Friday. 14/1/2022

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Measuring up

It can be tough to have a sensible conversation about sustainability while wading through a sea of fresh-from-the-factory menswear at Pitti Immagine Uomo. Yet this was the prevailing rhetoric at the industry’s important trade show, which wrapped up yesterday in Florence.

The complexity of the issue is illustrated by a new shoe from one of our footwear favourites, French label Paraboot, which is known for creating beautiful products with fastidious attention to detail. Going one further than the often-heard “it’s design that lasts a lifetime” refrain (which doesn’t explain why we need a relentless seasonal churn of new products), the company has pushed its manufacturing team to produce a handsome shoe with components made from recycled rubber and offcut-leather strips. It’s a fine piece of footwear that goes toe-to-toe with the rest of its line in both quality and style. The compromise, however, is cost. This new piece is simply more expensive to make and, while it will be priced in line with Paraboot’s other products, the brand will lose out on the all-important profit margin.

This highlights the problem echoing around the halls of Pitti: producing clothing in a greener way, in a hugely competitive market, is not always great for business. Yet it also emphasises its importance. While the event’s primary aim is commercial, its secondary role is to act as an international forum for debate. And, while some here might be accused of greenwashing, real solutions for smarter ways to manufacture and better ways to buy were also on show to an increasingly sustainability-conscious audience.

Hear our full report from Pitti Uomo on yesterday’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Media / Hungary

Tough facts to follow

The EU has announced a project that the union hopes will counter disinformation in Hungary ahead of the country’s tightest election in decades. With the nation heading to the polls on 3 April, the bloc has awarded contracts to Agence France-Presse, Hungarian news website 444 and the Media Universalis Foundation to help journalists fact-check public statements and information. During prime minister Viktor Orbán’s time in office, press freedom has plummeted and disinformation has become rife due to stifling legislation, a reduced foreign press corps and increased control of news outlets by his associates. For example, Orbán has repeatedly claimed that financier and philanthropist George Soros has played an integral role in causing Europe’s migrant crisis. Perhaps unsurprisingly, early reports suggest that the new project has not aroused great joy in the prime minister, with some pro-government outlets already doing their best to discredit it. Whether the project has enough time to have an effect on this election remains to be seen. But with the contracts running for at least 15 months, its benefits may be apparent in time.

Image: Getty Images

Energy / California

Blowing in the wind

California is proposing to allocate $45m (£33m) of its 2022 to 2023 fiscal budget to the construction of offshore wind farms. Governor Gavin Newsom (pictured), who announced the plan this week, named climate change as the state’s greatest existential threat. “No one else is committed to doing more in this space,” he said. Despite this, the move could be seen as a response to a recent Edison International report predicting that the most-populous US state would miss its 2030 climate goals unless it made a dramatic shift to sustainable sources of power.

A large chunk of the funds from the programme will go towards the use and production of green hydrogen to pave the way for the state’s goal of using only renewable energy by 2045. The proposal comes after Joe Biden set out plans in October to auction off much of the US coastline to wind farms over the next few years, with the intention of producing enough energy to power 10 million homes by 2030. It’s a noble endeavour but one that will no doubt face fierce opposition from coastal homeowners.

Image: Shutterstock

Human rights / Global

Democratic vistas

Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2022, released yesterday, paints a tentatively positive picture of the state of the world. While crackdowns on opposition, military takeovers and the rise of authoritarian leaders in countries such as Belarus (pictured), Venezuela and Myanmar might make it seem that autocracy is ascendant, the report suggests that beneath this lies a more complex picture. Under authoritarian regimes, popular demand for democracy, as expressed through protests, remains salient. “There are few rallies for autocratic rule,” writes Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director, in the report’s introduction. Nonetheless, it contains plenty of sobering reading for democratic leaders, whom it argues are failing on pressing issues ranging from the climate crisis and coronavirus to poverty and inequality. If democratic leaders can meet these challenges head on, they will make a more effective case for democracy than any autocrat could counter.

To hear more about Human Rights Watch’s annual report from London director Yasmine Ahmed, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ at 07.00 London time.

Image: Lauryn Ishak

Culture / Singapore

Art of the city

Art will pop up across Singapore today as Singapore Art Week begins. Some 130 physical and digital shows will take place in unusual locations, such as food halls, as well as more predictable sites, including Singapore Art Museum’s new 3,000 sq m contemporary art wing, which also opens today. For the 10th iteration of the event, which runs until 23 January, there is an emphasis on local artistic heritage: featured events include pieces from Sea State, former Olympic sailor Charles Lim Yi Yong’s multimedia exploration of Singapore’s relationship with the water. In addition to showcases of new artwork, there will be tours of university collections and workshops with the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore. The city-state is trying to fashion itself into a regional arts hub to rival (and supersede) Hong Kong, especially for Southeast Asian work, which is beginning to attract attention from collectors across the globe.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Dai

Joanna Dai is founder and CEO of Dai, a B Corp-certified womenswear brand that the Orange County native launched in 2017. Having spent many long days in the office and on the road in nearly a decade of working for JP Morgan between New York and London, Joanna set out to rethink the blazers, trousers, and dresses that a woman might wear to the office. Dai brings together style, comfort and the latest fabric innovations.

Monocle Films / Finland

The home of the Finnish art scene

We tour the breathtaking studios of artists’ residence Lallukka in Helsinki, which hasn’t changed its purpose since it was completed in 1933. The landmark functionalist building offers spaces at low rents so that its tenants can focus on one thing: making art.

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