Thursday. 8/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Genevieve Bates

Dream teams

As a long-time freelance editor of runway reports, the first week of July has always been my favourite time of year: it’s when the grand French fashion houses present their autumn haute couture collections. Every show is a neat bouquet of elegance. Unlike the distended, biannual, month-long glut of ready-to-wear shows in the four fashion capitals, Paris Couture Week features just a handful of shows over three days and offers an aspirational vision of lush details and graceful silhouettes.

It’s also a showcase of age-old expertise and technical innovation. For the former, look to Chanel (pictured). For the latter, turn to Iris van Herpen. This season, each showed the power of collaboration. Chanel creative director Virginie Viard drew on the house’s family of workshops, including multiple embroidery specialists, feather and flower designer Lemarié, and milliner Maison Michel. Dutch couturier Van Herpen, who often works with scientists pushing the boundaries of materials, enlisted French world-champion skydiver Domitille Kiger to model her final look during an aerial performance. No mere gimmick, the stunt beautifully demonstrated the engineering of an elaborate dress handmade from technical performance fabric.

Only a lucky few will ever wear couture but these houses serve as the R&D department for the fashion industry and give us all something to dream about. To wit, read Paul Gallico’s tragicomic 1958 novel Flowers for Mrs Harris about a downtrodden London cleaner who travels to Paris to buy a Dior dress. After Dior’s show on Tuesday – its first catwalk presentation with a sizeable audience in 18 months – creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri said that the showcase was her way of “reclaiming the values of haute couture”. These are values – hand craftsmanship that lasts a lifetime, the antithesis of throwaway fast fashion – that are worth championing. Thank God, couture is back.

Image: Alamy

Politics / Haiti

At a loss

For decades the people of Haiti, one of the world’s poorest nations, have been found understandably lacking in optimism and faith in their political system. The shocking assassination yesterday of the country’s president, Jovenel Moïse (pictured), himself a polarising figure who had sought to consolidate power, is only likely to exacerbate that political dysfunction in the short term. “Politics has never served the Haitian people well,” Christopher Sabatini, senior research fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, tells The Monocle Minute. “It has been seen with a legitimate degree of distrust and outright hatred, and the squabbles of the political class have really paralysed the country.” Sabatini calls on the international donor community to take the lead and to use moral and financial pressure to help change the narrative. If there is going to be a reset, says Sabatini, it will come from ensuring that fresh elections are held that mark a “legitimate effort to try to resolve Haiti’s very deep conflicts” before the situation spirals out of control.

For more from Christopher Sabatini on the situation in Haiti, listen to ‘The Monocle Daily’ and for an interview with former Haitian prime minister Laurent Lamothe, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Business / EU

Log jam

Timber is the in-demand resource for sustainable construction and a series of global trade disputes have been a boon to the EU’s timber industry of late – but there is disagreement over how we protect forests at the same time. In a leaked document, the European Commission proposes significant measures to curb deforestation and “deliver growing, healthy, diverse and resilient EU forests”.

Forestry firms, part of a €640bn industry, have questioned the data and balked at a proposed increase in surveillance measures. They argue that an overreliance on satellites used to survey forests misrepresents natural phenomena as dramatic deforestation. Instead the industry points to a warming climate that weakens forests, increases the likelihood of wildfires and invasive species, and costs the industry billions. Woodland covers more than 43 per cent of EU land space and even the 27 per cent of it that is protected is in poor ecological condition. The EU wants to expand woodlands by planting three billion trees but progress will be impossible with both sides at loggerheads.

Read more about the growing demand for European timber in the July/August issue of Monocle.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Japan

Foul play

The debate over racism in sports has been ongoing but leaked footage of footballer Ousmane Dembele in Japan has added a new dimension. In a video, the 24-year-old French international ridicules Japanese hotel staff for their faces and language as they try to fix a television in a hotel room, while teammate Antoine Griezmann (pictured, on right, with Dembele) laughs along. The video was taken in 2019 as their club, Barcelona, was on a pre-season tour of the country. The scandal has been widely covered in Japan and the players have apologised – but resisted allegations of racism – prompting swift reactions from Japanese sponsors. Hiroshi Mikitani, head of e-commerce powerhouse Rakuten, called the players’ comments “unacceptable”, while Konami Digital Entertainment demanded an explanation from Barcelona and intends to terminate a recently signed contract with Griezmann to be an ambassador for its card game. It’s a reminder that racism comes in many forms and that the fight against it should be all-encompassing.

Image: Alamy

Aviation / Global

Get moving

Airlines have taken a battering during the pandemic but the widespread rollout of inoculations raises hopes that many of us will soon be able to travel freely again. Digital vaccination certificates provide part of the solution but a spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says that a more joined-up approach to entry requirements from governments around the world – along with the relaxation of restrictions – could provide a boost to the industry this summer. “Travel restrictions might temporarily delay certain variants from entering but you can’t stop them totally,” Chris Goater, spokesman for IATA, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “The evidence increasingly shows that the risk to health services being overwhelmed is not there, and therefore we would call for vaccinated passengers to travel without restrictions.” To that end, the UK will reportedly allow fully vaccinated travelers to return from nations on its “amber” (medium-risk) list without quarantining from 19 July.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

M24 / Monocle on Design

Pitti Uomo

We visit Florence for one of the world’s most important trade shows for men’s clothing and accessories, Pitti Uomo.

Monocle Films / Turin

The new urban rowers

We wake up bright and early to meet creative director Luca Ballarini at the Circolo Canottieri Caprera, a rowing club on the banks of the river Po in Turin. We follow his slender boat and glide along the river beside charming palazzi, castles and bridges, while the rest of the city comes to life.

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