Saturday 4 September 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 4/9/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Winds of change

We often take the same route around Regent’s Park with the dog, stopping first to get coffee, sometimes meeting friends. The repetition allows you to catch the daily shifts of the seasons without having to trek out of the city to somewhere truly rural. Today the vast horse chestnut whose boughs we walk beneath is dotted with spiky cannonballs and its leaves are turning brown. It’s clear that autumn is waiting in the wings.

London has had a disappointing summer, so to think that it’s almost over is, well, annoying. Unlike last year, during the first lockdown when the sun blazed, this year we have had too many low-slung, metallic-grey skies. We turned the heating on in August in our house; I cannot ever remember doing that. Yesterday as I walked to lunch, some people had given in and had collars turned up on autumn coats and even scarves. September.

It hasn’t quite been the alfresco summer that had been planned for, which will not have helped the restaurants and bars that needed the summer boost to refill coffers. I also imagine that many of the people who were trying to sound jolly about holidays in the UK this summer have already made pacts to head to the Med next year (on Monday we had dinner with friends just back from so-called “glamping”, who said it was so damned cold that they couldn’t sleep).

However, this sense of both the seasons changing and the pandemic losing its controlling hand on what we can do seems to have brought with it other pleasing changes too. People I meet are full of plans, hatched out both in cold tents and on sunny loungers. They are fired up for change, ready for a new term.

At Monocle, this moment has meant some long days working on a makeover of the magazine that will shift how it looks, reads and feels. Now, these endeavours always come with a note of caution and you have to ensure that you don’t mess with anything that’s sacred. (Once, when working on the relaunch team for a newspaper, we were warned by the editor in chief that under no circumstances could we move the crossword, as that would anger more people than anything else and he couldn’t face the letters – no pun intended.) So the changes are both meaningful and subtle. They will allow us to deliver new regulars; consolidate a move to longer reads; introduce new talent from fashion stylists to illustrators; and allow our ever-measured opinions to be sharper on the page. Make sure you are signed up for the October issue.

This week, for a short piece that ran in The Monocle Minute on Design email newsletter, I found myself on a phone call to Montgomery, Alabama. I wanted to write about a new book, called Of Common Origin: New Architecture of The American South, about a group of southern-states architects. It’s by Barrett Austin. It seems a moment ago that he was working for Monocle, first in our New York bureau and then as our southern US correspondent. But it had actually been a few years since we last spoke and, as well as the book, he has a family now and is working on several property projects. It was nice hearing his sentences dotted with “y’alls” and to be back in touch with someone who had made a meaningful contribution to our success. Dinner in London will happen.

When people decide that it’s time to move on from Monocle, I rarely try to persuade them to stay if their decisions are clearly considered and, as with Mr Austin, they obviously have other wonderful adventures ahead. You just hope that paths cross again and that the experiences will be valued and useful; I was happy when Barrett said that his years at Monocle had encouraged him to bring out the book with a series of deals brokered to sidestep traditional slow publishers. Helping people around you is perhaps the best thing you can get from being an editor, a manager.

And, again, perhaps it’s the leaves changing, the world opening up and new possibilities beckoning, but we are going through a small changing of the guard at Monocle as new horizons call for some: Louis, an editor of this newsletter, is off to live in Mexico; Hester on our books team is off to Spain. But hopefully we will be writing about their books and triumphs too in the future. Other people, in turn, are having their first days at Monocle.

So while the softening of the sunlight and darkening of the evenings might mean the end of another summer in London, in the end I welcome this moment as a time for us all to plan, plot and make anew.


Go big or go home

There has been little good news for the aviation sector these past 18 months but the after-effects of the pandemic could yet prove a boon for one particular aircraft (writes Andrew Mueller). There is talk that the mighty double-decker Airbus A380 could enjoy a reprieve, if not a renaissance. Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, has identified the model, of which Qantas has 12, as the perfect means of absorbing pent-up demand when Australians are permitted to leave their chronically locked-down island. Tony Douglas, CEO of Etihad, which has 10 A380s in storage, has said “never say never”.

It looked as though it was all over for the A380. In February 2019, Emirates swapped its outstanding orders for A330s and A350s, and the plug was pulled on production, winding down by September 2020. A conventional wisdom had taken hold that the future of aviation was in smaller, svelter aircraft that would be able to operate more flexibly: few routes justified the A380’s capacity. Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, went so far as to say that buying 10 A380s was its biggest mistake.

