Saturday 2 January 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 2/1/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Setting the pace

There we were at the start of 2020, limbering up for the year, wondering how many twists and turns there would be on the way ahead but actually feeling pretty jolly and confident that there would at least be some pleasant refreshment stations en route to the finishing line. Then, just as we headed off into the year, news came through that didn’t sound so good, got worse and kept on coming. It felt as though you had signed up for a fun run only to discover that life had, without your permission, entered you into an ultra-marathon and that there were definitely not going to be any refreshment stops.

That memory is not good for people’s confidence as we face the start of 2021. Many readers will be wary of getting too carried away with new plans until the coming months properly reveal what the terrain ahead looks like. But plans are needed, even if they do have to be rethought or fine-tuned along the way.

Last year, Monocle’s ambitions were certainly made and remade at pace. But it worked. It also means that we start the new year with some important successes notched up. Our books team delivered the two fastest-selling titles we have ever printed; we launched the Digital Editions and several new email newsletters; [Konfekt}( found its place on the newsstand; the commercial team met ambitious partners; the shops bounced back after various lockdowns. Nobody would have wished for the pandemic but, luckily, Monocle belongs to that group of businesses that somehow became stronger in the face of all the challenges. The adversity wasn’t desired but it helped us to focus as never before, be clear of voice and, in turn, find a growing audience of subscribers, listeners and supporters who got us through it all.

While there are no doubt some surprises in store in the months ahead, and while recent weeks have cast more gloom in Europe, we look at 2021 with optimism. We’ll be expanding our books business (new titles on homes and Italy are imminent), taking Monocle 24 up a gear and adding new print and digital projects. So as we hit play on the year, thank you for all your support and here’s hoping that life doesn’t enter any of us into another year-long ultra-marathon. I’m not sure our knees could take it.


Beats international

This will be the year when the pop charts turn truly global (writes Fernando Augusto Pacheco). At least, that’s my prediction. We all know how popular K-pop is or that Puerto Rico has an incredible power to create the biggest summer hits. But this year we should expect more acts from a wider range of countries to top charts around the world.

The trend has already started. Master KG’s “Jerusalema”, one of the biggest hits of 2020, featured the deep tones of South African singer Nomcebo Zikode, who deserves to receive even more attention this year. We can also expect more international artists to collaborate in the manner of Colombia’s Maluma and French-Malian singer Aya Nakamura, who teamed up on a new version of her enormous hit, “Djadja”.

Perhaps in 2021 we’ll get to see the Mongolian hip hop scene export its best rappers, such as ThunderZ; or Brazil return to the European charts with booty-shaking tracks by Anitta (pictured). Nordic acts remain powerful too and it has to be said that Norwegian artists are finally giving the Swedes a run for their money.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco covers the global charts in his ‘Global Countdown’, every Thursday on Monocle 24’s ‘The Briefing’.


Climate changing

January is a difficult month to dress for in Hong Kong, where it’s warm one minute, chilly the next (writes James Chambers). As the city transitions from a long summer to a short winter, this yo-yoing, subtropical climate can provide for some odd clothing clashes on the streets. A few weeks ago I found myself wearing four layers while I passed a guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and a fetching pair of shades. My own rationale was that the beach dresser was spending his first winter in the city. His body has yet to experience “Hong Kong cold”. Lucky him. This weather phenomenon allows it to feel icy outside even though the temperature gauge is still solidly in the mid-teens (centigrade). Entire families walk around the city wrapped up in the same style of Uniqlo down jackets – to the bemusement of recent arrivals.

“It’s because of the humidity,” say Hong Kongers and anyone with at least half a dozen city winters under their belts, jumpers, scarves and ubiquitous down jackets. After six years, I’ve come around to this way of thinking and my body has become as soft as goose feathers. Believe me, Hong Kong cold is real. I feel it. And yes, I carry around one of Muji’s pocketable down mid-layers in my tote bag, breaking it out during emergency chills, which usually strike in the office during the late afternoon. Hong Kong is often colder indoors than out, given the general lack of central heating.

This demand for duck makes Hong Kong an important luxury market for the likes of Moncler and Canada Goose, while animal-free brand Save the Duck chose Hong Kong for its first flagship outside its native Italy. No doubt there were a fair few of these coats under Christmas trees last month – over January the padded parkas will be out in force.


Sound choices

Singer-songwriter Arlo Parks was born in Hammersmith, west London. In the past two years the young talent’s brand of introspective indie-pop has caught on across the UK thanks to singles “Cola” and “Black Dog”, earning her recognition as one of the year’s breakthrough acts from the BBC’s Sound of 2020. Here she tells us about rolling out of bed, brushing up on her poetry and her favourite music magazines.

What news source do you wake up to?
I usually just roll out of bed and turn on the radio. Always BBC.

Any new projects that you’re working on?
A poetry collection. I’ve been inspired by the likes of Pat Parker and Audre Lorde.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
It has to be coffee. A latte with one sugar is all I need.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
I’ve been listening to a lot of James Blake recently, especially his new EP, Covers.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
“Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers has been an earworm lately. And I’ve been listening to a lot of throwback stuff including Prince, so “Raspberry Beret” is up there.

What magazines are on your weekend sofa-side stack?
I love fashion, so there’s probably a copy of Vogue in there somewhere and I love to read music-based magazine Loud And Quiet. I give Pitchfork a browse online when I can and I like another music mag, Fader. It’s always The New Yorker for fiction.

Newspaper of choice?
That’s either the Evening Standard or The Economist.

A favourite bookshop?
Usually I’ll just go into Daunt Books as there are a few of them around London. But my favourite is actually Skoob Books near Russell Square, which is a secondhand bookshop. It’s one of London’s biggest, with something like 50,000 books there. It’s really, really good.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
I’ve been listening to In Writing with Hattie Crisell. She talks to poets, screenwriters and novelists about their writing processes. Then there’s Song Exploder, The New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast and Modern Love, which I love.

