preferences? Will brands need to increase product margins in order to make the same amount of money from selling fewer items? Is fast fashion as we know it slowing? This moment of reckoning comes with fewer products – but lots of questions.

Conflict / India & China

Bare-knuckle battle

This week a violent clash between Chinese and Indian border patrols (pictured) on the disputed Himalayan border left at least 20 soldiers dead, ratcheting up tensions between the two emerging powers. But it could have been far worse: one factor limiting the death toll was a gentlemen’s agreement between the two nations that border guards should not carry guns. Instead, Monday’s violence involved hand-to-hand combat and improvised weapons at worst – and it’s hardly the first time that such medieval-style skirmishes have taken place. “Deweaponising the zone has been very effective,” says Sajjan Gohel, international security director for the Asia-Pacific Foundation, who dates the arrangement back to the late 1980s. “I’m not aware of any other examples of a no-weapons agreement and it has effectively prevented escalation on these borders in the past.” But such an unwritten agreement is fragile. “It’s dependent on mutual trust,” says Gohel. “When there are casualties on both sides, it’s hard to know where it will head.”

Society / Japan

Daddy’s home

A survey in Japan confirms what many parents around the world might report anecdotally: home working as a result of the pandemic is leading to a more equitable sharing of child-rearing duties. According to a poll of 5,000 full-time workers in Japan by Nomura Research Institute (NRI), nearly 60 per cent of men with children under the age of six claimed that working from home helped them play a greater role in parenting; they’re spending more time with their families and doing more household chores than before – simply by being at home.

In theory this means a better quality of family life but the majority of men and an even higher proportion of women also felt that juggling two roles from home was no easy task (this is likely a bigger revelation for men than women, who no doubt still do a larger share of childcare and domestic chores, even while working outside the home). What’s clear is that companies will need to show flexibility and understanding as people return to work. Hopefully they will help to maintain some of the positive shifts in gender roles that Japan has struggled to make for decades.

Music / Canada

Rich awards

The Polaris prize, Canada’s highly regarded annual music award, announced its longlist this week. Music has long been a potent part of Canada’s soft-power offering overseas and the Polaris serves as a reminder of the diverse array of artists that seems to reflect the country’s joys, controversies and complexity every year. Established in 2006, the Polaris has a jury of nearly 200 figures from Canada’s music industry, ensuring that the longlist is always eclectic and diverse. The nominees are chosen solely on musical merit – commercial success isn’t taken into consideration – meaning that megastars like The Weeknd and Allie X rub shoulders with musical debutantes. Begonia (pictured), a singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, and Montréal act Flore Laurentienne are among those whose debut albums made this year’s list. After the long months of lockdown across the country, the award serves as a welcome reminder of the richness of Canada’s music scene.

Urbanism / Milan

Summer revamp

In an ordinary summer, the streets of Italy’s northern cities are all but deserted as residents migrate to the seaside for the hottest months. But this year, as more people than usual plan to stick close to home, municipalities are adapting to offer some holiday-style leisure spaces within their urban confines. In Milan, a green area in the northern Porta Nuova neighbourhood is being turned into Lido Bam, a park-cum-urban beach. Albeit sand-free (the grounds will remain grassy), the Lido will host around 80 umbrellas and sun loungers that will be available for hire for a €5 daily fee; there’ll be food and drink kiosks and tables for picnics and card games. Replacing the sandy Mediterranean shores might be tough but landlocked cities shouldn’t waste this opportunity to rethink how they can embrace summer in the years to come.

M24 / Monocle On Design

Philip Johnson, Helsinki Design Week and the Taiwan Design Research Institute

We talk with the author of a new biography of US architect Philip Johnson, find out the latest from Helsinki Design Week and spotlight the rebranding of the Taiwan Design Research Institute.

Monocle Films / Global

Copenhagen: healthy city growth

The concept of kolonihave, a blissful combination of an allotment and a summer house, has shaped Danish cities since the late 17th century. Today avid growers convene in these colonies to find a peaceful place to commune with nature – and a community of diverse characters.

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