Friday. 2/9/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Natalie Theodosi

Giving the green light

Yesterday, UK department store Selfridges presented its new environmental commitments, which include plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. The company is also aiming for “everything it builds, buys and sells” to be eco-friendly by 2030. As a fashion editor, my inbox is deluged with announcements like this and it’s hard not to be sceptical. After all, most fashion companies’ business models are at odds with environmental responsibility – claiming to be sustainable yet producing a dozen collections a year, for example, or creating a line of swimwear from recycled ocean waste, only to send it to editors wrapped in plastic. But Selfridges seems to be onto something.

In 2020 the retailer launched Project Earth to track its progress, hoisting a giant sign outside its London flagship that declared, “Let’s change the way we shop.” Two years later the sign (pictured) is still there and Selfridges appears willing to make significant changes to the way it works. “The fundamental business model is going to shift,” Sebastian Manes, its buying and merchandising director, tells me. He pragmatically concedes that commercial targets must be hit alongside environmental ones and says that a lot of negotiations are needed with brands. But he remains optimistic. “So far we’ve sold 17,000 second-hand items and facilitated 28,000 repairs,” he says. “There’s a big opportunity to accelerate that side of the business.”

Expect more repair stations in Selfridges stores, refills on beauty counters and a broader offer of second-hand items, extending beyond fashion to watches, cameras and even Christmas decorations. Whether or not the company achieves its goals, its willingness to embrace change sets a precedent for the industry. As promised on its shopfront, it’s offering customers new and less wasteful ways to shop.

Natalie Theodosi is Monocle’s fashion editor.

Image: Shutterstock

Human Rights / China

Abuses of power

This week the UN released its long-delayed 48-page report on alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. It concludes that China’s detention and treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslims might “constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity”. The Chinese government, which saw a copy of the report before its publication, has released a 131-page rebuttal, which claims that the UN’s findings are “based on disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-China forces”.

The UN’s conclusions were more forceful than some human rights groups had expected but the report is unlikely to affect Beijing’s stance. “There’s a very strong propaganda machine running in China,” Alfred Wu, a Chinese politics expert at the National University of Singapore, tells The Monocle Minute. At the same time, the government increasingly “ignores international norms” and opinions. “China never admits any mistakes under Xi Jinping and that’s very worrisome,” says Wu.

Image: Shutterstock

Aviation / Italy

Flight risk

When Italy’s historic flag carrier Alitalia ceased trading in October 2021 a new company – state-owned ITA Airways – rose from its ashes. Prime minister Mario Draghi’s market-friendly government has long been eager to privatise the company and issued a decree to that effect earlier this year. Now an international consortium of investors, including Delta and KLM-Air France, are in exclusive talks about securing a majority stake.

But Draghi is a lame duck, helming a caretaker government until the elections on 25 September, and Giorgia Meloni, the far-right leader of the Brothers of Italy party, is against the sale. For Meloni, who polls suggest is on course to be the next prime minister, the sale of ITA Airways to international investors would be “another piece of Italy that is leaving”. Whether Draghi can get the sale through before the political wind changes is the big question.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Iraq

Upsetting the balance

Baghdad was shaken by violent protests this week after the resignation of influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. More than 30 people died and at least 700 were injured after his supporters stormed the city’s Green Zone (pictured), the Republican Palace and key state buildings. Al-Sadr, whose party was until recently part of Iraq’s coalition government, had resigned on several occasions during a 10-month power struggle but this time there was a crucial difference.

A new interpretation of Iraq’s constitution allowed the pro-Iran Co-ordination Framework, a broad amalgamation of mainly Shia parties, to declare that it had enough seats in parliament to rule without him. Some analysts fear that the latest schism could lead to civil war but former UK ambassador to Baghdad William Patey disagrees. “Both sides will resile together,” he told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “They won’t want to push it that far.”

Image: Indiecon Festival

Media / Germany

Fine print

Over the next three days, Hamburg once again plays host to Indiecon, an annual independent publishing festival, at Factory Hammerbrooklyn. This year’s edition features the most international line-up in the event’s history. This is partly due to a special travel grant offered to six publications, ranging from Ìrìn Journal, an exploration of African culture through travel, to Safar, an alternative design and visual culture magazine based in Beirut.

More than 100 publishing houses and sole-proprietor outlets will be present, with plenty of discussions and lectures about the state of independent print. Despite problems such as paper shortages that face many publishers today, expect a positive tone. “It’s exciting to see how busy and productive magazine-makers have been in these times, perhaps more than ever,” Nina Prader, Indiecon’s curator, tells Monocle.

Listen to an interview with Indiecon’s Nina Prader and get an overview of some of the titles at the fair on the latest episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Vietnam

For this week’s Global Countdown, Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco look at the top songs in Vietnam

Monocle Films / Paris

Meet the photographers: 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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