Saturday 7 May 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 7/5/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Business and pleasure

Why are drug lords so lacking in style? Plus: Brazilian jiu-jitsu gets a new look, Chanel hits Monte Carlo, and Fiorucci artistic director Daniel Fletcher tells us about his obsession with Keith Haring. But first, Andrew Tuck meets Soho House founder Nick Jones…

Opener / Andrew Tuck

House rules

This week I interviewed Nick Jones, the founder of Soho House, at an event held in a very sunny Berlin – what’s not to like in that sentence? It was at the International Hospitality Investment Forum; there were money people in the room, lots of hotel owners, folk who do clever stuff with loyalty programmes. But by the time it came to Jones and Tuck – the closing act – people had been deep-fried in conference chat and a few had clearly headed off to explore Berlin or perhaps just down a stein or six. But Jones was up for winning back the crowd and, just before we went onstage, told me to ask him anything.

I like Jones. He once spoke at a Monocle Quality of Life Conference – coincidentally the Berlin edition – and not only was he good value but he took the time to sign Soho House books (well, I guess every penny counts) and talk to delegates afterwards. He’s easy with people. Onstage this time he was true to his “quiz-me” word. We discussed the business’s flight path to profitability – Soho House continues to post a loss. “Every house is profitable so if we stopped opening houses, the company would make a profit,” he explained patiently. (Meanwhile, the pace of expansion just seems to quicken.) I asked whether it was hard for a brand to stay attractive and cool after it hit 25 years of age; he underlined that being cool was not what Soho House was built on. We talked about why it had ditched the Cow brand names for its various shampoos (too easy to offend; one shampoo had been called Grumpy Cow, which just won’t wash these days – the name, that is, not the product).

But – and I hope that people in the audience took this away too – the most impressive thing about Jones is that, despite all the stresses of that rapid growth (Brighton is just about to open, Copenhagen imminent, Stockholm en route), he clearly loves his job. He beams when he’s talking about the business. And he delights in the fact that Soho House is young, diverse, offers a way for people to connect over a bottle of wine, a place for all sorts of adventures. And it seems that a digital version of Soho House is around the corner. I might have even seen it but that would be telling.

The following morning, Jones was off to Copenhagen to inspect the new house. I asked him whether he still changes everything at this stage. “Well, the bar will probably move,” he joked. His mode of transport to CPH? Easyjet out of BER, Berlin’s new airport. It was a good display of what his brand stands for: it’s not about wealth but experience.

But blimey, what’s happened to airports? They are all so creaky. It took close to an hour for the snaking queue just to clear security in Berlin. Every person had to stand in a body scanner but, unlike at other airports, instead of waving your arms in the air like you just don’t care, you had to point them downwards like a wobbly Frankenstein’s monster. But time and again people instinctively put their arms in the air and had to be retrained on the spot, with staff sometimes physically moving them into the correct monster shape. Wow, was it painful to watch.

Then there was a large Turkish contingent ahead of me. The security guards prodded and poked every headscarfed woman; children of three were being frisked as if the airport had been tipped off about a miniature mafia gang on the prowl. Then to the passport control, where, for no clear reason, they had installed a member of staff who was asking everyone where they were heading. And each time someone said “London” he would bark, “London has five airports – which one?” It felt like being in a pub quiz where the same question is asked again and again. Finally we were through! Flight delayed.

I took the train out to the airport. Navigating public transport in a city that you don’t know perfectly seems to be getting trickier. The ticket machines in Berlin were confusing, the way-finding in the stations discombobulating. So I asked a man who looked like a local which platform I needed. In seconds he pulled up an app on his phone that had beautiful and easy-to-understand graphics, a world of information that only real Berliners knew how to access, and he found me my train and sent me on my way. At this point I could have hugged him but, not wanting to be arrested, I made do with a whacking “Danke schön!” delivered as if he’d just donated me a kidney.

One final thing from Nick Jones. Don’t underestimate what your brand can do and become, while still holding true to its values. Even with the scale of expansion at Soho House, members love being part of it. Jones said that people stayed loyal throughout the pandemic and that if he ever gets a letter of complaint, he knows that it’s because people care. Bigger can be better. In work and in life, perhaps we all need to have a little more Jonesian confidence and just go for it, without restricting ourselves because of limitations set by people who don’t know what we know. Gosh, I’ll be writing self-help books next.

The Look / Banal plus

Crimes of fashion

With the value of the global cocaine trade higher than a rocket-fuelled kite in a hurricane, those who control its manufacture and distribution have become extremely powerful (writes Alexis Self). Latin American drug gangs, such as the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico and Gulf Clan cartel in Colombia, clock up annual revenues that rival those of multinational corporations and possess military hardware that would make the top brass of some European nations' armies go khaki green with envy. Their leaders, however, dress like Idaho stepdads on a weekend trip to the garden centre.

