Friday. 22/4/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Grigor Devejiev

Opinion / Natalie Theodosi

Down but not out

When Russia invaded Ukraine, a number of fashion week organising bodies around the world decided that the show must go on – albeit in a more sombre manner. But in Tbilisi, Georgia, “there’s no place left for fashion”, according to Sofia Tchkonia (pictured), who has been the driving force behind the fast-growing Tbilisi Fashion Week. This is a city with a booming creative scene; a host of young, local designers have been drawing international retailers to Georgia and creating real momentum. Yet the war in Ukraine hit too close to home and the city’s fashion week, initially planned to run from today until Sunday, has been cancelled.

“We’ve been through this ourselves many times; 20 per cent of our country is still occupied by Russia,” says Tchkonia. It’s why she has been spending most of her time at the Polish border with Ukraine helping refugees to find homes and employment either in Tbilisi or Poland. “I couldn’t even think for a second about going ahead,” she says. “All our resources have to go towards helping Ukraine. This is my life now.”

Finding meaning in fashion during a war has proven challenging for the industry but even more so for someone like Tchkonia, whose close ties to Kyiv have given her access to first-hand accounts from the battlefield. Photographers, artists and singers from within her circle have died defending their country.

And yet, even in a city like Tbilisi with such close ties to Ukraine, creativity still offers glimmers of hope. The symphonic orchestra of Lviv recently performed here alongside the Georgian symphonic orchestra and Tchkonia has another charitable concert planned for May. Her ultimate ambition? For fashion week to come back bigger and better as a form of creative exchange between the best that Ukrainian and Georgian design talent has to offer.

Image: Getty Images

Media / France

In other words

Groupe Le Monde has launched an English-language digital edition this month, just in time for peak global interest ahead of France’s presidential election run-off on Sunday. The website, under the Le Monde banner and coupled with a daily newsletter, is run by eight journalists in Paris and Los Angeles, offering a digest of articles from the flagship French daily. The project had been a long-standing ambition for the publication. “The intention is to share with international readers our point of view; the US or British view on international news is not the only one,” says Louis Dreyfus, CEO of Groupe Le Monde. While many newspapers are fighting for relevance, paid circulation of Le Monde has increased in the past 10 years to more than 500,000 copies sold daily. The English edition “offers us a chance to build a new line of revenue and the presidential election gives us the right exposure for the launch”, says Dreyfus.

Tune in to tomorrow’s edition of ‘The Stack’ for the full interview with Dreyfus and check back on Sunday and Monday for live Paris editions of Monocle 24’s news shows covering the results.

Image: Meredith Nierman Photography

Culture / New York

New chapter

Budding collectors in search of prized old publications need look no further than the 62nd New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, which runs from today until Sunday at Park Avenue Armory. Some 180 exhibitors are showcasing a plethora of rare maps, books, manuscripts and other predominantly printed treasures, not to mention the Thackrey Library, which is generally considered to be the greatest privately owned collection of wine books in the US, dating back to the 16th century.

There’s also a 1925 first edition of The Great Gatsby, priced at $360,000 (€332,000) and – somewhat oddly – a small section of a dress with a blood stain from president Abraham Lincoln going for $125,000 (€115,000). “We’re thrilled and very fortunate that we are able to hold the book fair in person this year,” says Sanford Smith, founder of Sanford L Smith + Associates, which produces the fair. “While there have been successful virtual fairs, it is not the same experience as meeting the exhibitors in person and experiencing the wealth of materials available first-hand.”

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / Italy

Pleasure island

Venice might be suffering from over-tourism but other islands in the lagoon have the opposite problem: plenty of smaller islets have been lying uninhabited and abandoned for decades. Now Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, one of Italy’s foremost collectors, has decided to step in. After buying the island of San Giacomo in Paludo with her husband, Agostino, she has decided to open the latest outpost of her foundation here, refurbishing its derelict gunpowder warehouses and turning them into exhibition spaces, artist residencies and a laboratory by renewable energy company Asja. “We decided to give a new life to this small and fantastic island,” says Re Rebaudengo, who presented her project during the Venice Art Biennale. “The idea is that it will become a community where people connected to art and ecology can come together – and it will be open to the public.” Art has long been integral to Venice’s history and its built environment; contemporary art could change the destiny of this small island too.

Society / Australia

History in the making

The Australian state of New South Wales has announced that it will begin recognising buildings where culturally significant people have lived. How? By rolling out its own version of London’s blue plaque programme, which sees signs mounted on buildings across the UK capital with a short blurb telling passersby the story of famous former residents. The Australian state this week announced the names of the 17 people it will celebrate when it begins installing the first batch on their former homes later this year.

These names – which range from fêted modernist artist Brett Whiteley, who will be noted with a plaque on a house he once lived in (pictured), to the little-known rural-education activist Bessie Robinson – were picked from 750 nominations sent in from residents, organisations and local councils. The announcement has been welcomed by communities across the state and rightfully so: visibly marking such locations gives residents and tourists the chance to stop and celebrate people and places that have helped to shape their collective culture and identity.

Image: Daniel Dorsa

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Life House

Rami Zeidan founded Life House, a boutique hotel brand and hotel-management technology company, in 2017. He talks to Monocle’s Tomos Lewis about his ambitions for the company and explains why technology should not be disruptive but instead enhance what a hotel does best: making its guests feel welcome.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: May issue, 2022

Monocle’s latest issue sets out the benchmarks (and benches) for a better world as we put the 50 recipients of this year’s Monocle Design Awards in the spotlight. Elsewhere, we visit the rugged terrain of northern Norway to witness one of the biggest military drills in Nato’s history and George Town to explore how Malaysia’s tropical tech hub is booming. Order your copy today from The Monocle Shop.

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