This week we trace the evolution of the tourist-group ensemble, find meaning in the simple things in Kyiv, take fashion inspiration from Moncler’s boundary-pushing collaborative project and more. First, Andrew Tuck on a new issue, a new book and new faces.
When a potter fires their handiwork in a kiln, there’s a period of waiting when he or she can do nothing but hope. Will the pot come out in one piece? Will the glazes have taken in a way that delights – or will the end result be reminiscent of that time when they ate too much spicy food? Who knows? Having patience and apron-washing are the only ways to endure this moment.
It’s a bit like that with Monocle. We send the files to the printer, then some 10 days pass before we get the first copies in the office. During that time we move on to the next issue and our focus shifts so, when they arrive, we don’t quite know what to expect. Will the flow of stories work as we planned? Will the advertising help with the pace and flow or will there be a clashing adjacency, despite our best efforts? Will images seen on backlit computer screens retain their potency on paper?
I’ll be honest with you: the March issue, which will reach our subscribers over the coming days, was not the easiest of productions – it’s only the 161st time that we have done it, so why would we expect to have got the hang of it by now? I wanted everyone to be whipping up their usual restaurant-worthy offerings but several stories arrived looking more like baked beans on burnt toast – and I know how fussy you are on that front. (By the way, I promise to limit my use of metaphors today, though I do need to return to the kiln one to finish this section of the column). Stories were dropped for not being ambitious enough or reshot because of a lack of access; new ideas were brought to life on the day we went to press (sorry about that, team).
So when Jackie, our production head honcho, put the March issue on my desk this week, I ignored its glowing-orange cover for some time before I cracked it open. But when I dived in I felt very happy-potterish with what I saw. I could barely recall the painful pivots that editors, writers and photographers had to make (though they might be slower to forget). Places unseen, inspiring people, some provocation, tales of a Cold War-era opera house, the bumps on the road for electric vehicles, the factories that became luxury brands and an Iranian movie star in exile – it’s all there (well, not the stories that ended up being spiked). Not a cracked pot or crackpot in sight.
While we are discussing new arrivals, let’s turn our attention to the Iberian Peninsula. After the success of Portugal: The Monocle Handbook – it was so successful that we are waiting for the reprint to arrive – comes the one for Spain in the same series. A handful of preview copies made it to London this week and I have already hidden mine away and will not be sharing it. Just opening the book is likely to give you a sunny glow. It’s one of the nicest things that we have ever made. And there’s plenty of Mallorca in there, for some reason – not that I am biased or anything. You will be able to preorder a copy from our shop from Monday. It will change your summer.
Finally, a welcome to some new faces. While many at Monocle have personal Instagram accounts or express their own views on Twitter, as a brand we have been wary of social media. Does the pursuit of “likes” distract from reporting? Does Facebook chime with our brand values? If the magazine strives to deliver nuanced, calm debate about contentious issues, is tweeting really for us? But in recent weeks in the UK and US we have run a campaign on social media for our newsletters and the response has been pretty amazing. Lots of new arrivals have already written generous notes but, well, I think that a collective hello is a good way to end today (and a thank you to regulars for turning up too). Who knows what other digital surprises might come your way – though I doubt you’ll be seeing Mr Brûlé teaming up with Elon Musk.
Aftersun is a beautifully British film about fading memories and a father-daughter relationship (writes James Chambers). It’s a nostalgic nod to Brits abroad, having cheap fun in the Turkish sun while holiday reps dance the Macarena, with a fabulous 1990s soundtrack. Englishman Thomas Cook pioneered the package holiday to Europe in the 19th century and rowdy, red-faced Brits have been descending on the continent ever since, albeit with diminishing style, swagger and spending power.
A rising America took over the responsibility of shaping global travel last century, followed by the Japanese. Between them they contributed baseball caps, bum bags (or should that be “fanny packs”?) and flashy Nikon cameras to the tour-group ensemble. In recent decades, China has taken the concept of going on a guided holiday with a bunch of strangers to another stratosphere. Many of us will have had at least one pavement run-in with a Chinese tour guide holding aloft an unopened umbrella or telescopic flagpole. Though these organised trips paused during the pandemic, they took off again this week to a select group of 20 destinations, approved by China’s government, the country’s ultimate travel agent.
As hotel staff in Switzerland, Thailand and New Zealand brush up on their Mandarin again, travel-industry experts will be counting the number of umbrellas on the streets and producing forecasts about the future direction of this high-spending demographic. Tour groups are going out of fashion in China; younger travellers prefer to venture abroad alone. One day the sight of Chinese tour groups might even become a fading memory. If they do, perhaps we’ll look back at this moment with rose-tinted glasses, while moaning about the busloads of tourists arriving from the next emerging economy. In the meantime, be wary of wayward umbrellas.
Kyiv is embroiled in a brutal war with no end in sight (writes Steve Crawshaw). The Russian invasion that began almost a year ago has caused suffering and destruction on a previously unimaginable scale. But a parallel truth, startling yet familiar to anyone who has visited the city recently, is that Ukraine’s capital is defiantly vibrant despite air alarms and continued rocket attacks, including a series of explosions on Friday. Ordinary life continues in extraordinary circumstances.
Restaurants and cafés are buzzing, though power cuts are common. Air-raid alerts are frequent too. “We’ve got used to it,” one resident tells me. Businesses close early to allow customers and staff to get home before the 23.00 curfew. Ukrainians pride themselves on their dark humour; “It’s because of our history,” another resident says. Chocolate tank traps have been on sale at the Honey café on Yaroslaviv Val Street since last year. New additions include a delicious, cherry-filled leopard-print cream bun, in homage to the German Leopard I tanks that are finally on their way.
