Saturday 18 September 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 18/9/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Issues at hand

First office copies of the next issue of Monocle arrived at Midori House on Wednesday (you’ll get yours soon, I promise). It’s the October issue and it’s had a bit of a design and content makeover. Nothing weird, just a wise update – more in the vein of buying a nicely fitting new jacket rather than discovering a sudden penchant for kaftans and cha-cha heels. But, even so, the outfit switch came with some challenges, swift changes of plans and hair-pulling – I may have also let out a strange wailing noise at one point that made me sound more like a constipated moose than an at-ease editor.

Putting together a magazine is an amazing thing that, even after all these years, feels like a privilege to do but for everything to come together nicely you need some finely tuned choreography. Take something as simple as choosing a photograph. Matt, our photography director, will first do a “select” from the bigger shoots, perhaps picking 20 or 30 shots from several hundred. Then Rich, Sam or Maria will design the feature and, in doing so, make their select too – sometimes deciding to use just one image. Then it’s my turn, and perhaps I will lobby for a small or wholesale change if an image doesn’t quite tell the story I think we need to get across. Also chipping in will be the page editor, perhaps the writer and the photographer, and without doubt a certain fellow in Zürich. And, finally, our production director Jackie may dive in as we prepare to go to press to warn that an image would not print well. Choose again.

After years of people working together, this all usually happens effortlessly but not always and not always on a redesign issue when changes are being made late at night and people are heavily invested in a story. Nor should it. Making a page, even just choosing a picture, needs belief, passion and a careful understanding of when to fight your corner and when to back off and let Rich and Matt do their jobs. (Rich, our creative director, is very generous to me, even allowing me to occasionally suggest how a story could be laid out. He knows things are bad when I start sketching on a Post-it note.)

But back to Wednesday. The magazine was there in front of me on my desk but, at first, I tried to ignore it – I would have been far more relaxed seeing that upset moose standing by my perch. After a few calls and attending to some urgent emails (“Do you have the kaftan in cerise by any chance?”), I gingerly opened it. Turns out there were no empty pages, nothing upside down, after all.

On Thursday we convened a conference call with editors on the road, Tyler, the commercial team and the crew in London, to go through every layout, every ad positioning. And, finally, pages began to look like pages, not patchworks of tricky decisions or myriad alternative routes. Some magic had happened.

Perhaps you’re surprised how collaborative making a magazine needs to be – no matter how high you inch up the masthead. There’s a balance of confidence and humility, passion and patience, needed from everyone in the room if you want to make something worthwhile and still remain friends at the end of it. But, of course, it’s tough and in those moments there is at least your inner moose to channel.

And now, after all this, comes another test: when you get to turn the pages and, hopefully, don’t wonder, “Why the hell did they choose that picture?”


Bit on the side

The parade of fashion’s finest at the Met Gala this week felt like a jolt (writes Tomos Lewis). Whether you winced at or were wonderstruck by the ruffles, patterns and plumes on display, there was certainly something novel about seeing fashion fully unfurled again, for its own sake, in a festive and fanciful way.

And while the costumes stole the show (German singer Kim Petras’s horse-head bodice has grabbed more than a few headlines), the accessories paired with them pushed some buttons too. Of note were singer Frank Ocean’s cradling of an eerie, animatronic, lime-green doll and musician Grimes’s (pictured) enormous metal sword that was forged from a smelted assault rifle (and which she duly wielded for the cameras on her way into dinner).

There were, however, a few slightly more attainable accoutrements on show: singer Dev Hynes sported a handsome red-leather tote by Italian house Medea, which is stocked in the US at Nordstrom.

It might seem that accessories need an audience: why wear your best brogues or your nicest jewellery if you’re stuck indoors with no one to see them? But the sector has remained robust throughout the pandemic. Handbag sales, for example, at houses such as Burberry and Hermès, are reported to have risen over the past year and a half. But perhaps our accessorising should get more adventurous too? I, for one, am late for dinner. Now, where did I put my sword?


