Happy new year from the Monocle team. For the first outing of 2023 we talk to the typography specialists at a Ljubljana stationery shop that leaves an impression, plus earmark a Lisbon bookshop worth visiting and a wardrobe staple to keep you toasty. We also meet artist Himali Singh Soin to discuss her weekend itinerary and consider a bright future in Geelong. First up, Tyler Brûlé takes the floor.
Good Morning and Happy New Year from a sunny, crisp St Moritz. I trust that the past few weeks have been good to you – travels smooth (or so I hope), slopes well groomed (there could be a little more snow in this stretch of the Alps), family happy (or gently sedated) – and that you’re ready to roar into the months ahead full-tilt (or make a later, more impactful entrance). Up here it was a hard start for Christmas following a quick spin through Tokyo, a pit-stop in Zürich and then a dash up to the mountains. Despite the lack of snow, the valley feels as though it’s having its busiest ever season, with a full agenda of cocktails and events, rammed restaurants, well-dressed dogs and a cheery buzz up and down the village streets. Days have had a good rhythm of early morning jogs around the lake, reading, sunny sessions rink-side at the Kulm Hotel and even some progress on that book I’ve been working on for far too long. Dare I promise that it will be in bookshops by next Christmas? Well, we can all wish, can’t we? And speaking of wishing, here are a few hopes that I’ve been saving for 2023 and beyond.
1. A moment to right-size the world again.
Over the past year we’ve been having discussions on the Monocle editorial floor about getting various themes and topics back in proportion – on page, on air and on screen. And 2023 needs to be the year to give budgets, marketing spend and media time to those in society who represent a bigger part of the population but have been overlooked (or forgotten) in favour of more fashionable niche groups and interests. While it’s all well and good to bring everyone along, let’s also not lose sight of the biggest part of the population that needs recognition, care and respect. The Japanese government is doing a lot of work around equality, digital transformation and supporting its regions but what about taking the global lead in sharing its learnings and expertise in managing the needs and expectations of an ageing society? When I look at the media landscape and all the chatter around diversity and inclusion, I’m still missing proper, dynamic, aspirational representation of people north of 70. Japan could play a big role in re-setting and right-sizing where we focus efforts to bring people along with care and compassion.
2. A return to elegance, please.
On Boxing Day I went to a cocktail reception attended by about 200 people ranging from 15 to 95. This year the host put particular emphasis on ensuring that there was plenty of young blood to balance out the old. Within this particular enclave, there’s little problem with including the silver set in all kinds of activities. What’s also refreshing is that the old guard set the sartorial tone for the younger ones. Instead of trainers and athleisure masquerading as evening wear, the room was filled with young men and women in sharp blazers, finely tailored dresses, flowing skirts and traditional Alpine dress. On the dance floor it was all well- polished shoes, dainty heels and an abundance of Loro Piana loafers – the nearest concession to a trainer. And what’s most interesting is that this was a code embraced by all – chic, appropriate and with a strong sense of occasion. May this be the year that we say farewell to adults dressed up as babies?
3. China in check.
Let them in or keep them out? This seems to be the dominating topic for border authorities and diplomats as China throws open its borders again and lets much (not all) of its population loose. Whether new coronavirus curbs make sense is one for health authorities. The bigger issue is whether China deserves to be welcomed back into the world with open arms. Remind me, did we ever get to the bottom of the coronavirus outbreak? Was China wonderfully co-operative in trying to find a few answers? Have they been behaving like good neighbours with Taiwan? We should remember an age when supply chains and luxury sales weren’t so dependent on China and carve out some time to further relocate manufacturing, restore value in the skills required to make things and let China spend a bit more time on the bench to consider its place and conduct in the world.
4. Where to be?
Over the coming weeks and months, I would like to get back to Bangkok, Taipei and Seoul. Last year I made a point of getting to some new corners of Europe (Galicia was the high watermark of 2022 – gracias, Sagra!) and now I want to get to know Warsaw and Budapest, roam around Casablanca and make some time for a reunion with São Paulo.
