Saturday 22 October 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 22/10/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

All change

From the revolving door of British politics to a K-pop phenomenon’s military-induced hiatus, shifting sands are afoot in this Saturday’s Weekend Edition. That also includes a blast from the past in the form of wraparound sunglasses and a an update to Lufthansa’s First Class cabins. Andrew Tuck is first out of the gate.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Lack of Truss

On Thursday morning it was announced that UK prime minister Liz Truss would be making a statement outside 10 Downing Street at 13.30. The TV cameras were already trained on the front door in anticipation of something seismic occurring and the live feeds soon picked up images of staff bringing out a lectern – or executioner’s block? – and positioning it in place for what you hoped would be the final scene in this short, badly scripted, poorly cast tragicomedy.

Just a few minutes past the allotted time, Truss appeared, a smile superglued into position. She began to read her statement, “I came into office at a time of great economic and international instability. Families and businesses were worried about how to pay their bills….” Hey, hold on. Wasn’t she the person who had just triggered a meltdown of the nation’s finances? Wasn’t much of the country panicked about soaring inflation and mortgage rates because of her actions? Delusion comes in many guises and sometimes it sports a blonde bob.

At Monocle’s Midori House the team had gathered in front of the bank of TV screens to watch the announcement. News channels from around the world were carrying the resignation live. What the hell do people think of Brand Britain now? As soon as she had turned her back, the Monocle 24 news teams were booking new guests for their shows – experts who could explain what all of this meant – and Andrew Mueller was writing a comment for our daily newsletter, The Monocle Minute. But this is not a farce that anyone in our office or elsewhere in the country can luxuriate in pontificating about because we are not idle spectators: this trashing of the economy, this awful hubris leaves us all to pick up the tab for Trussonomics. She has been like the teenager who was trusted to look after the house while the rest of the family goes on holiday but who takes the opportunity to invite around her pals who trash the joint instead. Let’s hope that we can get some of the stains out of the carpet.

And how will Truss’s actions and subsequent resignation effect the UK’s ranking in the Monocle Soft Power Survey when it comes out in our December/January 2022/2023 issue? We’ll see. But whether it’s how to rebuild Ukraine’s infrastructure or a nation’s credibility, Monocle has always tried to match gritty reporting with ideas about how to solve problems, find new focus and seek opportunities. This is one of the reasons I like the reporting in the new November issue. In the Affairs pages, for example, we look at the houses, towns and nations in Europe that are poised to navigate the energy crisis with relative ease through good design and generating their own energy (a survey pulled together by Alexis Self, our new foreign editor). And there are also stories on how to build cities that empower people, create lighting that’s beautiful and good for the environment, and a debate about how to make the world of work and office life an appealing attraction. Please pick up a copy, or better yet, subscribe if you are not already on board.

How to find solutions – and lead with ambition without wrecking the joint – will also be a central focus of The Chiefs conference in Dallas in November. It kicks off on Tuesday 8 November with a welcome reception and then there’s a day of debate on Wednesday that concludes with a fun dinner. You can see a list of speakers and buy tickets here – and if you have any questions, please contact Hannah Grundy at Tyler Brûlé, Josh Fehnert, Sophie Grove, Chris Lord and myself will be on stage – and at the bar.

But back to Brand Britain. This week I heard an interview with an aggrieved politician who said that we should expect better of our leaders because “we are not Italy”. If he is referring to leaders who change like the seasons and people who place little faith in politicians’ promises then we are already Italy; the sad bit is that we don’t have the sunshine, mozzarella and Tuscan whites to soothe this disappointment. With the news that Boris Johnson might be seeking a return to Downing Street, I am not sure, however, that any amount of creamy buffalo-milk delights would be enough to put a smile on your face.

The Monocle Concierge / Your questions answered

Modest request

The Monocle Concierge looks forward every week to sitting down with your correspondence and learning of your travel plans. If you’re off somewhere and would like some recommendations of where to eat, drink and stay click here, we will answer one question every week.

Dear Concierge,

We are looking to stay for a week in a quiet part of Tokyo. We are attracted by Tomigaya, the home of the Monocle Tokyo Bureau (incidentally a must-visit while we’re there). Can you recommend a modest hotel in the area, preferably modern, of clean design lines and not a huge skyscraper? The vast choice of hotels in Tokyo is overwhelming.

