This week we’re sampling baked bean-flavoured ice cream and stylish sweat-proof clothing while trying to decide whether to bid for a vintage Chanel bottle holder at Sotheby’s. Norwegian museum director Karin Hindsbo reveals her holiday habits and the Monocle Concierge heads to France. But first, Andrew Tuck wants justice.
A friend was robbed. We’ve known each other for years but because his hometown is on the other side of the planet, in Sydney, we don’t spend enough time together. This summer, however, he’s based himself in Palma de Mallorca, where I also camp out, so our paths have not just crossed but nicely interwoven again. Last weekend, en route to see his mum in Scotland, he stayed at our house in London. On Saturday he nipped out to get provisions for lunch and, just as he returned, at the very point of entering our calm mews, a guy on a bike came from behind and snatched his phone, which unfortunately had his credit cards and Australian driving licence tucked into the case.
Back in the house, as his shock abated, we tracked his iPhone using the Find My app and watched as it crossed over Waterloo Bridge and headed south, off to a new life in Elephant and Castle. Should we follow? Potentially getting stabbed as well didn’t sound like fun. Another annoying crime, insignificant in a city where muggings like this are commonplace. He reported the theft to the police – well, filled in an online form.
In the hours that followed, as cards were cancelled, a new phone secured, we all tortured ourselves. I should have warned him about looking at his phone in the street; he should never have had his driving licence with his phone; we should have all gone to the deli together. Just the usual: the victim blaming themselves, not the perpetrator. I have felt bad about the incident all week; my neighbourhood looks so seductively nice, no wonder someone from Sydney got taken in. But then you read about a girl, aged nine, shot in Liverpool and a woman battered in the street for her watch and no police able to attend for 25 minutes, and you think how lucky you are.
I keep seeing ads that promise me that, yes, the product I am looking at is definitely way more expensive than its modest appearance would make one expect. There’s the tableware brand that asks, “It looks great but why is it so expensive?” A trouser company that promises you will pay way more than you had hoped. A dog food brand that insists it “isn’t cheap” and why? Well, “because we believe pets deserve the same luxury as we do”.
OK, first, as a dog owner, let me explain that while I would do just about anything for her, sadly she has no concept of luxury. The finest venison or a gift from a friend of what I believe to be a giant, dried bull’s penis? She’d rather have a chew on the latter (well, she might have a point). Souffléd chicken or a couple of pigs’ ears still with the fur on? I think you know the answer. And I don’t even eat meat.
But why this spate of expensive-is-better ads? We live in a moment of strange cross currents that are pulling us in different directions – the cost-of-living crisis makes (some) people uncomfortable about splashing the cash but we also know that buying cheap is often the same as insisting that a child in Asia stitches your knickers. So spat out of this tidal mess emerge brands that realise that forcing people to pay over the odds makes them feel better, makes them feel confident that they have done well by the world and the dainty of finger. I get it. But I promise you that, on the dog food front, desiccated bull’s bits are what most mutts go to bed dreaming of, so don’t fall for that one.
If you were a judge for a day, do you think you’d be the community-service sort of punisher or the straight-to-jail variety? I’d like to think that I would be the former but I worry that I might be the latter. Though – a slight pause here – if you go onto the website for the Old Bailey, the high court in London, you can type in the name of any street in central London and it will tell you about trials connected to crimes that occurred there. There are lots across the ages that involve my street. In 1827, for example, there was a burglary in a neighbouring mews but it went badly wrong and one of the three robbers, John Cranley, was apprehended just where you enter my road – perhaps the exact spot where my house guest was robbed. At the subsequent trial, Cranley, the records state, “was recommended to mercy by the prosecutor, who had employed him seven years, and believed him to be the support of an aged mother”. But the judge determined that his time was up and, aged 23, he was sentenced to death. And all for nabbing a ring and some coins. It seems harsh. Fair enough for an iPhone but a silly ring?
Readers of a certain age, and who were given to certain habits during the acid house phenomenon of the late 1980s and early 1990s, might just about recall the Hypercolor T-shirt (writes Andrew Mueller). These baggy garments, popular among people who spent their weekends shaking their oversized trouser cuffs to repetitive beats in muddy fields, boasted the dubiously valuable gimmick of changing colour with the ambient temperature.