What’s the best thing that you’ve watched on TV recently?
The End of the F***ing World was great, especially with the colour schemes and the kind of 1950s/1960s soundtrack.

A favourite film?
Probably a drama or thriller. I liked Vertigo by Hitchcock, as well as , directed by Fellini. I also love Wes Anderson, so The Royal Tenenbaums is up there and Fantastic Mr Fox is fire.

Who’s your cultural obsession?
Xavier Dolan – he’s done some amazing films. The cinematography, the colours, everything is so good. And for one who’s passed away: James Baldwin. His writing is really human and patient. I like that.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
Maybe some ambient piano by Max Richter.


Tracks to trace

‘Mood’, Anaju. Straight from this year’s edition of Spanish talent show Operacion Triunfo, popstar-in-waiting Anaju has already released a six-song EP that showcases her whispery, warm vocals. The single “Ese o Ese” has a chilled-out vibe and syncopated beats that will put you in a good mood.

‘Plastic Bouquet’, Kacy & Clayton and Marlon Williams. This country supergroup comprising Canadian folk duo Kacy & Clayton and New Zealand actor and musician Marlon Williams offer the perfect soundtrack to chilly evenings. The set of crooning lullabies conjure visions of smokey mountains and firesides as much as they do Nashville and Saskatoon, where they were recorded.

‘Big Bunny’, Alaska Reid. Reid’s brand of Americana has been influenced by her own travels around the country, from Montana where she grew up, to Los Angeles, where she began her career in earnest. Her debut album bends genres: while there’s a hint of grunginess in certain tracks, others are melancholy ballads tinged with electronic beats. The soft crescendo of “Warm” is a winner.


Isolated incidents

Taking a look at the news in 2020 you would be forgiven for thinking there was only one story: it begins with the letter “C” and ends with the number “9”. But here at Monocle we work hard to dig a little deeper to discover the news that doesn’t make international (or even national) headlines. For our regular Weekend Edition segment “Outpost News”, we speak to the editors behind community news desks around the world. And they all have different stories to tell.

On the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island in April, Matt Markham, editor of the Ashburton Guardian, answered the phone to Monocle as news broke that a whale had washed up on a nearby beach. In Mitú, a town buried in the Colombian Amazon, Emerson Castro published a story in his weekly newssheet Maruanda in October about a young indigenous man who received the highest grade in his class. And in November, from the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in Valemount, Canada, Laura Keil’s The Rocky Mountain Goat reported on a pet pigeon that one woman nursed to health before taking it on a tour of the country. (When asked for a comment, the pigeon said that it was finding it “coo”.)

So although it might have been the year of one big story, let’s not forget the countless little ones that were reported every day. These tales, though they might seem parochial to some, serve as vital bonds that hold our society together. So, let’s tip our hats to those incredible editors around the world who have brought joy and knowledge to their communities in a challenging year, and shone as heroes in “Outpost News”.


Back to the land

Growing up, Jeppe Alexander Meier and Jesper Finderup played together in the forests surrounding their hometown in rural Denmark (writes Louis Harnett O’Meara). When they founded their Copenhagen-based clothing brand Forét in 2014, it was this old-time sense of the great outdoors that they sought to capture – less Gore-Tex and synthetic down and more organic cotton attire in sturdy cuts.

“We have a shared passion for nature and the calmness from the countryside,” says Alexander, who manages marketing for the brand. Finderup, Forét’s designer, points to the earthy, natural tones of its clothes and how they are made to chime with the Danish woodlands of yore. The style is simple, almost childishly so, with campfires embroidered onto jumpers and broad stripes on short-sleeved shirts.

“It is also important that the pieces are appropriate to wear in the office,” says Finderup. It’s proven a popular model. The brand was initially funded by a couple of €2,000 student loans but it is now stocked in more than 100 retailers. All manufacturing takes place in Portugal and although Forét doesn’t yet have its own shop, Alexander and Finderup are waiting for the perfect place to turn up in Copenhagen city centre. “It seems the natural next step,” says Alexander.


One style fits all

Hong Kongers who are looking to hit the ground running in 2021 need look no further than Lane Eight. Brothers Josh and James Shorrock launched the brand in 2018 to create handsome trainers that provide optimum performance whatever the exercise regime.

“I used to wear four different pairs of shoes to do different things on the same day, which made no sense,” says Josh. “So we thought about how we could create a shoe to do it all.” Lane Eight trainers are all made with recycled and sustainable materials. Step inside the shop on St Francis Street shop to try on a pair for yourself.


How do I know when to stop talking?

Sometimes it’s hard to know when you’re waffling on. It’s only when you turn to your companion and see that their eyes have drifted to the painting on the far wall or the small-print on the wine label does it dawn on you that everybody has stopped listening. Whether it’s because you’re repeating yourself, your last jape lacked verve or your input is off the mark, one thing is clear: you’ve lost the crowd. It’s mortifying for you and equally stultifying for the rest of the party.

So take a leaf from Mr Etiquette’s book and know when you’re done. Remember that it’s always better to stop talking while you still have the crowd’s attention. Which is to say, Mr Etiquette (and his furry feline familiar with the handsome bell and conditioned coat) are taking a short but well-earned sabbatical to cook up a few business proposals and jot down some fresh perspectives for the year ahead.

Fear not, dear reader, we will still pop in now and again with a few salient comments on matters of modern manners. But until then, this is goodbye, au revoir and sayonara from Mr E, and meow from Mr T. Consider it an object lesson in the art of ducking out while the reviews are ravishing (they really are), the wind is at your back and the going is good. We’ll see you soon. Ta-ra!


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