While a restarting of the assembly line is unlikely, there are those of us who are pleased by the thought of one more ride aboard an A380 and not just for their space and quiet. The sensation of this vast, ungainly machine bumbling towards an improbable-seeming takeoff was always weirdly cheering: even if only for a limited period, it will remind of less tiresome times.


Gust jackets

Summer is still in full swing in Japan with temperatures above 30C, and it’s humid too (writes Junichi Toyofuku). Many women can be seen walking along under parasols and some men are following suit too. But there’s another solution to hand. Kuucho-fuku (literally, “air-conditioned clothes”) are long-sleeved nylon jackets that have two built-in, battery-powered fans on the back. And the look is becoming increasingly popular.

The jacket was invented in the early 2000s by a Japanese entrepreneur to prevent construction workers from suffering sunstroke in the summer. It has since grown into a ¥15bn (€115m) market. Now you’ll see road workers as well as construction teams sporting their kuucho-fuku outfits. This week, I sat next to a couple of folks sporting them in a soba restaurant in Aoyama. To those who aren’t aware, it might appear as though people are wearing some sort of light down coat in scorching summer – but listen carefully and you will hear the fan whirring.

Now manufacturers are refining the designs, with no-sleeve and sporty editions being released recently in a bid to attract a broader audience. My neighbour wears one when he takes his labrador out for a walk in Yoyogi Park. He says it’s a lifesaver. While I don’t have a routine that pushes me to get one, it’s only a matter of time. Once favourite fashion shop Beams has developed its own kuucho-fuku, you can count me in.


Giving voice

Iranian-American journalist Tara Kangarlou has always focused on the lives and stories of individuals. Over the years, she’s written about topics from international affairs to humanitarian issues and covered historic events such as the 2014 Russia-Ukraine crisis and Nelson Mandela’s death for CNN – always with a focus on the people at the heart of the story. This summer, Kangarlou released her first book, The Heartbeat of Iran: Real Voices of a Country and its People, a nuanced portrait of the country told through the perspectives of 24 Iranians. Here, Kangarlou talks to us about her love for NPR, big coffee cups and her weekend news fix.

What news source do you wake up to?
Twitter. But also one of the things that I love about now living in London is that I get to start listening to NPR as it airs, at 05.00 Eastern Time.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
American filtered coffee with steamed almond milk. And I drink it in a big mug that reads “trust me, I’m a reporter”. I haven’t acclimated myself with the European way of drinking out of super chic, small cups. I remain true to my American routine.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
I have NPR on in the background all the time. But I also do Spotify. I’ve created a playlist with all the music that my fiancé and I love from all over the world. And it’s a very eclectic mix, from Swedish tunes to Iranian beats and everything in between.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
Because showering is one of the first things I do in the morning after my workout, I really try to organise my day in the shower. So no singing. I’m a little bit talentless in that department.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
I have a stack of New Yorkers; it’s tall enough that it actually ended up being more of a side table when I lived in New York. And I also read Foreign Affairs, Time, Condé Nast Traveler and New York Magazine, though I read them digitally.

Newspaper that you turn to?
The New York Times and The Washington Post but I try to stay global too: I also read The Intercept, Lebanon’s The Daily Star and some Iranian newspapers. They’re filtered but it helps me understand what’s going on in the region.

Do you make an appointment to watch the nightly news?
If there are big events on, I tend to stream them and watch them online. And I’m an avid viewer of Fareed Zakaria GPS on Sundays.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
I’m probably distracted by the sound of my fiancé’s never-ending emails coming in.


Tuned in

‘The Inseparables’, Simone de Beauvoir. Considered “too intimate” to be released in De Beauvoir’s lifetime, this short, absorbing novel tells the story of an intense and ultimately tragic relationship between two young women. The manuscript was inspired by a real-life friendship and written in 1954, five years after the feminist classic The Second Sex. It was found in an archive by the author’s adopted daughter, Sylvie Le Bon-de Beauvoir. The Inseparables is a moving coming-of-age tale about two girls in 20th-century Paris battling with who and what they want to be.

‘Annette’, Leos Carax. After serving as the subjects of Edgar Wright’s recent documentary about their music careers, outré electro duo Sparks take a more active role as the writers of the score and screenplay for French director Leos Carax’s first English-language film. The provocateur’s latest effort opened the Cannes Festival and stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard as a celebrity couple whose comfortable lifestyle is destabilised by the birth of their daughter. But Annette is no ordinary infant and Annette is no ordinary domestic drama. It is a surreal, fever dream of a film by a master of the genre.

