Tuesday. 21/6/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Alexis Self

Out of the past

Flares and mullets aren’t the only 1970s trends that are enjoying a comeback. Across the Western world, disputes between workers and bosses are leading to increased unionisation and industrial action. Beginning today, 40,000 UK railway workers will down tools in the biggest strike of its kind in more than 30 years. The most immediate cause of this is rising inflation and the lack of any significant attendant pay rises. But it also reflects a shift in the power of collective bargaining.

As a result of deindustrialisation and globalisation, memberships of unions representing manual workers plummeted after the 1970s. But when the pandemic struck, the importance of people such as health workers and delivery drivers was thrown into sharper relief. At the time, many posited that an increased awareness of those doing what was dubbed “essential” work might lead to a reappraisal of their pay and status. Unfortunately for those hoping for such an outcome, the pandemic has been followed by inflation. The splashing of public cash in Europe and North America, combined with supply-chain disruptions, has fed the crisis – and panicked exchequers have moved to tighten purse strings as a result.

Relative public support for unions (a poll by Ipsos Mori found that 77 per cent agree that they are essential to protecting workers’ interests) stems from a general belief that work in “essential professions” should be more rewarding and secure. The pandemic has also once again whetted electorates’ appetites for a fairer, more regulated labour market; in the US and UK, union membership has risen for the fourth year in a row. But it’s worth remembering that it was union intransigence in the 1970s that portended a decline in collective bargaining. Whatever the result of this week’s strikes, the public support for resurgent unions offers an opportunity – if they avoid the pitfalls of the past.

Alexis Self is Monocle’s associate editor.

Image: Reuters

Elections / Colombia

In the pink

Former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro’s victory in Colombia’s presidential election this weekend marks a historic shift. Given its long conflict with Marxist rebels, the country had never before elected a leftist leader. But it’s also a sign of the left’s resurgence in Latin America more broadly. Among the first to congratulate Petro (pictured with his wife, Verónica Alcocer, centre, and his vice-president, Francia Márquez) was the recently elected Gabriel Boric of Chile. And if Brazilians return Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to power later this year – an increasingly likely outcome, according to recent polling – seven of the continent’s most populous nations will be governed by leftists. Colombia expert Oscar Guardiola-Rivera sees this as the return of the “pink tide” of the early 2000s, brought on by rising inequality. Petro, in a conciliatory acceptance speech, spoke of the need for Latin America to unite after years of division. “This second pink tide will lead to further integration in the region,” Guardiola-Rivera told The Globalist on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Fashion / Italy

Cut above

Milano Moda Uomo, the Lombard capital’s men’s fashion week, ends today on a high. Designers and brands have displayed a robust return to confidence in their shows and at showroom meetings. Here are some of Monocle’s high points.

Back to basics: Miuccia Prada and her co-creative director, Raf Simons, returned the focus to classic ideas such as slim tailoring, trench coats (pictured) and old-school denim. In their show notes, the duo speak about going through “a process of refinement to uncover the fundamentals of dress”.

Lasting treasures: Giorgio Armani, who championed timeless dressing long before the rest of the industry, emerged as one of the season’s biggest winners. His main line show yesterday proposed classical elegance with breezy linen suits and luxurious cotton loungewear – and ended with a standing ovation.

Passing the torch: Some of Milan’s longest-standing family businesses marked new chapters. Missoni presented its first menswear range by Filippo Grazioli, who succeeded Angela Missoni, while an emotional Kean Etro revealed his final collection for Etro before young Italian designer Marco De Vincenzo takes over. “It’s time for disruption,” Etro told Monocle backstage.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / China & Africa

Defining peace

China is hosting its first Horn of Africa peace conference in Addis Ababa today. The two-day event, which kicked off yesterday, is ostensibly intended to tackle broad-ranging challenges in the area, such as security, development and governance. But China is unlikely to attempt to mediate Ethiopia’s ongoing civil war with the rebellious Tigray region. The conflict in Africa’s second-most populous nation began nearly two years ago and has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and left more than nine million people in need of food assistance.

Still, the conference signals China’s intention to step up diplomacy in this part of Africa. Beijing’s special envoy to the region Xue Bing (pictured) has said, “The Horn of Africa must not become the backyard of any country.” But the question remains just what kind of mediator China would be – and how conditional its support. “China will be advocating its own interpretation of peace, security and good governance,” Isabel Hilton, founder of China Dialogue, tells The Monocle Minute. “It rests heavily on the security dimension, seeking above all to protect Chinese citizens and interests in the region.”

Design / USA

Leading edge

San Francisco Design Week (SFDW) pitches itself as a meeting place for studios and designers seeking to catch the eye of the Bay Area’s many entrepreneurs. The 16th edition starts today, with evening gatherings and open studios dotted around the city. Interiors luminary Ken Fulk will invite the city into his maximalist workspace (pictured) in the St Joseph’s Arts Society building, which he restored. The event also looks across the Pacific to spotlight six emerging design brands from New Zealand, including furniture by Resident and rugs from Nodi.

The loose theme this year is “edge effect”, which SFDW’s organisers explain is “a phenomenon describing the exponential enrichment that takes place when different ecosystems connect with one another”. “There’s something about deeply understanding and learning about another culture that’s transformative,” says executive director Dawn Zidonis, adding that the design week offers “a networked environment in which ideas and people can interact fluidly”.

Monocle 24 / Eureka

Ripa Ripa

Launched in 2015, the Italian swimwear brand seeks to capture the elegant spirit of the Italian seaside in the 1960s. Founder Anna Laura Hoefer saw an opportunity in the market for elegantly tailored bathing trunks for men. Today the company continues to draw design inspiration from the Bel Paese as it branches out into summery shirts and trousers.

Monocle Films / Paris

Alexandre Guirkinger

Mont Blanc is one the world’s most famous mountains – and its deadliest. We asked French photographer Alexandre Guirkinger to create a portrait of this mountain and the people who dwell in its powerful shadow. In our latest film, Guirkinger speaks about the process behind the assignment and how he captured the peak’s enthralling, luring mix of beauty and danger. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.

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