Thursday. 17/9/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Designing a better world

The clock in the Gemmayze studio of designer Nada Debs still reads 18.08 – the time on Tuesday 4 August when a massive blast levelled Beirut’s port and the surrounding area. Not far away, journalist and Monocle contributor Leila Molana-Allen had been thrown across her apartment by the force of the explosion. Not noticing her injured foot (for which she later needed treatment), her first thought was of her flatmate, then her neighbours, then letting her friends know that she was fine. In the following days she headed to the blast site to gather accounts of Beirutis piecing together what had happened, recovering what could be salvaged and offering aid to others, even before the dust had settled.

It’s this sense of determination despite the odds that trickles through our out-today October issue, the theme of which is how to design a better world; the magazine is on newsstands from today. Molana-Allen’s Beirut diary is just one (albeit extremely moving) instance of when people in unimaginably tough situations, who’ve lost loved ones, jobs and homes, have decided to clear the rubble and endeavour to redesign their cities, political systems and businesses for the better. In some small way, and often in less-testing circumstances, we can all play a role in improving our lives and livelihoods. For lessons on how to start – be it in urbanism or architecture, art or hospitality – this is the issue for you. It’s still 18.08 in Beirut and it’s time to act.

Politics / Japan

Same as the old boss?

Fresh from his appointment as Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga unveiled his new cabinet yesterday – and the response has not been entirely positive. The 20-member team reflects Suga’s conservative inclinations: only five cabinet members are newcomers and they include Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of previous prime minister Shinzo Abe. Nepotism in politics is nothing new in Japan but the fact that the position of defence minister is Kishi’s first cabinet post has raised eyebrows, particularly given the fragile security landscape Japan is facing. In addition, only two members of Suga’s cabinet are women and the average age of its members is just under 60. Again, these statistics, which reflect the Japanese workplace, are nothing new. But Suga might need to demonstrate a fresher approach should he wish to step out of his predecessor’s shadow.

Diplomacy / California

Holding fire

With wildfires still ravaging the US west coast, securing federal funding will be vital for states dealing with the crisis. For California governor Gavin Newsom, his most important response to the fires might be a diplomatic one. In a meeting with Donald Trump this week, Newsom departed from his usual outspokenness and showed remarkable restraint in the face of yet more dubious anti-climate change claims from the US president.

That measured approach should ensure that his state is granted the further funds it so desperately needs. “[Newsom] is very charming and very adept at the sort of diplomacy one needs to live in the world we’re in right now,” Los Angeles-based media strategist Marc Adelman told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “It’s a very good example of being able to speak truth to power in a way in which everybody feels as though they can go on and do what they need to do.”

Culture / Italy

Managing heritage

Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini (pictured) recently announced a new round of appointments of directors for 13 museums around the country. The list, which includes six women, features only one foreign name: Frenchman Stéphane Verger has been put at the helm of the Museo Nazionale Romano. The decision to open such positions to non-Italians at all is a relatively recent one. Franceschini had been one of its main proponents in his previous stint as minister in 2014 before being replaced by the populist Alberto Bonisoli, who brought a more nationalistic approach to proceedings. Now back in the job, Franceschini might not want to ruffle feathers but his ambition to shake up practices at these institutions should be welcomed. Museum directors such as British-Canadian James Bradburne (who heads the Pinacoteca di Brera) have proven that an external perspective can be instrumental to rethinking a country’s approach to its own heritage – and sometimes boost visitor numbers too.

Fashion / UK

Outdoor pursuits

London Fashion Week kicks off today. Although the audience will be digital, about a third of the 80 designers taking part are presenting live shows – efforts that we applaud. The hottest (virtual) ticket will be Burberry’s spring/summer 2021 display. Its creative director, Riccardo Tisci (pictured), has taken this change of format as an opportunity to mount an ambitious outdoor extravaganza set in the countryside. He has invited German performance artist and painter Anne Imhof to collaborate on a presentation that will highlight tensions between the natural and manmade worlds. It’s a fitting theme for Burberry, a brand that launched with the invention of a tightly woven waterproof gabardine. And while it’s usual to pray for dry skies when planning an outdoor event in the UK, perhaps Tisci is hoping for rain to test the properties of his latest riffs on the brand’s signature raincoats.

M24 / On Design

Why are the Danes so good at design?

We travel to Copenhagen for the annual 3 Days of Design event to explore what makes Danish design unique and why it can be an important soft-power tool on the international stage.

Monocle Films / France

The secret to baking bread

Paris baker Christophe Vasseur runs the successful corner shop Du Pain et des Idées and knows the secret of the perfect loaf.

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