Wet your bristles

Remember when pop-ups first came into vogue? By my count, it was about 2010 (writes Nic Monisse). Temporary bars, shops and parklets began springing up in vacant shops and lots in cities everywhere, with business owners doing their best to prop up flagging high streets. Now, it’s a marketing ploy frequently rolled out by developers and festivals. And while savvy marketeers may lay claim to the idea, the truth is that the pop-up concept really started in southern Germany in the ninth century.

The story goes that, following a writ from Charlemagne, vintners were given permission to keep excess wine that hadn’t been delivered to the royal court and sell it directly to the public. It soon gave way to a popular annual tradition in which wine-makers swept out their living rooms, barns and cattle sheds at the end of spring and autumn harvests, to set up temporary taverns and restaurants from which to sell their drop. And, to let locals know that they were open for business, the broomsticks (or besens) used in the tidy-up were hung over doorways.

Taking their name from this tradition, today’s broomstick restaurants, or besenwirtschaften, typically open after every harvest – with the exception of 2020. They can operate for a maximum of 16 weeks a year and customers still squeeze onto long communal tables to sample wine and simple home-cooked fare. So, with harvest now coming to an end – and after a year without such hospitality – expect locals and visitors alike to soon be excited about broomsticks over doorways in southern Germany. Their arrival is well worth drinking to.


Pitch perfect

Singer Martha Reeves has one of Motown’s most recognisable voices. Kicking off her career featuring on Marvin Gaye’s “Stubborn Kind of Fellow”, it was clear from the start that Reeves had what it takes. So it didn’t come as a surprise when a string of hits with her group, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, propelled her to fame in the 1960s and 1970s. These days, the singer leads a quieter life but still has a busy schedule: at the end of the month, she’ll be performing at the Playground Festival in Glasgow. She tells us about her morning routine, answering fan mail and keeping up with the news.

How do you start your day?
First of all, I wake up praising the Lord. I read the Bible and get my morning exercise. Then, I jump on my trampoline for a while and get my blood all stirred up correctly.

What’s next?
A lot of phone calls; I get one almost every five minutes! Then I answer my fan mail and look forward to seeing my three grandchildren. I really like golfing but, because of the pandemic, I haven’t been able to get out on the course recently.

Coffee, tea or something pressed?
I try to drink plenty of water and I’ve also been having elderberry tea of late. Then, I take some vitamin C and my blood pressure medication. Having just turned 80, I know how important it is to follow up on your medications.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
I have Alexa, so I get to tell her what I want: most of the time, it’s Marvin Sapp’s gospel station or Marvin Gaye. Sometimes, I put on my own music. It reminds me of the fans who bought records and followed us throughout the 64 years of my career.

Speaking of which, what’s it like playing live again?
We recently did a show in the UK at the Happy Days Festival. We had a really good time; it was a sunny day and there was a good crowd. We’re looking forward to our next appointment, the Playground Festival in Glasgow.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
I’ve been singing Anthony Brown’s “Worth” a lot lately.

Any magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
I received an award from Mojo once and it always reminds me that it’s a good magazine.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
When I’m ready to get some rest, I just let go and let God put me to sleep.


Altered states

‘The Woman from Uruguay’, Pedro Mairal. The most recent novel from Argentinian writer Pedro Mairal, translated by Jennifer Croft, tells the story of Lucas Pereyra, an unemployed writer in his forties who sets off on a road trip from Buenos Aires to Montevideo to pick up $15,000 in cash. What follows is a tender exploration of relationships, agency and desire.

‘Pop Pyschedelique’, various artists. Bringing together hits by pioneers such as Serge Gainsbourg and Jacqueline Taïeb with later acts such as Air and Stereolab, this new compilation is a journey into the ever-changing world of psychedelic French pop. Featuring everything from freakbeat to indie pop, the album is proof that the genre will never go out of style in Francophone countries.

‘The Informant’, Bálint Szentgyörgyi. Written and co-directed by Szentgyörgyi, HBO Europe’s new political drama follows a young cast as they grapple with the ins and outs of daily life in 1980s Soviet Hungary. The first season tells the story of Geri, who is living a double life as a spy being forced to feed information about his politically active friends to the state department.