Image: Getty Images

Over the past few years, the net has been closing on these normcore drug lords. This week, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, aka Otoniel, the alleged leader of the Gulf Clan cartel, was extradited to the US to face trial on drug-trafficking charges. His extradition involved a scene that has now become standard for such events: the cartel boss catwalk of shame.

Surrounded by heavily armed, balaclava-clad special forces soldiers, these portly middle-aged men, usually wearing polo shirts and stonewash jeans, are paraded slowly before the world’s media – as seen in this photo of El Chapo being arrested in 1993, a classic of the form. Many of them will have been on the run for years – Otoniel had a $5m (€4.7m) US bounty on his head – so their workaday comportment isn’t surprising. But next to all those soldiers they look inoffensive and utterly banal. As such, the general public, desperate for some insight into their murderous minds, is forced to scrutinise them with indecent interest, wondering… are bad jeans the root of all evil?

How We Live / Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Fighting fit

When I was growing up in Japan in the 1990s, legendary Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) practitioner Rickson Gracie was everywhere (writes Jun Toyofuku). I used to religiously watch him on TV, destroying home-grown fighters with a flick of his wrist and looking very good while doing it. I can remember thinking: I’d like to do that. But as a skinny boy, I stuck to less physical pursuits, such as fashion and journalism.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

Then, after two years of pandemic-induced imprisonment and desperate for some group activity, I finally mustered up the courage to join a BJJ club. The word “jiu-jitsu” has Japanese origins (ju means gentle and jutsu means art) and the sport was developed by a Japanese judoka, Mitsuyo Maeda. But the Brazilians turned it into a global phenomenon. In the early 20th century, Maeda was sent on a global judo tour; in Brazil, he met another skinny young boy called Carlos Gracie and taught him the craft. The rest is history: Gracie developed Brazilian jiu-jitsu and built it into a multimillion-dollar sporting empire.

As with all martial arts, the sport is supposed to be a case of mind over matter, one in which intelligence trumps physicality. But all of the best fighters at my club are also the most muscular. I’m on more competitive ground when it comes to the style. Japanese fashion labels such as Bedwin & the Heartbreakers and Wtaps have seized on the sport’s popularity; you can even pick up a Hello Kitty jiu-jitsu gi. So, if I can’t win on the mat, I’ll win off it. Martial arts might be about mind over matter but when it comes to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, my tactic is style over substance. May the best-dressed fighter win.

The Interrogator / Daniel Fletcher

Haring and sharing

Since taking the reins of menswear design at Italian fashion house Fiorucci in 2019, artistic director Daniel Fletcher has delved into the brand’s archives, especially from its heyday as a cult label during New York’s Studio 54 era (writes Christopher Lord). He describes its latest spring/summer collection as a “hedonistic night in the desert”, with cuts and colours that wouldn’t look out of place on a 1970s motel forecourt. Here he tells us about Keith Haring and the power of vulnerability.

What news source do you wake up to?
The Business of Fashion always gives me a good start to the day.

Five magazines from your weekend sofa-side stack?
Monocle, of course. Hero magazine is in there – I love Hero. Also, Fantastic Man, AnOther and Document.

Who’s your cultural obsession?
Keith Haring. That’s come through working for Fiorucci. There’s such a long history between the brand and Keith. Elio Fiorucci, the label’s founder, heard about him very early on and flew him over to Milan to spray-paint the whole shop. We have all of these photos in the archives of Keith spray-painting the fitting rooms. They’re amazing.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?
Donlon Books on Broadway Market in London. It’s just around the corner from my house and it always has things that you wouldn’t come across anywhere else.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
Florence + the Machine have just released a couple of great tracks from their new album and I think the rest is coming imminently.

A podcast that’s grabbed you lately?
I recently listened to The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown. It grew out of a Ted talk exploring the notion that vulnerability, rather than being a weakness, is actually one of the greatest signs of strength you can exhibit. It’s a good six-and-a-half hours long, so you need to be strong for that.

And what’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
I spend my days surrounded by people asking me questions, so right before bed I don’t want to hear another human voice.

Culture / Listen / Visit / Watch

Bright sparks

‘Spell 31’, Ibeyi. Afro-French-Cuban duo Ibeyi, which consists of twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz, are back with their first album since 2017’s Ash. Spell 31 is a very personal collection; single “Sister 2 Sister” is about the special connection between siblings. Inspired collaborations pepper the record: Jorja Smith appears in “Lavender & Red Roses”, while “Made of Gold” features UK rapper Pa Salieu. It’s a heady mix of neo-soul and electronica.

‘Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca: Swinguerra’, Boston. Brazil-based duo Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca specialise in creating works that interrogate the history of underground dance and music genres. Swinguerra, screening at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, focuses on the town of Recife and features three contemporary dance styles: swingueira, brega funk and passinho da maloca. Behind the joyous energy there is an exploration of the origins of these dance forms in colonial history and how they can still feel like acts of defiance.