Hypercolor T-shirts were terrible then and would be ridiculous now but they do seem a pathfinder for clothes manufactured specifically to respond to the climate – a requirement becoming depressingly pertinent. British fashion brand Vollebak has created a new collection of T-shirts – its Equator range – that are intended to absorb conditions of extreme heat and humidity. Available in white, granite, pink or blue, the Equator T-shirt is made from super-light Pima cotton and comes with promises of serene all-weather comfort – as well one might hope at €85 a throw. Vollebak also offers a complementary range of Equator dress shirts with genuinely useful features: shatterproof buttons, gadget loops, lockable zip pockets, anti-mosquito collars, from (from €280). Another Vollebak innovation is somewhat closer to the Hypercolor template: a jacket covered with a solar-charged membrane (pictured) on which glow-in-the-dark patterns can be drawn with any light source, though it is unclear how you deter pranksters from writing “Kick me” on your back with their phone torches (€445).
In fairness to Vollebak, it does appear to be thinking seriously about the future of clothing manufacture. Clothes will – or should – be built to last and from sustainable materials. Vollebek’s range also includes the Garbage T-shirt, which is pretty much exactly that. It’s €105. (Insert your own trash/treasure joke here.) But it is often the case with innovation that it starts expensive and becomes less so. And, in fairness, vintage Hypercolor t-shirts are now nudging that on Ebay.
Every evening in Singapore, as dusk settles over the city, a chorus of screeching emerges from the trees (writes Naomi Xu Elegant). New arrivals to this pristine, chewing-gum free city, where playing mahjong too loudly at night is grounds for a noise complaint to police, might be baffled by the cacophony. Its source is Javan mynas, small black starlings with spindly orange legs and inquisitive eyes. They originate from Indonesia but the caged-songbird trade has made them global migrants: they are now found across Asia and as far afield as Puerto Rico.
Decades of escaped pets banding together and reproducing mean that there are now more than 100,000 of these rowdy itinerants in the southeast Asian city-state, while poaching has left only a few thousand in their original habitat. Javan mynas are smart and sociable, and unafraid of humans; nor, judging by the fun they have pecking at irritable lions and fluttering near the open maw of a 3,000kg rhino at the Singapore Zoo, are they cautious around large mammals – though they do get skittish when pigeons are nearby. They scavenge for food in groups, with one myna perched at a vantage point as a lookout, while his friends pick apart an abandoned hotdog or steal sips of dahl from someone’s breakfast plate when they aren’t looking.
As well as their crepuscular chorus, mynas are liable to break into song whenever the mood strikes them. An individual trilling bird is pleasant but 100 together can be more evocative of drunken college a cappella than pastoral melody. Ornithologists might be charmed but Singaporeans less so: the birds are the target of government culling and the occasional vigilante revenge act from a disgruntled citizen. It’s easy to understand why those accustomed to the hyper-controlled urbanity of Singapore have scant patience for these rambunctious migrants. But a little tolerance goes a long way and irked residents who start thinking of Javan mynas as eccentric neighbours instead of invaders might one day wake up and hear music instead of noise.
This week the Monocle Concierge heads to France for a little dose of country luxe before the dreaded return of the ‘métro-boulot-dodo’ come September. As ever, keep your travel-related inquiries coming in by clicking here. We will pick one to answer every week.
Hi Monocle Concierge,
It seems that we’re not making it to Portugal any more but we’ll be in Paris, then trying to figure out where to go around in France with a bigger group (five to seven people) for three days. Any recs are much appreciated!
Thanks, Bianca, London
We’re sorry to hear that your Portugal travel plans are off but there’s plenty to make up for it in France. Paris can be hot and rather frustrating in late August (too many tourists, too little local life), so it seems like a wise idea to combine it with a trip to the campagne. Rather than heading south like everyone else, we would suggest staying closer to Paris to avoid crowds and soaring summer fares on the TGV.
Seeing that you’re travelling in a bigger group, D’une île in Normandy might be just the ticket. This farmhouse inn (pictured) has suites that sleep up to six people and the restaurant, which is run by the team behind Paris’s Michelin-starred Septime, is a great plus. Otherwise, there’s the stylish Château de la Haute Borde in the Loire Valley, which is close to a plethora of historic chateaux, and the auberge of the bucolic Le Garde Champêtre in Champagne – close to, well, lots of fizzy wine. They’re all wonderfully quiet and surrounded by beautiful nature, which should make for a nice change after the City of Light. Bonnes vacances!
As ice cream season nears its end, Scoop of the Week sees Monocle 24’s senior correspondent Fernando Augusto Pacheco boldly go where no cone has gone before: baked beans ice cream, anyone?
London’s Ice Cream Project is a summer-long pop-up parlour located in The Village, a small parade of shops in Knightsbridge conceived by Anya Hindmarch. The handbag designer collaborated with a Devon creamery to produce a selection of flavours inspired by her favourite food brands, from the largely inoffensive Kellogg’s Frosties to the decidedly weirder Heinz baked beans, mayonnaise and Kikkoman soy sauce.
