Saturday 17 September 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 17/9/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Something in the air

What are the current crop of Masters of the Universe wearing? And should smells be protected by international heritage bodies? This weekend we’re asking all the big questions, as well as taking a Monocle Concierge-approved trip to Milan and stopping off at Genoa yacht show on the way back. But first, Andrew Tuck muses on the UK’s national mood during a week of mournful pageantry.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Land of many moods

In a country of just a few million citizens, it’s often easy to move in unison, especially when the chips are down. But if you come from a nation the size of the UK – 67 million souls and counting – it can be trickier to talk about the national mood, let alone engender one, in a society where faith, politics and where you live on these isles shape your outlook on life in divergent ways. Even now, amid the preparations for the Queen’s funeral on Monday, there are, of course, Britons who are unmoved by her passing. Yet, despite the odd salvo from an attention-seeking academic, there is something of a national mood, or at least the feeling that we are all passing through these pageantry- and tradition-draped days to the same beat of the drum. Indeed, it’s the very choreography that draws you in. It’s as if we have been swept up in an epic flash mob.

Synchronisation can be incredibly moving – the moments when the individual voices of a choir soar in harmony, when the dancers in a ballet come together to each repeat the same moves; that second in a nightclub when you look out and see everyone caught by the same song. And it’s these moments of synchronisation, both practised and spontaneous, that have been moving this week. Watching, for example, eight young soldiers from the Grenadier Guards carrying the Queen into the Palace of Westminster with the coffin, draped in the Royal Standard, weighing on their shoulders; their hair damp with sweat from their now removed bearskin hats; their faces pressed against the coffin to make sure that, even now, she moved with grace. Yes, rehearsed but also with some magic in the perfect timing. Also moving was the synchronisation of thousands of people leaving their homes and heading to London to join the miles-long queue to walk past her coffin as it lay in state, to say their own farewells. And the uniform silence that fell on them as they entered the great hall.

National moods don’t pull everyone in (and thank goodness – otherwise these in-step moments would have the whiff of a Pyongyang propaganda parade) and they also rarely last much longer than a mayfly’s life. But in these rare times you glimpse how a few more shared values, a few more instances of moving together, could bestow some good on your country.

I got back from my work trip to New York last Sunday – travelling with my colleague Kate and joined by our US editor, Chris (an amazing journalist and funny too) – and a similar mood-music question has come up a few times since. “How is New York?” people want to know, asking with the same tone of voice that you would use when enquiring about a dear cousin with wayward tendencies. In short, they want to hear if this great city is in trouble. After all, they have read the reports about the uptick in crime and seen that April cover of New York Magazine that asked, in the wake of the Brooklyn subway shootings, “Who’s afraid of the subway?”

I had wondered this too, so I asked almost everyone I met what their take was. The conclusion was uniform: it’s vibrant, exciting, getting expensive, still the place to be but the number of homeless people on the streets is distressing, especially when many of them have mental-health issues. Then there’s the traffic. While the city has attempted to get people on bikes, the gridlock is shocking, especially if you are trying to switch between boroughs and there’s a bridge involved. And yet…

The sun was out and over some 72 hours in town we went to events, openings and meetings with Monocle’s partners. I met correspondents, contacts, writers, private investigators and photographers. I might have eaten and drunk a little too much (“How is Andrew these days?” people are no doubt asking with concern). I saw Spike Lee, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Carrie Mae Weems and Phyllida Lloyd in conversation onstage for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. I was introduced to the photographer David LaChapelle. I concluded my trip with brunch at Gertie in Brooklyn. Delicious.

As we left Gertie, primed for the snarly taxi route to JFK, Chris and I walked past a young man wearing a T-shirt that had an eye-catching statement printed across his chest. “An orgasm is better than a bomb,” it declared. While I was wondering when you might have to make that choice, Chris said, “That lad’s obviously off to see his mother.” And that’s how the trip ended: two slightly dented hacks walking off, laughing into the melee of Brooklyn. Personal mood music? Jolly if a little scratched from overuse.

The Look / Wall Street wear

Business casual

With pandemic-related restrictions all but over, New York’s white-collar workforce is back at its desks (writes Henry Rees-Sheridan). Which raises the question: what to wear? Many industries will segue from already lax dress policies to a truly anything-goes ethos. Not all of them, though. The traditional financial service centres of Midtown Manhattan and Wall Street are incrementalist redoubts that persist in upholding standards of formality. But confronted with a restive workforce and competing for talent with the much looser technology industry, the sector has had to evolve.

