Thursday 23 March 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 23/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Carlos Chavarría

Opinion / Natalie Theodosi

Redressing the balance

Change is sweeping through the fashion world. Heritage houses from Gucci to Burberry have been parting ways with long-established creative directors; businesses big and small have been rethinking their supply chains and investing in better-quality manufacturing closer to home. In fact, the very definition of luxury has had to change at a time of economic and political uncertainty. Over the past few months I have watched designers acknowledge the current state of global affairs by sending pared-down collections down the runway – often to the sound of ominous music.

You could interpret this mood swing as a sign of darker times to come but I see it as a much-needed shake-up of the industry. It is pushing many businesses to reassess their values, refocus on timeless dressing and craft, rather than continuing to produce disposable, trend-based designs. New business models are also taking shape: resale and repair companies in particular are beginning to thrive. A fresh crop of talent is being given more space to shape a modern vision for luxury.

While putting together the Style Directory in Monocle’s April issue, we spoke to some of these talents, getting a glimpse into the ideas that will shape the future of fashion. We started off with a visit to Pontevedra’s boundary-pushing design school, where students experiment with everything from screen printing to tailoring while enjoying Galicia’s relaxed lifestyle and tight-knit community. Then we rounded up the brands and retailers that have been turning customers’ attention back to the value of classic design and artisanal manufacturing. From London’s SMR Days, with its commitment to handcraft in menswear, to family-owned Unfeigned (pictured) in Madrid, known for its high-quality natural fabrics, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. These are just some of the brands proving that it’s important to bring a human touch to the business of getting dressed.

Natalie Theodosi is Monocle’s fashion editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Iraq & Turkey

Strained relations

Iraq’s prime minister, Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, is returning to Baghdad today after a visit to Ankara, where he discussed issues such as infrastructure and security with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – with varying degrees of success. The countries disagree on numerous topics, chief among them Turkey’s military presence in northern Iraq: Baghdad believes that its neighbour’s campaigns against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on Iraqi soil are a breach of its sovereignty. While Erdogan (pictured, on left, with Sudani) called on Sudani to join him in defining the PKK as a terrorist group, Sudani advocated a non-violent solution. The two might be at loggerheads on military matters but they are enthusiastic about a major joint infrastructure project to build a rail network and motorways that would connect the two nations. Perhaps this shared economic interest could pave the way for agreement on security issues too.

Image: Shutterstock

Transport / Germany

Line of thinking

Berlin’s public transport provider, BVG, has ambitious plans to double the size of the German capital’s network by 2050. Its new masterplan, Express Metropolis Berlin, would extend nine of the existing U-Bahn lines to outer suburban areas and build a new connecting S-Bahn ring. The proposal will no doubt be discussed during the talks between the governing coalition members, the centre-right Christian Democratic Union and centre-left Social Democratic Party, as both have committed to expanding Berlin’s transport network.

But BVG’s masterplan has already faced criticism. Some believe that it is unrealistic considering the scale, timeframe and cost, while others think it misjudges Berlin’s public-transport needs. However, this kind of ambition should be welcome when it comes to preparing the growing city for the future. As BVG’s plan states, Berlin benefits today from the vision of former generations: the capital has a responsibility to consider its future residents in a similar way.

Image: Shutterstock

Culture / Russia

Out of the frame

The director of Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Marina Loshak (pictured), stepped down from her role this week. This is the latest in a string of high-profile departures from Russia’s cultural institutions, following last month’s ousting of Zelfira Tregulova from the Tretyakov Gallery. There are doubts as to whether Loshak’s departure was voluntary.

The former director, whose daughter and nephew are opposition journalists who left Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, issued a statement that reads, “I was the director of the museum for 10 years. You need the next person to come with new energy, new thoughts and new ambitions to continue what others have started.” Her successor has government approval: Elizaveta Likhacheva, the current director of the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture, previously worked for a pro-Kremlin youth movement and the Ministry of the Interior. Whether Loshak chose to leave or was pushed, her resignation is a worrying sign that critical voices in Russian arts are being drowned out.

Image: Alamy

Retail / Japan & Vietnam

Much in common

Vietnam is proving to be fertile ground for Japanese retailers, which have been busily expanding their presence in the country since coronavirus restrictions were lifted last year. Household names Uniqlo and Muji made their debuts in Vietnam in 2019 and 2020, respectively; the former now has 15 shops across the country, with more in the pipeline, while Muji is building its largest stores there.

Japanese retail group Aeon, which has invested more than $1bn (€930m) in Vietnam, plans to triple the number of its shopping centres in the coming years, and export produce and other wares to Japan. The admiration is mutual. Vietnamese shoppers can’t get enough of brands that offer high quality at accessible prices, while the Japanese retailers are reporting solid earnings in the country – making this a win-win for everyone involved.

Image: Andy Stagg

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

‘Designing for our Future Selves’

We look at solutions that will help people to age gracefully and live their later years as independently as possible.

Monocle Films / France

Escape to la campagne: Côte d’Azur

Nestled in the hills above Nice, Casa Sallusti is a permaculture farm and hotel that was created to show how you can still enjoy the good things in life while taking care of the planet. We visit its founder, Isabella Sallusti, and meet the young folk who are working at the farm, having decided to swap the city for slow-paced living.


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