I arrived bright and early as the pop-up has been a massive hit with Londoners, with queues of up to two hours at times. I asked the manager whether people came for the unusual flavours or the more conventional ones; the fact that the Frosties ice cream had run out answered that question. So I decided to be brave and go for a scoop of Lea & Perrins worcestershire sauce (a sweet tomato fruit sorbet with a splash of the famous condiment) and a scoop of Heinz baked beans (replete with a solitary bean in the centre).
The former was a bit too peppery for me but I enjoyed the baked beans, which was quite sweet and tasted as though it was full of protein. Besides enjoying a scoop at the shop, you can also take a tub home. I bought one of the mayonnaise flavour ice cream and took it back to Midori House with a dozen spoons. Monocle staffers’ reactions ranged from mild aversion to full-on disgust – which means more for me.
Karin Hindsbo is director at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, which opened on the Oslo waterfront in July. Here, she tells us about her European road trip and how to keep cool in the Scandinavian sun.
Going anywhere nice this year?
Yes, finally! I am starting off by trekking in the Norwegian mountains in Rondane, an amazing landscape that was painted by Harald Sohlberg in his iconic piece “Winter Night in the Mountains”, one of the highlights in the National Museum. Then the whole family will be heading off on a road trip around Europe.
What’s the first thing you pack?
My phone and comfortable shoes.
What will you be listening to?
Probably a weird mixture while roaming through Europe by car, ranging from my husband’s old-school punk to my youngest son’s newly found passion: Japanese electronica.
Everything! Cakes in Vienna, döner in Berlin and waffles on the top of a mountain in Norway.
I live in Norway, so I recommend a refreshing, cool dip in one of the fjords after a long walk. That’ll get your spirit going.
Launched in 2015, Ripa Ripa is an Italian swimwear brand seeking to capture the seaside spirit of the Bel Paese in the 1960s (writes Ivan Carvalho). Founder Anna Laura Hoefer was studying economics at Milan’s Bocconi University when she got the idea: a male friend of hers was having trouble procuring smartly cut swimming trunks for a beach holiday. “A lot of the offerings were with vivid decorations and when in the water had this parachute effect that made the wearer’s suit fill up like a balloon,” she tells Monocle.
Hoefer decided to give the swimsuit a more sartorial look so that the bathers could make a good first impression when they emerged from the water. She hopped into her vintage Fiat Panda to search up and down Italy for suppliers that could deliver a fabric that felt like cotton in the hand and trunks that had a straighter fit.
Today she has a team of seamstresses in Portici, outside Naples, that assembles her collection of summery garments, including a linen polo shirt inspired by Italian style maven Gianni Agnelli. Over the seasons she has devised patterns and names for trunks that pay tribute to the 1960s Italian lifestyle; one suit featured a pattern taken from the beautiful blue-and-white ceramic tiles Gio Ponti designed for his Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento. If that isn’t perfect for a beach break, we don’t know what is.
The value of luxury items by heritage fashion houses, whether watches, trainers or handbags, are rising astronomically as they become harder to source. That’s why Sotheby’s is introducing a new auction series called The Luxury Edit and bringing in fashion creatives to help curate the rarest, most in-demand high-end accessories for its discerning collectors.
Maria Sole Ferragamo, a jeweller, trained architect and granddaughter of the Italian designer Salvatore Ferragamo, is the first guest curator of the series, tasked with selecting preowned items that marry heritage and craftsmanship. Her selections reflect her love of jewellery and appreciation of handcraft – typical of any native Florentine like herself. It’s why she highlights a laser-cut steel necklace by Giancarlo Montebello as one of her favourite lots. “Just like in architecture, the lightest-looking structures can be a real masterpiece of heavy engineering,” says Ferragamo, who now runs her own jewellery label So-Le studio. “This piece reminds me of the Eiffel tower steelwork.”
There are also some more unexpected pieces, including a gold-and-leather bottle holder by Chanel (pictured). It dates back to the brand’s autumn 1994 runway show but Ferragamo believes that today it would make a smart investment for environmentally conscious collectors looking to carry their refillable water bottles in style. Bidding starts at $10,800 (€10,700) but, given the ever-growing popularity of Chanel’s signature gold-and-leather chains, the price is bound to increase at auction.
The Luxury Edit exhibition opens at Sotheby’s London on 1 September, followed by events in New York and Paris. Auctions will take place live and online throughout the month. sothebys.com