Image: Alamy

Change was already afoot before the pandemic, with Goldman Sachs officially moving to a “firm-wide flexible dress code” in 2019. Now some bank and hedge-fund employees are returning to their offices wearing trainers, polo shirts and carefully disguised athleisure trousers. Conventions and hierarchies persist even within this more relaxed atmosphere but gone for good are the days of mandatory heels for women and men suffering through summer in dress suits.

The door separating finance and a more expansive world of style has been forced further ajar. And the fashion machine, always happy to co-opt other elite industries, is ramming its foot in. In May, Balenciaga staged its first show outside Paris at the New York Stock Exchange. The department store Printemps, also from France, has announced plans to open its first US shop across two levels in the 1 Wall Street building, an art deco skyscraper and former bank headquarters in the heart of the Financial District. Hopefully this shift will lead to a more comfortable and stylish workforce. But the masters of the universe should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Those responsible for other people’s money ought to possess a seriousness of purpose reflected in their choice of attire.

How we live / Vegemite

Winning by a nose

It is not, on the face of it, an especially interesting property transaction: food-manufacturing corporation sells industrial facility to investment company (writes Andrew Mueller). But Bega’s sale of a Melbourne factory to US property barons Hines comes with something extra: a local aroma.

Earlier this year the City of Melbourne council declared the distinctive waft from this unprepossessing barn in the suburb of Fishermans Bend to be of significant heritage value. The smell is that of Vegemite, the thick and salty black-yeast-extract spread smeared across countless Australian childhood sandwiches. If Marcel Proust had been Australian, Vegemite would have had an even greater cultural cache than its mention in 1980s rock group Men at Work’s song “Down Under”.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

The Vegemite facility at 1 Vegemite Way – its actual address – has been belching its scent into the local atmosphere since 1923. As a result of the council’s decision, the Vegemite fragrance will need to be “acknowledged” in any future redevelopment. This is potentially an important landmark in the developing field of olfactory heritage: a school of thought that holds that what certain signifiers of history and culture smell like is no less important than what they look or sound like. Unesco made the first such inclusion on its list of intangible cultural heritage in 2018 with the skills pertaining to the concoction of perfumes in Pays de Grasse. Any red-blooded Australian would unhesitatingly declare the bouquet of Vegemite their equal at the very least.

This moment also surely concludes a long-running Anglo-Australian rivalry over the relative merits of Vegemite and its British equivalent, Marmite. No such recognition has ever been offered to – or, indeed, sought for – the odour of the Marmite factory in Burton upon Trent, which demonstrates the superiority of the Australian product and of Australia more broadly. And, yes, an Australian wrote this.

Monocle Concierge / Your Questions Answered

Autumn in Milan

This week the Monocle Concierge is in Milan, soaking up its sights and sounds. If you’re going somewhere on holiday and would like recommendations of places to stay, eat and drink, click here. We will pick one question to answer each week.

Image: Luigi Fiano

Dear Concierge,

Just a small request for now. We are travelling to Milan this month and would appreciate a couple of tips (where to eat and party) – and maybe the services of Mr Brûlé’s driver in the city.

Kind regards,

Alejandro Marabi, Tel Aviv

Dear Alejandro,

We’ll ask about the driver. In the meantime, might we compliment you on your planning? September is an excellent time to visit Milan. There’s more energy in the city now that the August exodus is over. People are getting stuck into work, packing the kids off to school and readying themselves for Milan Fashion Week. And while you’re mulling over which museums to visit and shops to peruse, the good news is that you can easily eat and drink your way around Milan. But the city can be quite factional (Navigli is quite young; Brera is more sophisticated, for example), so here are a few of our current favourites.

An institution that cannot be missed is Langosteria, which serves some of the most delicious fish (crudo and cooked) that we’ve eaten anywhere. It has several spots around town, including an outpost in the southwest, but we’d go for the Bistrot venue. In the south of Milan, check out the inventive cuisine of Nebbia. In and around the Duomo, we recommend A Santa Lucia (pictured) for the time-warp feel, Camparino in Galleria for the stunning bar and requisite Campari, and Sugo for a trattoria with a difference.

Finally, among the best food that we’ve had recently in the city is a minuscule spot in Porta Venezia run by a lone chef who prepares everything on a small induction cooker. The place is called Botoi and it can often be quiet (publicity is apparently not his thing – it feels a little like a private chef is cooking for you at home). It’s well worth the visit for the modern Italian sharing plates, which are excellent, and the biodynamic and natural wine. In terms of resting your head, two bankable and elegant options are the Four Seasons Hotel Milano and the Bulgari Hotel Milano. Buon viaggio!

Leisure / Salone Nautico, Genoa

Making waves

Summer might be coming to a close but September will still see plenty of activity on the Med as yachting enthusiasts descend on Cannes, Monaco and Genoa for their annual boat trade shows (writes Ivan Carvalho). Given Italy’s primacy in the market – the country’s shipyards did a tidy €6bn of business last year, turning out new pleasure craft – Genoa’s Salone Nautico event (pictured), which runs from 22 to 27 September, draws the largest crowd in the Med.