Many thanks,

Graham Shearwood
Perth, Australia

Dear Graham,

Tomigaya, Monocle’s home turf, is handily located between throbbing Shibuya and leafy Yoyogi Park, and would make an excellent base for a trip to Tokyo. If you can wait until 2023, you would be among the first guests to stay at the new Trunk Hotel, which is under construction a stone’s throw from our Tokyo bureau. It will be next door to Fuglen, one of our favourite coffee shops, and Lost and Found, a newer addition to the neighbourhood that sells a mix of homeware and tableware from Nikko, makers of bone china in Ishikawa for more than 100 years.

Until then, I’d head a short stroll away to Shibuya where two options might suit your needs and budget. First is Sequence, which sits atop Miyashita Park, a shopping and restaurant development that snakes alongside the railway. The centre is home to excellent Tokyo brands, such as And Wander and Hender Scheme, and there is a rooftop lawn, skate park and outdoor climbing wall for the energetic. We are also hearing good things about All Day Place, a new Shibuya hotel – no frills but stylish all the same. Have a great trip and don’t forget to say hello to us at the Monocle bureau.

The Look / Keanu Reeves’ sunglasses

Coming back around

I’ve recently begun imitating some of Keanu Reeves’ sartorial choices (writes Nic Monisse). To be clear, I’m not doing my Saturday-morning shop in a floor-length leather trench coat. But I am sporting reflective sunglasses similar to those that the actor wore as Neo in 1999’s The Matrix. And, it would appear, I’m not alone in doing so: the specs style, which wraps completely around the eyes, has become a staple of the fashion set on the streets of London and New York.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

It’s a significant resurgence for a look long associated with cyclists, skiers and computer hackers, who don the practical shades to keep sand, sleet and Doritos dust out of their eyes. Indeed, the only thing I’m looking to keep out of my eyes is the frowns of fellow Tube passengers after a few too many negronis. But this trend doesn’t only appear to be popular with reprobates like me; plenty of clean-living Gen Z-ers seem to be tooling up in the eye department too.

So what has led to the style’s rebirth? Well, to start, the likes of Prada and Moncler have released their own sleek takes on the shades in recent years. In doing so, both brands – and a host of others that have followed their lead – have tapped into two contemporary fashion trends. First is the tendency for consumers to embrace performance athletic wear for day-to-day life, as seen with the gorpcore phenomenon. The second? Well, it’s the (often misguided) sentimentality for the early 2000s, an age being recast as one of sleek style and new technology that was actually one of hair gel and stonewashed jeans. As someone who was a teenager at the time, I have to remind myself where to draw the line in the nostalgic sand: Keanu Reeves good; Vic Reeves bad.

How we live / BTS’s national service

Military precision

After years of public speculation and government debate, K-pop group BTS have announced that they will be joining the Republic of Korea Armed Forces (writes Naomi Xu Elegant). Jin, the eldest of the septet, will enlist this year, just before he turns 30, the upper age limit for South Korea’s mandatory military service of up to 21 months. The other members will then follow suit, with the group pledging to reunite in 2025.

Referring to BTS as a boy band is like describing Napoleon as a French general. The group is huge: it adds an estimated $3.6bn (€3.7bn) to South Korea’s economy every year; they’ve spoken at the UN and the White House. When I was at university in the US, I enrolled in Beginner’s Korean only to find myself at the bottom of the class – all of my course mates were diehard BTS fans who had taught themselves Korean to understand the lyrics.

Image: Getty Images

A product of K-Pop’s factory line of fame, the group must now adapt to a life of uniform anonymity. Military service means two long years with no new albums, concerts or paparazzi. BTS’s fanbase – known as “the Army” – are in mourning but have decided to support their idols’ decision, which most see as honourable.

Rather than awaiting a parliamentary decision, potentially getting a “no” from Seoul and being conscripted, Jin (pictured, third from left) withdrew his pending deferral request to enlist on his own terms. The other members will do the same. They won’t be the first popstars to hang up their microphones mid-career for a stint in fatigues: Elvis Presley enlisted in the US army for two years in 1958 in a move that arguably benefitted rather than hindered his career. Two days after Jin’s enlistment was announced, there was a second bombshell: his first solo single is out next week.