5. Sign-up, sign-up!
I would like this to be the year that hotels, airlines and governments find the courage to sign up to Monocle’s Code of Digital Decency. In case you’re not familiar with this charter, it’s a 10-point plan to make train journeys more enjoyable by asking people to turn their phones to silent and refrain from listening to video clips with the volume turned up. It’s a reminder that hotel lobbies are not the same as hotel suites (and therefore are not the place for conducting Zoom calls) and that tablets are something that children should take when they’re ill and not devices to be tethered to in a serene restaurant setting. You get the idea. If you’d like to support our Code, you can order a special plaque or poster for your establishment by contacting email@example.com.
6. At the movies.
I didn’t get out to the cinema nearly enough last year and this needs to change. To do so, I need help. What happened to proper movie listings and robust film promotion to get me there? I feel that this is territory for a reboot. Aside from the new Avatar, I’d have trouble telling you what’s on at the cinema at the moment and what’s worth seeing. This is a corner of our popular culture that has been damaged and must be supported.
7. What are you gonna say?
This is a question for CEOs, chairmen and their speechwriters for the coming years. We all know about your ESG goals et al but what is your bank, energy company or retail group doing that’s different and head-turning compared with everyone else. What are you doing today, as opposed to what you’re pledging for tomorrow? Doing good for the environment might also be cleaning graffiti on the façades of buildings to create more liveable communities rather than just planting more saplings. Or how about encouraging knowledgeable staff to stick around and pass on the unwritten attributes of your business?
8. Under the sun. The question is where?
Over the past two years, I’ve been poking around various cities, sampling neighbourhoods and sizing up buildings with a view to creating a set-up for parents, friends and colleagues. Should it be the eastern Med or western? Out in the Atlantic? Or never go near an island? I’m all ears – and eyes. Right now I’m veering back towards Spain. I’ll keep you in the loop on this one.
9. Grand project completion.
Seriously, I would like to finish that book. The time is right for the topic but I just need to carve out that missing one-hour window.
10. We should see more of each other – for sure!
Last year we dabbled in the restaurant business with a pop-up in Zürich and brought back The Chiefs conference. For the coming year, there’s going to be even more. On the horizon is St Moritz, Asheville, the Quality of Life Conference (the dates and host city of which will be announced in the coming weeks), a London pop-up restaurant, another Chiefs, hopefully an outing in Asia and maybe even a variety show! See you soon and cheers to a superb 2023.
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The aroma of printers’ ink is the first sensation that hits visitors walking off Ljubljana’s riverfront promenade into the letterpress paradise of Tipo Renesansa. Marko Drpic has created a temple of treasures dedicated to the craft of setting type by hand. His stationery is printed manually on an ever-increasing collection of vintage presses. Some of them sit proudly on display, illuminated by overhead lighting fixtures in the shape of lower-case, sans-serif letters. Columns of neatly labelled wooden drawers line and divide the space. Inside each one are hundreds of pieces of lead type, neatly subdivided in compartments.
While Tipo Renesansa is a working printing house, it is also a welcoming stationery shop. Signs invite customers to “browse with both hands” as they sift through the wood-block prints, notebooks and greetings cards on display. Personalised commissions are welcome and Drpic also binds books for advertising agencies, galleries and other clients who prefer printed products with a personal touch.
At the worktable, his assistant, Aglaé Mouriaux, is busy cutting pages from old, Yugoslav-era atlases to create covers for a new range. Drpic believes this display of work in progress is a major part of the appeal for Tipo Renesansa’s customers. “People come for the complete experience,” he says.
