Thursday. 30/7/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Name that tune

The funny thing about summer hits is that it’s always hard to pinpoint the moment when you first heard them. They’re the songs that slowly creep up on us as temperatures rise. And they usually end up surrounding us – when we’re shopping, when we’re out for a drink, when we’re dancing until sunrise.

In a summer when these activities are limited – or restarting timidly – in many parts of the world, it’s hard to know what the songs of the season will be. Sure, we can study the charts on Spotify – or its recently released Songs of Summer 2020 playlist – but the principle of on-demand music is the antithesis of the very idea of the summer hit. In Italy, my home country, we call these types of songs tormentoni: a tune that torments you. You can’t get away from it, even if you wanted to.

All of which makes the role of radio even more important this year – the job of the ever-optimistic DJ is fundamental in keeping the rituals of summer in place. Give up your free will, tune in to the cheesiest station you know and listen as a pattern emerges. For me, all it took was a long roadtrip to realise that “Mediterranea” by Irama (pictured) is a good contender for the title in Italy this summer. Judging by its reggaeton-inspired rhythms and lyrics invoking wild dancing, summer is alive and well on the airwaves.

Diplomacy / Iran & Switzerland

Delivery window

A first Swiss delivery of cancer medication arrived in Iran this week following a year of negotiations between Bern and Washington that led to the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA). The pact is a new way of sending vital supplies to Iran. Though humanitarian goods were technically not affected by the reintroduction of US sanctions against Iran in 2018, exporting companies have struggled to find banks that are willing to process payments for fear of being blacklisted by the US. The SHTA functions as an intermediary between Swiss companies, banks and the US authorities, guaranteeing compliance with the sanctions. The US Treasury believes that the mechanism will ensure that humanitarian supplies are not misused by the Iranian regime. But Benno Zogg, senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zürich, says that November’s US elections could still dictate whether similar arrangements with other countries – and the sanctions themselves – will follow. “Many states and companies are very keen to trade with Iran,” he says. “But the fear of angering the US is currently a strong deterrent.”

F&B / Global

Bad apples

Many of us changed our eating and drinking habits during the lockdown but a recent report suggests that the pandemic might have affected the overall quality of what we consume too. The joint Europol and Interpol Opson IX operation, which targeted counterfeit and substandard food and drink during the period of December 2019 to June this year, found that the unique environment of the coronavirus pandemic allowed lower-quality products to creep into the supply chain.

The report suggests that criminals made the most of disruption caused by lockdowns, with some opportunists even disguising and declaring food and drink as medical equipment. Counterfeit edibles clearly remain a lucrative business: the operation resulted in the seizure of more than €34m of harmful and illegal products, ranging from grains to alcohol and coffee.

Travel / Japan

Work around

As hospitality sectors around the world continue to struggle with lower than usual occupancy rates, the latest gambit from the Japanese government will promote working from domestic holiday destinations – a “workation”, to borrow a questionable new phrase from chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga. The campaign is aimed at keeping up numbers in a hospitality industry that has been heavily promoted by the government in recent years. New Shinkansen routes were added and hotels built in all corners of Japan to cater to a skyrocketing number of tourists from overseas, which jumped from 6.7 million in 2009 to 31 million in 2019; the goal is still to hit 60 million by 2030. But with Japan facing a second wave of coronavirus and some remote regions with small populations feeling anxious about receiving visitors, tourism remains limited. Ideas ranging from the Go to Travel campaign, which subsidises holidays, to the latest “workation” concept are well intentioned but the jury is out on whether they are here to stay.

Fashion / UK

Smart money

Following its award in May of £1m (€1.1m) in grants to support UK-based creative fashion businesses, the British Fashion Council (BFC) announced yesterday that it has raised another £500,000 (€550,000) and opened applications for a second round of funding. The BFC says that applications will be accepted every time another £500,000 is raised. A total of 37 businesses received support in the first round, as did some students, who were helped in order to encourage new talent. Recipients included established names such as Roksanda Ilincic (pictured) and Palmer Harding and Hussein Chalayan, as well as younger designers including Matty Bovan and Chopova Lowena. The money comes from a diverse range of donors, from fashion house Alexander McQueen to Amazon. Applicants have to demonstrate the viability of their future business plans, as well as their “contribution to the overall fashion ecosystem”. It’s commendable that the BFC has acted quickly to keep the industry afloat – now the onus is on donors to keep the money flowing.

M24 / Monocle on Design

Architecture: a laughing matter?

Today we’re approaching two topics that are rarely mentioned in the same breath: humour and architecture. Angela Brady, Kate Wagner and Owen Hopkins ask whether mirth can add to the debate on the built environment.

Monocle Films / London

All around the table: deli dipping in London

Hanna Geller and Jeremy Coleman of Building Feasts take us on a tour around their favourite London food shops and pick up supplies on the way to put their effortless hosting skills into practice.

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