Friday. 9/10/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Mutt down to size

As Monocle’s Nic Monisse and I roamed along the busy streets and tight lanes connecting the many events at Milano Design City (which wraps up this weekend), we spotted an unexpected emerging trend: big dogs. These large fluffy beasts cut dashing figures, alongside their well-appointed owners, across the city’s picturesque ‌strada, yet it did feel a little counterintuitive. After all, aren’t the apartments tiny in central Milan? Where are the parks that are large enough to let these hounds get a good run? We soon learned that we weren’t the only ones asking these questions – the Commune de Milano has launched a campaign to combat the trend for people purchasing pets that are a little too large for the urban environment.

Thankfully, rather than victimising these poor pooches, the council is doing it with typical Milanese flair and humour. “Use your head to choose the friend that fits both you and your city” is the tagline stamped onto posters and social-media posts. But the best part is the image of a chic lady walking a huge hippopotamus past the Duomo. In 2020, when rules are being coldly cast on us at a ridiculous rate, sending a message that raises awareness and a smile at the same time is a welcome approach.

Politics / Chile

State of uncertainty

Chile’s centre-right government this week launched a campaign to get people out to vote on 25 October in a historic referendum about whether to rewrite the country’s constitution. It comes as the South American nation is experiencing simmering social tension, starting last year with a subway-fare hike that ignited long-standing grievances over social disparities and the treatment of indigenous people. If change is approved in the referendum, it will kick-start a process to consider and sanction these amendments by 2022. For many, the wording of the constitution is key to some of Chile’s biggest problems. It dates back to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and defines the country as a “subsidiary state” with everything from healthcare to education farmed out to private entities. But can constitutional change really solve the country’s political crisis? A recent survey by Santiago’s University of Development found that 56.7 per cent of Chileans think so. However, it will take more than words to solve the country’s many systemic problems.

Trade / Global

Leading contenders

The World Trade Organization this week narrowed its search for a new director-general to two candidates. By late October either Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala or South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee will be appointed as the first woman to lead the global trade authority. They each bring different strengths: Yoo has 25 years’ experience in the field and is currently South Korea’s trade minister; she’s the first woman to hold that position too.

She has vowed to reform the organisation by “restoring and reinforcing multilateral systems” and could be well placed to mediate in the ongoing trade spat between China and the US. By contrast Okonjo-Iweala (pictured), long a major player in international institutions, would be an outside moderator between the US and China. She’d also be the WTO’s first African director-general, a point that the Monocle Minute highlighted back in June. The race will be tight but, whoever wins, their appointment will help the WTO to fill a gap in representation.

Society / Berlin

Closing argument

Starting tomorrow, Berlin is introducing a curfew that requires bars and restaurants to close at 23.00 while banning late-night gatherings in parks. It’s a step that’s already been imposed in many of the cities that are experiencing a second wave of the pandemic, although its efficacy in the UK has been questioned as people spill onto streets outside establishments instead. However, it’s especially challenging for a capital famous for its nightlife and a free spiritedness that is rare in Germany. For that reason it’s hard to predict what the consequences will be. Berliners have a rather combative view of authority and don’t like being told what to do. Perhaps it would be better to use public marketing campaigns and place local volunteers on the streets who can appeal to people’s sense of community and willingness to protect others, rather than imposing an edict that risks inflaming the situation. These are tricky times but combating the pandemic requires tailored, focused solutions that residents can respect – and willingly follow.

Arts / USA

Bones under the hammer

Two Magrittes, a Cézanne, multiple Picassos and a host of other works by internationally acclaimed artists were on sale at Christie’s first major auction of the season. But it was a fossilised dinosaur – rather than a modern or contemporary art piece – that stole the show. Live-streamed from the Rockefeller Centre in New York, the auction drew an online audience of 280,000 people who watched as a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton fetched $31.8m (€27m), more than three times its predicted value. The event as a whole raked in $340m (€290m), eclipsing the previous year’s sale by more than $15m (€12.5m) and serving as a sign that online auctions can be a success. But the sale was much to the dismay of cash-strapped public institutions that would like to have these items on display. Perhaps the private owner of the T-Rex could at least consider loaning his dinosaur out every once in a while.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Beni Rugs and Portuguese Flannel

Robert Wright and Tiberio Lobo-Navia are the co-founders of Beni Rugs. The Marrakech-based label works closely with local communities to craft made-to-order rugs for its clients, weaving ancient tradition together with digital creation and ordering. We also meet António Magalhães, who along with his brother, co-founded menswear label Portuguese Flannel, celebrating their family’s legacy in textiles. Founded in 2013, they create unique cotton, linen and flannel clothing, which you can find at their flagship Porto shop.

Monocle Films / Italy & Japan

The talent-seeker: Ryutaro Yoshida

To celebrate this year’s Milano Design City – a downsized version of the annual Salone del Mobile – we take a closer look at one of our favourite exhibitors. Here we trace the collaboration between Italy’s Boffi De Padova and Japan’s Time & Style all the way to the remote region of Shimane, meeting the artisans that craft these special products.

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