Monday. 14/9/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / TYLER BRÛLÉ

By design

Long before there was talk of “concept stores” and “select shops”, before terms like “perfect edit” and “curated experiences” took over the language of sales and marketing and much, much before the nonsensical talk of “seasonal drops”, there was Terence Conran. There have been few instances in modern history where a single individual has transformed the way we consume, live and inform ourselves – and fewer still who managed to make money from it.

While I didn’t grow up surrounded by products selected and designed by Terence Conran and his team, I did grow up under his considerable influence. In Canada my mom has all of his books and whenever someone was off to London there was always a request for a Habitat catalogue. For the better part of half a century, Terence Conran helped reshape sitting rooms, introduced millions to the meaning of good design, modernised the way shops were designed and in turn revitalised communities. For his efforts he became Sir Terence Conran and on Saturday he died at the age of 88.

I had the chance to interview him on numerous occasions and was always taken by his sharp views on how a store experience could be improved or what elements were required to heighten the quality of a restaurant. He liked nothing more than to settle into his Yrjö Kukkapuro chair, cigar in hand, and tell you about the magical engineering of the Citroën DS or the wonders of Concorde. Today style and creative directors are minted overnight (fortunately many disappear just as fast) but Sir Terence Conran must be remembered for lifting our appreciation for modern living and respect for the life-improving values of good design.

Politics / USA

Picking a path

As the US election draws near, the Democrats are facing a fork in the road – and both strategic paths to victory in November have their advantages. One route involves reclaiming voters who have drifted in recent years and regaining the party’s traditional stamping grounds of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. These states, by and large, “are pretty clearly leaning toward Joe Biden,” Brian Klaas, associate professor in global politics at University College London, tells Monocle 24’s The Foreign Desk. However, there is another way forward, one that would lead Biden (pictured) to victory through conservative and centrist votes in Florida, Georgia and Arizona. “We’re talking about people who liked Ronald Reagan but don’t like Donald Trump,” says Klaas. “Biden is making inroads here too.” Having two plausible options is no bad thing but the Democrats would do well to choose a direction and stick to it.

Aviation / UK

Flight club

As the economic fallout of the pandemic upends the commercial airline sector, private aviation businesses around the world are soaring like never before. Gatwick-based charter business Air Partner reports that interest in its services is sky high, as executives return to the office and resume flying for face-to-face meetings abroad. Air Partner says that UK enquiries were up 270 per cent in August and 170 per cent globally, compared to the same month last year.

Meanwhile, passenger numbers at London’s Heathrow Airport fell 81.5 per cent in August because of travel restrictions and public concern over coronavirus. Flying in a private jet might be convenient for those who can afford it but the long-term effect of reduced passenger traffic could be fatal for many commercial airlines and adjacent businesses.

Society / Canada

Black in business

Back in June, Ottawa’s Parliamentary Black Caucus penned a statement outlining how the government could help redress systemic racism in Canada. Providing support for black entrepreneurs and business owners is one piece of the puzzle, which is why Justin Trudeau (pictured) unveiled a first-of-its-kind programme to support black-owned businesses last week. With hopes of removing the roadblocks that many black entrepreneurs encounter when trying to secure loans or funding, the new programme will see the government chip in CA$93m (€60m) to help them access capital, mentorship and skills training. Eight financial institutions will also contribute CA$128m (€82m) to establish a new fund offering business loans ranging from CA$25,000 (€16,000) to CA$250,000 (€160,000) for those working to get their own business off the ground. While, of course, the new programme alone will not solve the issue in the country, it’s an important step in redressing the inequities – ones that aren’t limited to Canadian society either.

Art / Global

Creative tension

The postponed edition of Art Basel should have taken place this week but the art world’s main fair – like most other international trade shows – has been cancelled. Next month ushers in a concluding quarter to what has been a somewhat dispiriting year for the art market. According to a survey published last week, there was a 36 per cent downturn in sales during the first half of 2020. Still, there are reasons not to panic quite yet. Cosmoscow International Contemporary Art Fair (pictured) went ahead in Russia over the weekend, relying on a keen domestic market rather than a temporarily grounded international collector base. In London, meanwhile, some suggest that travel restrictions have, counterintuitively, been good for nurturing relationships. “All the time that you’re running around doing art fairs, you don’t get to speak to people as much,” says Matthew Flowers, managing director of Flowers Gallery. “But now if people want to see something, you arrange a viewing and you’re able to build a more personal rapport.” Let’s hope better relations breed more sales in the near future.

M24 / The Pioneers

Brad Norman

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, recognisable by its celestial markings. Australian scientist Brad Norman has been tracking this elusive and endangered creature by using technology designed to study stars, as well as images collected through ecotourism. Norman is based in Perth, where he runs his company Ecocean.

Film / Sweden

The secret to running a restaurant

In the latest edition of our ‘Secret to...’ series, Niklas Ekstedt opens up his acclaimed eatery – Ekstedt – and divulges some insightful tips on how to run a successful restaurant.

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