Based between London and New Delhi, Himali Singh Soin is an interdisciplinary artist and writer whose work has been shown at London’s Serpentine Gallery, the Shanghai Biennale and Zürich’s Migros Museum of Contemporary Art (writes Claudia Jacob). In 2019, she received the Frieze Artist Award for We Are Opposite Like That, a series inspired by her journeys to the Arctic and Antarctic circles. Here, the artist tells us about her love of lentil crêpes and last-minute trips to the flower market.
Where do we find you this weekend?
At the Serpentine pavilion in London’s Hyde Park.
Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
An iced matcha latte with a poem.
What’s for breakfast?
Lentil crêpes with coriander chutney: my grandma's favourite.
Lunch in or out?
Lunch should be homemade, hot and ideally last long enough for a conversation about something that’s nothing to do with your morning.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
I do yoga every day. It's training for my performance practice but also helps make me more resilient, more grateful and lighter.
A Sunday soundtrack?
Sunday culture must? A market or a museum?
I love the last hour of the flower market: the heckling; the half-price flowers and then those right at the end that have been discarded but can be saved.
News or not?
In bouts, balanced with stories that inspire. Recently, I was reading a lot about the floods in Pakistan and came across the most beautiful photographs of trees covered in spider webs that looked like clouds. The spiders had climbed the trees so that they wouldn’t drown and they rebuilt their homes in mid-air. We find ways of insisting on life, even at the end.
What’s on the menu?
Tomato chutney, prawn pulao, raita and a kale, orange and pine nut salad.
Do you lay out an outfit for Monday?
My studio is on the other side of my house. A lot of people say that it feels like a ship. I wear a lot of indigos and whites, depending on my mood.
Our failsafe recipe writer Aya Nishimura offers her take on a classic clam chowder. This New Year’s Day delight includes saké and salty bacon to bring the best out of the clams. The use of soy milk makes the broth a little lighter, just in case you’ve been a little indulgent over the past few weeks.
15g sea salt
¼ tsp vegetable oil
3 slices streaky bacon, cut into small strips
½ medium brown onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
1 small carrot, cut into 4cm strips
500g fresh clams
2 tbsp saké
250ml soy milk, unsweetened
1 tbsp white miso paste
10g unsalted butter
Black pepper, crushed
5g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
To prepare the clams, wash the shells then place them in a shallow tray. Mix 500ml water with 15g sea salt in a bowl and stir until dissolved. Pour the salt water over the clams. Cover them with a tea towel and leave for at least one hour – this allows the clams to release their sand. They can be left overnight in the fridge. However, keep them at room temperature for at least the first hour.
Heat the oil in a medium pot, add the chopped bacon and cook until the edges become crispy. Add the onion and carrot, cook for about five minutes until slightly softened. Add the clams, saké and 220ml water, cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Check from time to time; as soon as the clam shells open, remove the clams and set them aside, leaving the mixture in the pot.
Add the soy milk to the pot and bring to just below a simmer (don’t boil soy milk, it curdles). Scoop out one ladle of the milk and add miso paste and butter into the bowl of the ladle. Mix with a whisk until dissolved and pour back into the pot and stir. Tip in the cooked clams.
Now divide the soup and clams into two soup bowls and sprinkle with the chopped parsley and a generous amount of crushed black pepper. Serve with crusty bread.
For anyone with ambition growing up in Victoria, a relocation to Melbourne was once a foregone conclusion. But the pandemic has dented the state capital’s standing as the region’s nexus of personal and professional opportunity. In Geelong, just an hour away by train, there’s a feeling of excitement. “The trade-off of working in Melbourne and living here used to be losing leisure time,” says Geelong resident José Rodriguez, director of Plot Architecture & Urbanism. “But with flexible work, this city has become increasingly attractive. You can live somewhere that you’d want to spend your weekends in.”
Playing a part in this shift are new commercial developments such as the Pivot City Innovation District, a project redeveloping parts of Geelong’s waterfront. Along with incubator-accelerator Runway Geelong, it is burnishing the city’s reputation as an alternative to Melbourne. Meanwhile, the wineries and spas of the Bellarine peninsula are a 20-minute drive away, as are some of Australia’s most famous beaches along the Surf Coast.