People meet up with friends, drink flat whites and craft beer, and go to the gym. Alongside all this, they scan Telegram channels for news from the front and wait for Russian attacks to intensify ahead of the 24 February anniversary. The simplest things often hold the most meaning. Many, including those who are fighting or live near the front lines, now use plus signs in their Whatsapp conversations with friends and family to signal that all is well. “+ + +” – which eloquently conveys the message, “Yes, we’re here. Yes, we’re alive. Yes, let’s get through the day safely.” “I have always loved words but now I realise how little they mean,” says one friend in Kyiv. “Those pluses are all I need to feel happy.”
The Monocle Concierge exists so that disappointing holidays don’t have to. If you’re planning to visit any of Earth’s seven continents and would like some tip-top recommendations for places to see and stay, things to do and establishments at which to eat and drink, get in touch here (though we’ll have our work cut out if you’re landing on Antarctica). We’ll answer one question a week.
What are the best things to see and experience in Montenegro’s Herceg Novi and the surrounding area?
British Columbia, Canada
If you’re happy to swerve Budva’s banging beach bars and Kotor’s cruise-ship crowds (and who wouldn’t be?), Herceg Novi offers relaxation, Adriatic Riviera-style. There’s plenty to see in the Old Town. For centuries, the Ottomans, Venetians and even French and Spanish forces tussled for control over this coastal town, leaving behind some of the region’s best-preserved castles and forts. One of them, Kanli Kula (“Bloody Tower”), is now a venue for summer events, including the Montenegro Film Festival and the Guitar Art Summer Fest, which featured acclaimed Australian musician Tommy Emmanuel last year.
If a dip in the sparkling water of the Bay of Kotor isn’t relaxing enough, stroll along the Five Danica promenade to nearby Igalo, where healing mud spas await the weary visitor. The Institut Dr Simo Milosevic is the classic option; it was a favourite of Yugoslav leader Tito, whose former villa, Galeb, is now part of the complex. If you get a move on, you might even catch the Mimosa Festival, a monthlong carnival celebrating the arrival of spring. The title refers to the flowers but rest assured: wine is also a key ingredient of the festivities. Živeli!
Elena Ochoa Foster is a Spanish publisher and curator (writes Paco Herzog). In 1996 she founded Ivorypress, which began as a publishing house focused on books by artists but has since grown to include a bookshop and exhibition space in Madrid. She is currently chair of the Serpentine Galleries Council in London. Here, she tells us about her love of Isaiah Berlin, Federico García Lorca and tequila.
Coffee, tea or something else to go with the headlines?
A shot of tequila.
Do you have a favourite bookshop?
Have you seen any good exhibitions recently?
Studio Bauhaus, Vienna: Friedl Dicker and Franz Singer at the Wien Museum Musa.
What newspapers do you turn to?
The Financial Times on the weekend and Le Monde, mainly its weekly ‘Livres’ section. On other days, The Wall Street Journal is my favourite.
Magazines from your weekend sofa-side stack?
Openhouse, The Economist, Monocle, Apartamento, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Artforum and a few magazines that are fun for their high gossip and fashion trends.
What have you been working on lately?
The catalogue of Tomás Saraceno’s work for his Serpentine Galleries exhibition in the summer, an artist book with Sophie Calle and another with a US artist that’s still to be confirmed. Also, a small but powerful book with Edmund de Waal and an installation for the Venice Biennale in 2024.
What book do you keep coming back to?
Isaiah Berlin’s The Crooked Timber of Humanity. And any work by Federico García Lorca. His poems are my companions.
What music have you been listening to?
Depending on my mood, everything from Chavela Vargas to Pink Floyd or from Louis Armstrong to Rosalía. And any good techno group suggested by my daughter to listen to when I do cross-country through the mountains in the Engadine. And opera when I’m alone at home.
Outerwear brand Moncler is landing in London this month to present its Genius label’s latest collection (writes Natalie Theodosi). The project was conceived by the brand’s CEO and chairman, Remo Ruffini (pictured, on right); rather than following the seasonal calendar, it will focus on monthly collaborations with partners, often from outside the fashion world. Among those joining forces with Moncler are musicians Pharrell Williams and Alicia Keys, and car company Mercedes-Benz. The aim is the exchange of skills and ideas across different industries. The results of the collaborations will be presented at the Olympia London exhibition centre on 20 February. Unlike traditional fashion shows, the event, dubbed “The Art of Genius”, will be open to the public and include live performances alongside the new product displays.
It turns out that there is a greater folly than queueing overnight to buy a new iPhone: unwrapping and using it (writes Andrew Mueller). Among the millions of owners of the very first iPhone, a few have been smarter and/or luckier than that. On the block at LCG Auctions until 19 February is a boxed, factory-sealed iPhone 1 that retailed at $599 (€559); it is expected to fetch north of $50,000 (€46,365).
The phone is owned by a New Jersey tattoo artist called Karen Green, who was given it by friends during that inaugural wave of iPhone mania. However, US iPhones of the time only ran on AT&T, of which Green was not a customer, so on a shelf it went. It has been taken down, dusted off and placed on the block following other recent sales of boxed and sealed original iPhones for five-figure sums.
These prices place some value on the cultish cachet that Apple has long sought for its products, implicitly insisting that they are not mere utensils but works of art. There might not be another Apple device as transformative as the iPhone but next time Apple launches something new – a VR headset is rumoured for 2023 – buy two and stash one somewhere safe. This won’t work if everybody does it, mind.