Thursday. 26/5/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Katimo

Opinion / Natalie Theodosi

Beauty and the beast

I recently received an email from Kyiv-based fashion brand Katimo, sharing its latest collection (pictured). A brand debuting new-season clothing at this time of year is hardly news but this one was one of the first collections entirely designed and produced by a Ukrainian company since Russia invaded.

There are industries more integral to Ukraine’s survival – but a nation is more than borders and buildings. Fashion and the small businesses that constitute the industry are important. For Katimo founder Katya Timoshenko, designing a new collection is all about keeping beauty alive with clothes that feel both sombre and hopeful: practical, loose shirts or lightweight dresses in soft pastel colours, referencing Ukraine’s spring gardens. “This collection is my way of telling the world about how strong our country is,” says Timoshenko. “No matter what, we continue to do what we do best: create beautiful clothes,” she says, explaining that she reopened her manufacturing facility in central Kyiv shortly after the Russian invasion. She’s not alone. Determined not to give up, many of Kyiv’s fashion designers moved to western Ukraine and continued working.

Those wartime projects are now ready to launch and with some Ukrainians starting to think about rebuilding parts of their country, this is the time that they really need our support. Some of fashion’s biggest names responded early on, joining rallies during Paris Fashion Week or taking their catwalk bows wrapped in Ukrainian flags. But after those early gestures, industry events from the Met Gala in New York to the Resort shows slipped back into escapism and excessive glamour. There’s nothing wrong with a little post-lockdown indulgence but if fashion wants to be taken seriously, it should show more solidarity by hiring Ukrainian creatives or using these highly publicised events to raise awareness about the conflict.

Image: Jun Michael Park

Art / East Asia

Shifting focus

After a two-month delay, Art Basel Hong Kong is back this week, with 130 galleries keen to tap into a dedicated Asian collector base. Still, travel restrictions mean that this edition will once again operate as a hybrid: inside Wan Chai’s Convention and Exhibition centre and in the online viewing rooms. Given its isolation woes and long-running political tensions, some wonder whether Hong Kong can remain at the centre of the Asian art market. It won’t be easy to dethrone but fairs across the region, from Singapore to South Korea, are hot on its heels. Smaller events such as Art Busan, which wrapped up earlier this month, are growing in relevance. A breezy seaside city, “Busan’s attitude to art and culture has changed dramatically in recent years,” says Min-young Joo, artistic director of contemporary art space Johyun Gallery. “With global interest in South Korean artists rising, more overseas clients fly in to see the works here.”

To find out more about the town’s sunny cultural future, read our art special in the June issue, which is out now.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / USA

At breaking point

By now the world has heard the comments made by Joe Biden (pictured) about the need to tackle the country’s powerful gun lobby following yet another mass shooting, this time at a primary school in Texas. But will this finally lead to legislative change? While “the Republicans will resist any change to the status quo… the overwhelming majority of Americans support tightening some gun laws,” says Jacob Parakilas, an expert on US gun control. “It is long past time for the country to catch up with the rest of the Western world and address this issue head on,” he tells The Monocle Minute.

History suggests that appalling mass shootings in the US force little action on gun control, says Parakilas, “but there is a slim chance that Texas could be a turning point”. If the lives of innocent children won’t change Republicans’ minds, it’s hard to imagine there’s much that will.

Image: Shutterstock

Mobility / Switzerland

Small wonder

The Microlino (pictured), an electric bubble car with two seats and a range of 230km, has reached the launch stage and will hit roads either this year or next, depending on supply-chain troubles currently hobbling global manufacturing. Founded in 2015, the Swiss project wants to show drivers that going electric means that they can have more with less. It’s working. More than 30,000 people are on the waiting list for the zippy new model. Microlino is the latest in a convoy of electric cars as manufacturers race to corner the market. More than a third of global carbon emissions come from transportation, according to the OECD, so they’ll need to hurry up. Microlino claims that its manufacturing process uses a third of the resources of conventional cars. While the cars are much smaller than average, the company’s efforts are admirable. “Plus,” said co-founder Oliver Ouboter during Tuesday’s launch, “it’s incredibly fun to drive.”

Image: Obayashi/Port Plus

Architecture / Japan

Limber timber

This week, Japanese construction giant Obayashi unveiled Japan’s first fully wooden and fire-resistant high-rise building (pictured). The 11-storey structure is 44 metres high, making it the tallest building in Japan using wood for structural pillars and beams. Named Port Plus, the Yokohama property is a new training base for Obayashi, which also built the 634 metre-tall Tokyo Skytree. The frequency with which old buildings in Japan are being demolished due to anti-earthquake and fire concerns has fed a trend of building with wood.

As the search for alternatives to carbon-intensive materials like steel has gathered speed, architects have branched out into timber. Norway, another country with plenty of wood and design know-how, has made headlines with a series of timber skyscrapers and there are plans for more in Sweden and Switzerland. With global supply chains facing choke points and the cost of shipping spiralling, Japan, with its abundant forests and craft pedigree, should be better served than most to continue as normal.

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Ukraine’s design scene

We look at how the design scene in Ukraine has responded to Russia’s invasion. We find out how the Architecture Council of Europe is supporting the nation’s designers and meet an institution that has decided to stay in the country despite offers to relocate it abroad. Plus we meet a brand championing Ukrainian heritage and craft, and Kyiv-based architect Slava Balbek.

Film / Global

Designing the news

How do you unpack stories in the most engaging way while building a credible and comprehensive brand? Monocle Films showcases best design for paper and screen too.

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