‘The Girl and the Spider’, Ramon and Silvan Zürcher. Domestic settings are often integral to the films of Swiss brothers Ramon and Silvan Zürcher: Ramon’s 2013 picture The Strange Little Cat, for example, followed a German family crammed into a small apartment. The Girl and the Spider continues in this tradition, exploring the feelings that arise when twentysomething Lisa leaves her old flat to rent her own place. There are hints of complications between Lisa and her former roommate Mara; deciphering these unspoken suggestions is half the fun.

Outpost News / Coast FM

Sea change

The sandy beaches and turquoise waters of Mount’s Bay in Cornwall are one of the UK’s most cherished natural spots (writes Annabel Martin). The historic port of Penzance is the county’s westernmost town. Here, we speak with Dave Pascoe, station manager of Coast FM, about the community radio station, the Beach Boys and a shoplifting seagull.

Image: Alamy

Tell us about the history of the station.
It started out producing podcasts as Penwith Community Radio in 2006, then moved onto internet broadcasting in 2011. We eventually achieved our FM licence in 2014, before starting broadcasting on 96.5 and 97.2FM.

What song is played most on the station?
Anything by the Beach Boys. But our playlist ranges from the 1960s to the present day – we want to appeal to all ages.

Tell us about some memorable broadcasting moments.
Our first day on air has to be the most memorable. But a close second was when we rebranded as Coast FM. We loaded the bus with our presenters and team members and travelled from Penzance to St Just on a customised bus, only to be met with the most foggy conditions. Covering the Tour of Britain bicycle race was an epic team effort and great fun too.

What events will you be covering in the near future?
We’ll do the annual Golowan Festival again this year, along with a joint broadcast with the BBC from the Jubilee Pool for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June.

What’s the big story this week?
A seagull ran out of Holland & Barrett natural food shop with a chocolate bar clutched tightly in its beak. It was closely followed by an exasperated member of staff. By that time it had safely crossed the road and was busy unwrapping its chocolate. Apparently its name is Frank and it’s a bit of a hell-raiser.

Where do you and your colleagues hang out?
We always have a good welcome in the Crown and the Queens Hotel.

What Am I Bid? / Mansell’s motors

Selling speed

An auction of cars held by Sotheby’s in Monaco a fortnight before the Grand Prix is never likely to be a trove of bargain bangers (writes Andrew Mueller). Among the vehicles for sale in the Sotheby’s Monaco 2022 auction on 14 May is a Porsche 928. This model can usually be picked up for low five figures but this is a first-run 1977 example (in a swish lime-green finish). It’s listed at €40,000 to €60,000.

Image: RM Sotheby

The headliners, however, are cars that 1992 Formula One world champion Nigel Mansell is offering. They include two of the cars that he drove on his way to the pinnacle: the 1989 Ferrari 640 and the 1991 Williams FW14 (pictured). The Williams features in one of the most famous images of Formula One ever snapped. After winning the 1991 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Mansell stopped to pick up his great rival Ayrton Senna, whose McLaren had run out of fuel, and drove back to the pits with Senna perched on the sidepod. Nevertheless, by way of testament to the enduring allure of the prancing horse, it is the Ferrari that has the higher estimate: €5m to the Williams’ €3m.

Other lots from Mansell’s personal collection include a Birkin Seven Sprint, which you might snare for €15,000, and the profoundly weird iC Modulo M89, a three-wheeled contraption with two in-line seats like a much slower, earthbound fighter plane, which might fetch €25,000. All successful bidders on Mansell’s machines might struggle to overcome the feeling that their cars are disappointed by their new owners.

Fashion Update / Chanel in Monte Carlo

Swishing in the sunshine

Also in Monaco is Chanel, which hosted its first destination show with an audience since 2019 on Thursday (writes Natalie Theodosi). To mark the occasion, creative director Virginie Viard packed out the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel. The aesthetic link between this elegant seaside spot and the house’s new Cruise 2023 vacation-inspired designs is an obvious one but for Viard there was also a deeper emotional connection to explore.

“To me, Monaco is a matter of feelings above all,” says Viard, who wanted to use the event to honour the house’s most loyal Monégasque friends, Princess Caroline and her daughter Charlotte Casiraghi, as well as the late Karl Lagerfeld. “From the Beach Hotel one can glimpse Karl’s villa, La Vigie. I will never forget the times I spent there: terraces and balconies, big umbrellas, baskets of flowers – so much beauty.”

Image: Chanel

The high collars that feature on some of the shirt dresses in the new range were another nod to Lagerfeld’s signature tailored look. Viard added her own handwriting and a touch of humour in the form of miniature bags shaped like casino slot machines and tennis racquets and signature tweed jumpsuits referencing Monaco’s close ties to Formula One. The jumpsuits were paired with baseball caps emblazoned with the house’s lucky number five that are sure to have customers racing to their nearest boutique.


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