Aviation / Lufthansa

Home comforts

Any airline worth its salt works hard to make sure that its passengers feel at home at altitude. It’s an outlook that German flag carrier Lufthansa has always embraced and one that will be particularly evident to passengers boarding its A350-900 fleet early next year. This is thanks to London studio Priestmangoode’s refit of its First Class suites.

“The goal of this project was to make passengers feel as though they’re entering a lounge, rather than a traditional aviation space,” Priestmangoode’s director Daniel MacInnes tells The Monocle Weekend Edition. “The detailing reflects what passengers would have at home with a really high level of trim that elevates the suite.” A sneak peek of the space, offered by the airline this week, confirms this level of quality. Plush, generously sized seats finished in navy fabric, timber wall panels and gentle lighting from sleek lamps all help to create a cosy, homely environment – one that will certainly make flying long haul more appealing than ever.

The Interrogator / Ruddy Aboab

French connections

Ruddy Aboab is director of Fip, the French radio station that has won listeners across the world with its eclectic playlists (writes Mary Fitzgerald). Blissfully sans commercials and jingles, Fip’s programming is hand-picked by a team of curators. Here, Ruddy tells us about how he spends his weekends in Paris.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Definitely coffee. Made in an Italian moka pot, double service.

Do you have a favourite weekend market?
Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, especially the Paul Bert market. I meet my wife there when she closes her art boutique, Mademoiselle Steinitz, at 18.00.

And a favourite bookshop?
Either the one at Centre Pompidou or Folies d’Encre in Saint-Ouen.

Any podcast recommendations?
I always check out France Culture podcasts, especially Talmudiques, LSD and Mécaniques du Journalisme. Plus, music podcasts such as Club Jazz à Fip, La Série musicale with Zoé Sfez, Nova Club with David Blot and the hip-hop podcast Featuring hosted by Driver, a French MC.

Five magazines from your weekend sofa-side stack?
Le Monde’s M magazine, Society, Tenou’a, Crash and So Foot.

Any movie recommendations?
Anything by Rainer Werner Fassbinder or John Cassavetes. Their films are threaded through my life. Also, X14, a forthcoming film by French director Delphine Kreuter.

What about books?
I’ve just finished Avant que la nuit ne m’emporte, the autobiography of Guy Cuevas, the Havana-born DJ who was a key figure in the Paris club scene during the 1970s and 1980s. Also, the autobiography of Lithuanian-American filmmaker Jonas Mekas. Both are deep and passionate life stories.

What do you listen to before drifting off?
I’m constantly connected to Fip. You can tell that it’s humans programming the music, not algorithms. It has a playlist that’s always different, always new.

Culture / Whodunnit? The prime minister

Power behind the pen

It’s not unusual for heads of state to have a different job prior to their political careers. Silvio Berlusconi was a cruise-ship singer and Madagascar’s president Andry Rajoelina, a radio DJ. Most drop their original vocation once they enter public service but Iceland’s prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, has taken exception and picked up a new one.

She has penned a crime novel called Reykjavík alongside best-selling author Ragnar Jónasson. Jakobsdóttir’s debut follows a reporter seeking to get to the bottom of a missing persons case. On shelves soon, we’re expecting Jakobsdóttir to track its popularity on the book charts as closely as her political polls.

This short piece is taken from Monocle’s November issue, which is on newsstands now.

Outpost News / Empneusi FM, Syros

Treasure island

Syros – about four hours’ ferry ride from Athens – is a tranquil island known as the Cinderella of the Cyclades (writes Monica Lillis). Today, the island is home to Empneusi FM, a radio station dedicated to the broadcasting of traditional Greek music and the coverage of local events. Owner Yiannis Denaxas tells us about how the station got started and its most popular DJs.

Image: Getty Images

Tell us about the history of the station.
The radio frequency had belonged to my father since the mid-1990s – he used to have his own radio station called Super FM. After he died in 2013, I inherited the frequency and all the machinery. So I thought I would take a risk. It took six months to get ready and start broadcasting.

Who is your most popular DJ?
It is not easy to point to one because each has a unique style and followers. However, I will mention both Yiannis Kouloukakos and Kiriaki Ailianou, who have a notable career in radio producing so far. They continue to make our station fun and exciting.

What song is played most on the station?
Our repertoire is mostly eclectic Greek music, so we play a lot of covers from well-known songwriters such as Manos Loizos and Pavlos Sidiropoulos.


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