Thursday. 25/3/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Maria Klenner

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Smarten up

Anyone who says that the past 12 months haven’t offered pause for thought probably isn’t telling the whole truth. And while we can’t alter the strain, strife or tragedy of the pandemic, our out-today April issue does offer a positive read on what happens next. The issue is brimming with nudges and tentative steps to smarten up everything from the world to your wardrobe. Here are just a few things you’ll learn.

How to rebuild
Our Beirut correspondent Leila Molana-Allen revisited streets and businesses shattered by the port explosion last August. She found hope amid the struggle and profiled a troop of city fixers who kept faith in a brighter future, and have set about building it.

Why to be diplomatic
Our sit-down with UN secretary-general António Guterres saw him dub 2020 an “annus horribilis” but he still holds out hope for the future. He spotted green shoots of hope in everything from more united global vaccination efforts to the number of nations facing up to climate change and tackling social injustice. The trick? Realising that we’re in it together.

What to listen to
We met Italian-Egyptian songwriter Mahmood whose brand of powerful, genre-bending pop offers both reasons to be cheery and a positive show of the power of multiculturalism; music to our ears.

How to make it
Our dedicated Style Directory is packed with honest, interesting brands and ideas that can help you to hone your style for spring. Lagos-based brand This Is Us, run by a husband-and-wife team, turns out smart indigo-dyed garments that are made entirely in Nigeria. How and where things are made matters.

The importance of presence
In a time defined by remoteness (away from friends, family and favourite places), on-the-ground reporting and getting to the bottom of a story is more valuable than ever. We profile key broadcasters, photographers and journalists in Myanmar, Syria, Brazil, Iraq and Russia.

We can’t change the past 12 months but maybe now is a moment to take stock and think a little smarter. Our new issue offers ideas, optimism and analysis to help you make up for lost time.

Image: Alamy

Politics / Lebanon

Representative democracy

Seven months after the Beirut blast that caused Lebanon’s government to resign over official negligence, infighting over cabinet posts continues. Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun and prime minister-designate Saad Hariri (pictured, on left, with Aoun) once again failed to agree on a new cabinet this week. Hariri is pushing for an all-new 18-member cabinet of technocrats drawn from seven different religious backgrounds to represent the country’s diversity. By contrast, Aoun’s proposed line-up would give the president and his party a third of all cabinet seats, which would grant them a blocking majority in government. Hariri warns that poverty and unemployment have swelled in line with the plummeting value of the Lebanese pound. He asked Aoun to, “Listen to people’s suffering and give the country its only hope by forming an experts’ government capable of setting reforms.” Strong leadership – indeed, any leadership at all – is only becoming more vital to avoid economic disaster.

For more, tune into today’s edition of Monocle24’s [‘The Globalist’](https://monocle.com/radio/shows/the-globalist/] and for a detailed look at Beirut after the blast, pick up a copy of Monocle’s April issue.

Image: Getty Images

Hospitality / Global

Staying power

Last year was very nearly fatal for home-sharing platform Airbnb, one of the travel industry’s biggest and most controversial players. But by December the mood had shifted, the platform had filed for an IPO and soon after it was valued at over $100bn (€85bn). Demand for longer-term rentals has now skyrocketed with people looking for new locations to work from home. CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky says that he is sensitive to past criticism of Airbnb’s impact on housing markets and is partnering with cities to work on solutions. But there’s also the wider problem of overtourism. “Travellers going to a community is not bad. What we want is to not have everyone flood one city,” Chesky told Monocle 24’s The Entrepreneurs. “The best solution is to think of this like a design problem: how can we design to spread out demand?” For Chesky, the shift in work to new locations is part of the solution: Travellers “are discovering communities that want them there”.

Listen to the full interview with Brian Chesky on this week’s episode of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Music / UK

In the grooves

The rise of vinyl is a tale that has been spinning around for a few years but now it’s official: vinyl sales are set to overtake CD sales in the UK for the first time since 1987, according to figures released by the British Phonographic Industry association this week. The US also enjoyed a 20-year high in sales of LPs in 2020, all despite large-scale lockdowns hindering bricks-and-mortar retail. It appears that, unable to attend concerts, music fans did the next best thing to back their favourite artists: buy physical products. Despite digital channels dominating the industry in terms of overall takings – £737m (€855m) in the UK this past year, almost four times physical sales – the dividends going to artists from streaming remain paltry. While royalties from YouTube to labels totalled £43.8m (€50.8m), selling vinyl yielded double that sum. So if you miss supporting your favourite musicians at live events, it’s time to get physical.

Image: Tom Fereday Design Studio

Design / Melbourne

Windows of opportunity

With shuttered shops a familiar sight around the world, architects and designers are being given a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink and reinvigorate half-empty high streets. An exhibition called Community gets underway in Melbourne tomorrow, which uses 22 shop windows to display furniture and other objects created by a handpicked selection of Australian and European designers and studios. Map-carrying Melburnians will be invited to walk the streets of Collingwood and Fitzroy, window-shopping for one-off works by the likes of Gibson Karlo, Tom Fereday, Jordan Fleming, Kate Banazi (pictured) and Thomas Heatherwick. Each piece will be available to buy at auction in April, albeit digitally – a missed opportunity, we think, for a one-of-a-kind retail event. The outdoor exhibition is part of Melbourne Design Week, which has returned for a fifth year under the theme “Design the world you want”. Communities built around busy high streets are a good start.

Image: James Newton

M24 / Monocle on Design

Rivers: Turning the tide

From blank canvases for public art projects to quiet spaces for relaxation and reflection, we explore the myriad ways in which rivers and waterways continue to shape our built environment.

Monocle Films / Global

Time to collect

From design to art, magazines to furniture, we all know the pleasure of collecting. But how do we ensure that passion beats pure investment? This was the question that Robert Bound posed to the speakers at the Monocle Quality of Life Conference in Vienna in 2016.

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