Thursday. 9/7/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Genevieve Bates

Ready for their close-up

While many in the fashion industry are bemoaning the migration of this week’s Paris Haute Couture shows to digital formats, connoisseurs of couture should look to Dutch designer Iris van Herpen’s autumn/winter 2020 video, which actually offers a superior view of her artistry than would be granted at a catwalk parade. Why? Because the shows often felt like the drawn-out curtain call of a Broadway musical – without much opportunity to see the detail of the clothes themselves. This season’s video productions correct that.

I was lucky enough to examine a decade’s worth of Van Herpen’s complex pieces up close at the Royal Ontario Museum’s 2018 retrospective of her work. Even a front-row seat at a catwalk show wouldn’t do justice to the intricacy of these “dresses” made of 3D-printed acrylic skeletons or finely woven metal gauze crafted to look like a puff of smoke. The single piece shown in Van Herpen’s new video, meanwhile – a floaty dress with a hand-stitched structure of roots made from black laser-cut branches of satin – is shown from every angle on Game of Thrones actor and fellow Amsterdam resident Carice van Houten. She’s a fitting muse for the designer who, after operating close to home in recent months, wanted to pay homage to her Dutch roots.

Of course, not every designer’s work stands up to the degree of close scrutiny that Van Herpen’s creations merit and those houses whose shows serve as marketing tools for their more lucrative fragrance and accessories lines will feel the loss of the chance to create a spectacle. But designers are adapting: Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing hosted a social-media presentation from a barge on the Seine. Although the sound cut out after two minutes and the barge moved too fast for pedestrians on the riverbank to keep up, at least it created a buzz – which is surely the function of any runway show.

Economy / EU

Recovery positions

The next few days will see an intense round of European diplomacy as the bloc’s southern members try to convince their more reluctant northern neighbours to back a coronavirus-related EU recovery fund. Spain and Italy’s respective leaders, Pedro Sánchez and Giuseppe Conte (both pictured, Conte on left), are trying to convince Austria, the Netherlands and others to help provide a pot of €750bn, predominantly in bailout grants rather than loans for members. One difference from past debates over pan-EU aid is that Germany, whose chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Brussels yesterday for talks, is backing the fund. Will that be enough for a deal to be thrashed out by the European Council meeting of leaders at the end of next week? “Nobody knows. My intuition is that there should be a deal,” says Amy Verdun, professor of European politics at Leiden University in the Netherlands. “If those countries in need get support, it’s also in the interest of these countries that have some reservations.”

Elections / Dominican Republic

End of the line

The Dominican Liberation party’s (PLD) rule over the Dominican Republic has come to an end after 16 years in power. In an election set against the difficult backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, Luis Abinader (pictured) of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) was named president-elect with 53 per cent of the vote this week, beating PLD candidate Gonzalo Castillo. The Dominican Republic, which is the most visited Carribean nation, had managed to achieve strong rates of economic growth during the previous administration’s tenure but was also mired in corruption scandals, including for allegedly taking bribes over the awarding of construction projects. Bridget Wooding, director of the Caribbean think-tank OBMICA in Santo Domingo, says the result mirrors others in Latin America “where people feel the need for change, [believe] that corruption is a big issue and feel that it should be tackled”. Abinader will be hoping to end corruption while maintaining the economy; no easy task as the country and its medical infrastructure continue to struggle with the pandemic.

Society / Japan

Deluge of information

Torrential rain has devastated many areas of Japan this week. Kyushu, the country’s southwesternmost main island, has received record rainfall, resulting in landslides and rivers breaking their banks, leaving more than 50 dead and many more missing. One shift in the disaster response has been that regional municipal governments in Kyushu are now offering multilingual telephone services in nearly 20 languages to support foreigners in need of urgent help. It’s a positive change – only a few months ago we reported on the lack of translated information made available for foreign businesses to benefit from public financial schemes during the coronavirus lockdown, causing confusion in the Japanese capital. This time, authorities acted promptly and the NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, has stepped in to spread the word. It’s a sign that, with rainfall expected to continue and cover a greater area including Tokyo, help is out there.

Culture / Milan

Sound effects

After four months of being closed, Milan’s storied La Scala concert hall has reopened, albeit with its auditorium’s capacity reduced from 2,000 to 600. It’s good to see the venue back but, with so many people missing, did it sound empty? “In older halls, noises can become echoey and harsh when there are lots of unfilled seats because people’s bodies help to absorb and soften the sounds,” says Trevor Cox, professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford. A major 2004 renovation of La Scala’s 18th-century space likely dealt with some of these issues through the installation of sound-absorbing seats and re-engineered floors. But other venues have had to go with more improvised solutions. The Liceu, a 19th-century opera house in Barcelona, opened on 22 June to a packed audience of 2,292 potted plants. The plants’ soil, Cox suggests, should help to soften the acoustics.

M24 / Food Neighbourhoods

Recipe edition, Ravinder Bhogal

A favourite recipe by Ravinder Bhogal, founder of Jikoni restaurant in London.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: The Entrepreneurs 2020

The second issue of The Entrepreneurs comes at a time when many founders and owners will be facing the biggest challenge of their careers. To help, we’ve compiled a timely compendium of advice and stories from some of the world’s most resilient businesses, big and small. What tools do you need to survive? And where are the opportunities? Find out here. Available now at The Monocle Shop

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