Geelong is the nation’s fastest-growing residential property market. Though housing competition is high, population growth has brought about improvements to Geelong’s amenities and a rise in its cultural cachet. The metropolis is Australia’s only Unesco City of Design; thanks to the Geelong Gallery’s ambitious redevelopment plan and a robust line-up of independents such as the Boom Gallery, the arts scene is also in good hands.
Little Malop Street is always busy and offers a wide range of drinking and dining options. “In Geelong today, you get both the benefits of beautiful natural landscapes and everything you need in terms of lifestyle,” says Chlöe Antonio, architect and co-owner of homeware shop Bleu Design Store. “If you’re a creative and want to do something, there's an opportunity for that here.”
“A large percentage of the people who went to Melbourne and found a job there are returning to work and live where they grew up – and that trend is only increasing,” says Peter Murrihy, the mayor of Geelong. “People just love it here.”
For more of the best second-tier and often-overlooked places in which to drop anchor, explore or set up an office look out for the Small Cities Index in our annual magazine, ‘The Forecast’. Or why not subscribe so that you never miss an issue?
Monocle’s senior correspondent Fernando Augusto Pacheco has devised a punchy playlist to keep you moving and feeling upbeat despite the cooler weather. Here’s his rundown of the dancefloor-fillers that are worth acquainting yourself with.
“Lilás” by Djavan
Pure 1980s Brazil with an old-fashioned shimmy.
“Ever Fallen in Love” by Nouvelle Vague
The best from a genius series of bossa nova covers.
“Napule Canta e More” by Donatella Viggiano
Emotional disco from Naples.
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by L’Impératrice
A chic tribute to a classic.
“Defender” by Bonobo
A sleek, beat-heavy track.
“Africvillean Funk” by Aquakultre feat. Trobiz
“Pra Vida” by Rogê
Sunny samba from Rio.
“Cupid” by Agam Buhbut
Israeli bubblegum pop.
“Canciones de Amor a Ti” by Rigoberta Bandini
“Time Out of Mind” by Lou Hayter
A disco synth loop that is as cool as they come.
Listen to the full playlist on Monocle 24’s Spotify page.
Arket and Stockholm-based artist Evelina Kroon have co-designed a new line of jacquard-woven blankets made from soft lambswool and manufactured by Swedish mill, Klippan. Our favourite of the graphic patterns is this mustard and khaki version.
“The publishing industry in Portugal is definitely bubbling,” says Luís Cunha, who founded Under the Cover with Arturas Slidziauskas in 2015, after they moved to Lisbon from the city of Coimbra, leaving careers as health professionals behind. Today the pair are champions of all things print and are constantly on the lookout for new titles to stock on the shelves of their space, set close to the impressive Gulbenkian Foundation and its beautiful garden.
Their shop stocks both independent magazines and coffee-table books, including Monocle’s range and its latest release, Portugal: The Monocle Handbook, as well as hosting presentations and talks to encourage networking. “We get to be a part of this incredible community of independent publishers – meeting editors, getting to know their stories, and then being able to transmit those stories to our customers,” says Cunha. The titles they sell are down to intuition. “We are constantly on a treasure hunt, whether it’s by online research, crowdfunding platforms or by visiting other countries’ shops. We try to systemise it according to criteria: design, layout, quality of the paper, concept, content, originality and approach.”
The duo know their customers so well that they’re often on first-name terms. “We try to learn their interests and meet their expectations as best as we can,” says Cunha.
For more of the best bookshops around the world plus a reading list for the year ahead and plenty more, pick up a copy of Monocle’s bumper soft power-themed December/January issue of the magazine, which is out now. Or, if you’re looking for a positive new habit, why not subscribe? You’ll receive 10 issues a year plus four special editions to keep you informed, entertained and well-read. Have a super Sunday and a happy new year.