Image: Shutterstock

The 62nd edition offers new models for all tastes and budgets, from rigid inflatable boats to 40-metre superyachts. Italian manufacturers are in a buoyant mood as they continue to develop more eco-friendly vessels. “Clients want sustainability,” Giovanna Vitelli, vice-president of Azimut Benetti Group, a leading producer of luxury yachts, tells Monocle. “We use more carbon fibre for increasingly efficient hulls to reduce weight and fuel consumption by up to 30 per cent.” Among the highlights of this year’s show is the new all-electric Capoforte runabout from Invictus Yacht.

The Interrogator / Dawn Ng

Sound of silence

Singaporean artist Dawn Ng recently wrapped up her first solo UK exhibition at St Cyprian’s Church in London. Titled Into Air, it explored memory and the passage of time through photography, film and painting. Ng’s work, which includes sculpture and large-scale outdoor installations, has also been exhibited in Hong Kong, New York, Paris and Singapore. Here, Ng tells us about the nostalgic track she’s listening to and buying persimmons in Singapore.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
A soy cappuccino.

Do you have a favourite weekend market?
Tiong Bahru Market in Singapore. It has really fresh fruit and you can call some of the sellers a few days in advance and reserve things. I love persimmons when they’re in season. Also, Cheng’s 27 food hall sells the most amazing organic gula melaka chiffon cake.

And a favourite bookshop?
Books Actually. Staff members write little notes on certain books – for example, a one-liner telling you a bit about the character or the adventure that unfolds. It’s that human touch, that little scribble, that provides the nostalgia and romance that the big boys don’t have the time or capacity for.

Any podcast recommendations?
I’m not really a podcast person but I do listen to Krista Tippett’s On Being. I enjoy some of her talks with physicists and the larger questions that she tackles. It’s nice to tune into that when I’m working in the studio or doing ceramics.

What are you currently humming in the shower?
I don’t hum in the shower. But right now I’m in a nostalgic LCD Soundsystem phase, listening to “Oh Baby” quite a bit.

Seen any good films recently?
Everything Everywhere All at Once. Everyone needs to watch it and not on a laptop. You have to go to a cinema. It’s a great disservice to yourself and the movie if you watch it on a device or the plane.

What about books?
I haven’t started it yet but I just bought Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s about AI and love.

What do you listen to before drifting off?
Sometimes I listen to music on my phone but mostly it’s silence. I like to end the day by clearing out my mind with white noise or no noise.

Culture cuts / Es Devlin x Cartier

Power point

Artist Es Devlin, who is famed for her stage design, has created a new illuminated sculpture to be installed in the gardens of London’s Tate Modern museum (pictured) on Wednesday. The work, which has been commissioned by Cartier, features the 243 species – moths, birds, beetles, wild flowers, fish and fungi – on London’s priority conservation list.

Image: Cartier

Reverberating around the gigantic, domed installation is a soundtrack, directed by Jade Pybus of Polyphonia, of all the different species’ calls. “It’s an ambitious project that draws together a broad range of elements, including four months of dedicated observational life drawing of London’s most endangered species,” Devlin tells Monocle. Every day at sunset a series of choirs will sing in the museum’s gardens in languages ranging from Latin to English, Bulgarian and Xulu.

The project is an ode to the city of London: the shape of the sculpture is modelled on St Paul’s Cathedral, which is just across the river from the Tate. “The cathedral is an ancient seat of ecclesiastical power, Bankside Power Station was a locus of industrial power and Tate Modern is a current site of cultural power, with the Thames a source of natural power,” says Devlin. “There’s this convergence of architectural forces all across the river.”

Photo of the Week / William Klein, ‘Yoyogi Hairdressing School’

Cut above

William Klein, who died last week aged 96, was perhaps the natural successor to the father of street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Like all virtuosos, he revolutionised the form in his own way. Where the Frenchman had set street life in glowing aspic, Klein added movement. His work, mostly in black and white, was a frenetic dash through the world’s great cities – Paris, New York, London and Tokyo – where Klein was no silent observer, always involving himself in the scene.

Image: William Klein, Howard Greenberg Gallery

This captivating image of the Yoyogi hairdressing school in Tokyo was taken during his first visit to Japan in 1961. The country was still fairly closed off from the world but American culture was beginning to trickle through. Klein was shown around by government officials who were keen to present him with a postcard tableau. Thankfully he broke free from their guided tour and produced a monochrome kaleidoscope of a country in a state of excited flux.


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