‘Bleu’, Claire Laffut. Already well known as the face of Chanel’s Gabrielle perfume, Belgium-born Laffut has plenty of musical and artistic talent. On her debut album, Bleu, she makes the most of her dulcet French tones. The result is a dreamy electro-meets-world-music record with plenty of catchy highlights. Performed with French singer-songwriter Yseult, “Nudes” comes accompanied by sexy, insistent beats. Opening track “MDMA” is packed with African rhythms but there’s also something beautiful and mesmerising about Laffut’s voice when the tempo slows down, in tracks such as “Avis de Tempête”.


Highland rig

Located in the northwestern corner of the Scottish Highlands, Gairloch is a coastal village of about 700 people known for its mountains, sea loch and rugged landscape (writes Carolina Abbott Galvão). “It’s very sparsely populated,” says Alex Gray, manager of village station Two Lochs Radio. “Since we’re about 800km away from London, people say we’re very remote. But of course, for us, it’s the other way around.” That hasn’t stopped people from coming, though. “We’re one of the stops on the Scotland 500, which has been promoted as a route for people who want to drive around the north of Scotland,” says Gray. “And because of that it’s become really popular. It’s been stressing the infrastructure of the area traffic-wise.” Here, he tells us about the station and the latest news in town.

What’s the big news this week?
Quite often we’ll report on what the council is doing. And we get a lot of stories about people getting into trouble or even dying on the hills or in the sea, so we frequently report on mountain rescues. There will also be reports on other local groups, fundraising things and so forth. We recently had a story on the success of a garden open day that raised money for charity.

Tell us about your roster.
We have two live programmes on weekdays: Breakfast Time and Drive Time. Then, through the evening, it’s pre-recorded. We tend to focus on regional Scottish and Celtic folk music.

Where in town are you based?
It’s right in the middle of town on the seafront, so you can look across the sea to the Isle of Skye. The building itself is very small, though. We bought it because it was condemned for human habitation 20 years ago. So we’re desperately looking for somewhere new.


Standing ground

If you ever had any doubt that bricks-and-mortar retail would bounce back, allow Bally to provide some assurance: the Swiss heritage brand has doubled down by opening new shops in London and New York. Both have been designed in the “Bally Haus” style, which sees its flagships across the globe incorporating consistent elements, such as copper detailing, but blending them with more regionally relevant features.

In London, this means specially designed furniture inspired by the city’s clay foundations (pictured), while the earthy hues in the New York shop are reminiscent of the brick warehouses in the surrounding Meatpacking District. To celebrate their openings, both shops have released limited-edition products, including Crystalia tote bags from the brand’s current spring/summer collection, reimagined with a leather-embossed patch displaying the city’s name. Consider it a badge of honour in support of retail’s revival.


Pieces of distinction

As creatives, curators and design enthusiasts descend on Milan this month for Salone del Mobile and the city’s Art Week, there will be room to seal more than purchasing contracts and brand partnerships (writes Stella Roos). Between business meetings in the Brera quarter, attendees of both events can drop into Casa d’Aste, home of auction house Cambi. Here, 160 contemporary collectables, curated by Milanese studio Mr Lawrence, are going under the hammer on 14 September for the inaugural CTMP Design Auction.

Mr Lawrence and Cambi first collaborated last year on the Design Loves Milano charity auction, in which all proceeds from the sale of furniture by contemporary designers were donated to a city hospital. The initiative’s success proved that there is real demand for new design pieces; the CTMP sale is limited to products launched since January 2000. “Someone like Gio Ponti is mainstream now,” says Francesco Mainardi, co-founder of Mr Lawrence. “For collectors it’s more interesting to buy something new, whether from an established brand such as Japan’s Nendo or an unknown young designer from South Africa.”

The star of CTMP, which opens for pre-bidding tomorrow, is a capsule collection of unique Murano glass designs from the likes of Ross Lovegrove, India Mahdavi and Zaha Hadid (lots 148-157). “They’re masterpieces,” says Mainardi. “I’d like to have them all.” Other top picks include a Maria Jeglinska rug for Trame (pictured, top; estimated to go for €2,000), tables by Studio Pepe (pictured, bottom; estimated €10,000 each) and Nendo’s ethereal Melt Chair (expected to reach €12,000). Oh, and even if you don’t submit the winning bid, the catalogue’s highlights can still be admired at the Cambi headquarters throughout the week.


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