Friday. 26/11/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Genevieve Bates

Tag team

Only in the UK is your choice of supermarket a universally understood social signifier – in the way that your choice of newspaper, car or handbag might be elsewhere. I mention this for the benefit of readers beyond Britain in order to emphasise the shock with which the fashion industry will have greeted the news that Asda, a value-focused supermarket chain whose slogan is “Save money. Live better”, is from today hiding Gucci pieces in its stores for shoppers to ferret out from among its rails of otherwise basic clothing staples.

Asda’s ploy is timed to coincide with the launch of Ridley Scott’s film House of Gucci and designed to draw the attention of younger shoppers. With just 30 Gucci gems hidden across Asda’s 633 UK branches, this is a gimmick that seems unlikely to increase footfall – but it’s still a savvy PR move. And Gucci is the perfect partner for Asda because the Italian house’s high-low aesthetic cuts across social classes. Of course, Gucci isn’t undermining its own pre-Christmas sales; only vintage pieces will be part of the treasure hunt, which makes it all the more appealing to shoppers who are both eco-conscious and driven by the prospect of a unique find.

Rather than scoff at the clunky brand crossover, other retailers would do well to emulate the novel partnership. My recent forays into bricks-and-mortar shops have been dismal, with uninformed staff and limited product ranges prompting me to retreat empty handed. Whether they’re selling furniture, fashion or food, high-street retailers need a more imaginative approach to compete with online merchants. The chance of finding a vintage Gucci Jackie bag is just the sort of bait that might even lure customers who were previously loyal to Britain’s swankier supermarkets.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Guadeloupe

With the territory

French authorities have extended a nightly curfew in Guadeloupe until Sunday to quell mass protests and unrest on the Caribbean island. The protests, which stem from a requirement for health workers and firefighters to be vaccinated, have spread to the neighbouring French territory of Martinique. Less than half of Guadeloupe’s population has been inoculated – a scepticism that stems partly from a historic mistrust after the French government allowed carcinogenic pesticides to be used in banana farming between 1973 and 1993. But the focus of the protests has also boiled over into poor economic conditions and prompted broader questions about France’s treatment of its overseas territories. French forces were deployed earlier this week but Sébastien Lecornu, France’s minister for overseas territories, has been heavily criticised for staying in Paris until order is restored. “There is an erosion of France as a symbol of freedom and fraternity,” sociologist and activist Stéphanie Melyon-Reinette, tells The Monocle Minute. “There is latent anti-colonial angst awaiting the next crisis. This is an unhealed wound.”

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / USA & Venezuela

Know your enemy

The frosty relationship between the US and Venezuela continues. Last Sunday’s regional elections, a landslide for Nicolás Maduro’s ruling party, was described as neither free nor fair by the US. And, as though that wasn’t enough, a forthcoming trial in Miami is due to add a fresh chill.

Colombian citizen Alex Saab, whose hearing was recently brought forward to 6 December, is accused of laundering $350m (€310m) in Venezuelan government funds. Saab, who was extradited from Cape Verde in a deal that saw other charges dropped, could prove a useful asset to the US if he decides to talk, whether by potentially implicating other government officials or shedding light on Venezuela’s operations to skirt US sanctions. Perhaps aware of this, Maduro last year quietly offered a prison swap of two former Green berets who were being held over a failed attempt to overthrow his government; the exchange offer was rejected. These sub-zero relations aren’t about to warm up any time soon.

Image: Shutterstock

Tourism / Indonesia

Motoring ahead

As Bali begins to welcome back a trickle of international travellers, work is racing ahead on developing Indonesia’s next tourist destination. President Joko Widodo (pictured) visited the neighbouring island of Lombok earlier this month, jumping on a motorbike to inaugurate a new racing track. The Mandalika International Circuit is part of a giant, state-backed plan to rev up Lombok’s existing tourism industry, which is best known for the picturesque Gili Islands and its active volcano, Mount Rinjani. The world’s top motorcycle racers are due to race in Mandalika next year. However, increased international traffic is likely to raise awareness of the circuit’s questionable track record. The UN published a scathing report in March that criticised the environmental damage caused by construction and the eviction of residents from their land. With sustainable development rising up the global tourism agenda, Indonesia’s “new Bali” could be in for a bumpy ride.

Image: Billie Charity

Culture / Wales

Talking books

For the first time in two years, in-person events have returned to the Hay Festival Winter Weekend in Wales, bringing book lovers together for interesting conversations, storytelling, comedy, music and workshops. “It’s wonderful to see all these people back in the room,” Monocle host and festival correspondent Georgina Godwin told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “It’s bounced back so beautifully, it’s absolutely brilliant.” Here are some of the weekend’s highlights (which can also be watched online):

Miriam Margolyes, one of the UK’s most beloved actors, will turn on the town’s Christmas lights on Friday night before joining writer Natalie Haynes on stage to discuss her new memoir, This Much is True.

Marcus du Sautoy will talk with Hallie Rubenhold on Saturday morning about his new book Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut. From city-building to dating algorithms, the Oxford mathematician investigates how shortcuts have enabled human progress and explains how thinking better can mean living better.

Vicki Hird will introduce the invaluable world of insects on Sunday afternoon with her book Rebugging the Planet in a conversation with journalist Kitty Corrigan. Hird will explain how embracing bugs is key to sustainable farming.

Image: Roland Tännler

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Freitag

Freitag was launched in Zürich in 1993 by brothers Daniel and Markus Freitag and is known around the world for the messenger bags, backpacks and accessories that they make mostly from recycled truck tarpaulins. The company has recently been working with trucking companies to create a more sustainable tarpaulin, which can be fully broken down or repurposed after use, first on the highway and later as a bag.

Monocle Films / London

Yinka Ilori’s 3D-printed basketball court

Designer Yinka Ilori discusses the design inspiration behind his temporary installation in London’s Canary Wharf and the importance of play in adulthood.

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