Call of the wild

Ucluelet, a town of 1,717 on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, is known for its rugged shores and has long attracted those in search of a different kind of life. “You don’t come out here in search of awesome employment opportunities or to make it big,” says Andrew Bailey, editor of the town’s weekly paper ofino-Ucluelet Westerly News. “You come out here if you decide that you don’t want to live in a big city or drive a fancy car.” It’s why, over the years, the town has brought in a number of like-minded people. “We all chose to make our surroundings, rather than our bank accounts, the priority for our lifestyle,” says Bailey. He tells us about the town’s latest news, his paper and Ucluelet’s tight-knit community.

Tell us about this week’s big story.
We had a brutal fire on Friday, which completely destroyed a house. So we talked to the fire chief about how it was fought. By the Saturday morning, there had already been a Gofundme set up with a CA$5,000 [€3,400] goal by 16.00. That was raised quickly and by the time we went to press on Monday, it was up to CA$10,000 [€6,700]. People really stepped up.

A favourite photo?
The photos I really love are always of people in the community doing good things and smiling.

What’s the most challenging part of living in such a remote place?
Things are expensive here and people’s jobs don’t necessarily pay the amount of money you need to live in such an expensive place, so it’s a struggle. But it’s a struggle that people share. So instead of everybody being bitter and angry about how hard it is to live in paradise, you end up with communities and neighbours who understand what everybody is going through.

Any events coming up?
We have our annual Soap Box Derby soon. As a member of the community I’ll be building two cars for my kids but as the editor of the paper, I’m also going to be there taking photos and getting some comments.


Fore thought

Before anyone has even taken a swing at a golf ball at the upcoming Ryder Cup, the European team will already have won style points courtesy of Loro Piana (writes Stella Roos). For the third time in a row, the Italian luxury cashmere and wool brand has kitted out the players for the biannual, cross-Atlantic golfing tournament that kicks off in Wisconsin next Friday.

As can be expected from a fashion house with almost 100 years of expertise in fine fabrics, Loro Piana’s uniforms are a far cry from the heavily branded baseball caps and polyester polos common in the sport. There are trousers in elasticised super-fine wool, soft jersey shirts in tasteful colours and triple-layered, thermal-proofed jackets in natural white – all designed with elite golf players’ optimal comfort in mind. And, if you happen not to be one, a selection of the gear will be available in Loro Piana stores from next week.


Master in disguise

They say that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone (writes Carolina Abbott Galvão). But that’s not often the case in the art world. “It’s very rare to come across a situation where owners have absolutely no idea how valuable an item is,” says Philip Taylor, managing partner at Gorringe’s auction house. “These days, owners are far better informed of likely values, mainly due to the success of programmes such as Antiques Roadshow, Bargain Hunt and Cash in the Attic.” Still, that doesn’t mean it never happens.

Earlier this year, Taylor was carrying out a routine evaluation of a number of items at an East Sussex home when he spotted a rare artwork by Italian painter Canaletto. “The deceased owner knew what she had but wasn’t aware it was of such high value,” he says. The small oil painting, “Venice, the Dogana”, which is thought once to have been part of a larger picture, was bought in 1920 from art dealer Arthur Tooth & Sons for between £100 and £200 (roughly £5,000 to £10,000 today). It will sell for at least 10 times that amount when it goes under the hammer on 28 September.

Although discoveries such as these are rare, it’s not the first time Taylor has been pleasantly surprised. “In the 1980s, I found a Ming dynasty blue-and-white dish in a garden shed, which, albeit badly cracked, made £75,000,” he recalls. “And a colleague recently found an extremely rare US one-cent copper coin, dated 1812, in a collection of general foreign coinage that ended up going for £24,000 [€28,000]. Both owners were astonished by the results.” As for the Canaletto, prospective buyers should be prepared to spend at least £150,000 (€176,000) when it hits the auction block at the end of the month. But bearing in mind that larger paintings by the artist have sold for millions, the upcoming auction might just be an opportunity for bidders to get one of the artist’s paintings for less than a doge’s ransom.


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