Saturday 15 April 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 15/4/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Current thinking

Waterside cities flow through this Saturday’s dispatch as the Monocle Concierge offers a two-pronged approach to getting the best out of Budapest, politicos line the Potomac for Washington’s cherry-blossom festivities and pieces of Venetian hotel history go up for auction. You’ll also discover what gets DJ Dan Shake moving in the weekend and how our editor in chief, Andrew Tuck, found a sock solution.

The Opener / Andrew Tuck

Pulling our socks up

The trouble with editing Monocle is that whatever topic you cover there will be readers who know far more about it than you do. If we write about wind farms, real farms, Gio Ponti or how to make the perfect baumkuchen, it’s likely that an email will arrive with some gem of additional information (or an even better baumkuchen recipe). That’s just who you are. But my mention in last week’s column of my concertina-sock affliction – my socks, I explained, have a tendency to take on a saggy life of their own when matched with my new loafers – revealed that we could muster a UN-style hosiery rescue mission from among our readers’ ranks.

In a very welcome drop of considered correspondence, it has been made clear to me that, if I want my life to improve, I should only ever buy socks that rise at least above the calf or, better still, extend beyond the knee. Indeed, the sock lengths that some people have suggested have made me wonder whether it might be simpler to go all out and invest in an Elizabethan doublet and hose – and pop in a codpiece for good measure.

So, in the style of a Saturday-morning DJ, I want to do a few shoutouts before we move on. Cheers to Theron for recommending long Boardroom Socks that are knitted in the US; to Craig, who faced the same loafer issue as me, found salvation in Pantherella and recommends that I go knee-length with some mid-calf ones for heatwaves; to Matthew, who stays true to Bombas (knee-high all of the time); to John, who is a New & Lingwood kind of guy (and added that he hates what he calls “the Ugly Hairy Gap, UHG, that is on display between sock top and trouser on the careless”); and, finally, to Richard, who only wears the long socks of Mes Chaussettes Rouges in Paris. Orders have been placed. I will report back.

But buying any clothes, even socks, seems to be off the books for some at the moment. The fashion industry is blamed for encouraging us to replace our wardrobes every season, paying people poor salaries and polluting our land and water with its manufacturing processes. No part of the sector is under more scrutiny than so-called fast fashion. Unsurprisingly, there are people who have had enough and have decided not to buy clothes – even if it’s only for a year – in protest. So why does this often leave me feeling uncomfortable?

In our divided world, abstinence is a new marker of privilege. Newspapers lap up stories of celebrities who have stopped eating (“Chris Martin now on the one-meal a day diet”). People who live in dense, service-packed neighbourhoods sneer at the car-owning hoi polloi. And those who you imagine have wardrobes jammed full of clothes declare on social media that they will not be adding any more cashmere to their collection for the foreseeable future. Yet it would be naive to imagine that a night-shift warehouse worker can follow suit and go car-free; that a low-paid mother will be able to tell their kids that they can’t have a cheap T-shirt this summer or that they should embrace having one meal a day. Look, I am a firm believer in buy less and buy better but I acknowledge that I am in a privileged position to say those words. It’s transformation that’s required more than anything else – and perhaps abstinence from talking about our virtuous abstinence.

The next couple of weeks are looking a bit intense – and a lot of fun. Monocle has a team heading to Milan for the Salone del Mobile furniture fair and Monocle Radio will be broadcasting from the event too. If you are in the city for the fair, you’ll find us at the House of Switzerland on Corso Garibaldi (and don’t forget to pick up a copy of our Salone del Mobile Special newspaper). Then we’ll be heading to the US for The Monocle Weekender in Asheville, North Carolina (there are still a couple of tickets available).

Hannah, our events chief, has put together a great few days – talks, lots of food, visits to meet craft folk and wine-makers, live radio, a walk in the woods and plenty of time for us to hang out with you, our smart readers. If you would like to attend, you can purchase the final tickets at or email Hannah at and she will assist. Tyler is coming and so are Sophie, Konfekt’s editor, Josh, Monocle’s editor, and Chris, our US editor. And I will be there, perhaps in my fetching Elizabethan stockings.

The Look / Taiwan Air Force patch

Poking the bear

Military humour is an acquired taste, not least because it is largely acquired by people who do a difficult and dangerous job amid an insular, elitist culture, which isn’t a recipe for family-friendly affability (writes Andrew Mueller). When it attracts attention in the current era, it’s usually because something goes viral for affronting the censorious online realm.

Taiwan’s air force, however, has come up with a rule-proving exception. Last weekend, as China conducted naval drills near the island, the press office of Taiwan’s military published a photo of its pilots wearing (clearly unofficial) shoulder flashes on their flight suits (pictured). Designed by a Taoyuan-based artist called Alec Hsu, they depict a cartoon of an angry Formosan black bear, Taiwan’s native ursine species, uppercutting Winnie the Pooh.

Image: Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence

The subtext is not subtle: the comparison between Pooh and China’s president, Xi Jinping, has become a staple meme. But in case anyone missed it, the Formosan bear clutches a Taiwanese flag, while Pooh has the stars of the Chinese banner emblazoned on his belly. The main caption reads, “Scramble!” with a choice of subheadings: “Fight for freedom” or “We are open 24/7”.

For obvious reasons, Taiwan will have spent the past year or so keenly studying Ukraine’s response to an assault by an aggressive, acquisitive neighbour. And there is, in these counterintuitively cuddly roundels, an unmistakable echo of the deadpan iconography propagated by Ukraine and its supporters: the sabre-toothed bear playing the role made famous by the insouciant shiba inu, which has become the principal avatar of Ukraine’s online legions. The patches are, by all accounts, selling well.

How we live / Washington’s cherry blossoms

Flower power

In the first warm weekend of spring my friend Tara was probably cursing my name as she was stuck for two hours on a highway bridge entering Washington (writes Christopher Cermak). I had insisted that the cherry blossom on the other side of the city, at the National Arboretum, was our best bet to avoid the crowds descending on the downtown Tidal Basin – the ground zero of the pink-bloom boom at this time of year.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

I had forgotten just how manic the season can be. Instead of bickering about politics, the city’s lawmakers, lobbyists, journalists and diplomats have been united in the goal of catching a private moment amid the cherry trees. And while “peak bloom” was over a three-day stretch two weeks ago, hotels, restaurants and museums have sought to extend this particularly lucrative stretch for as long as possible. Nearly a month of cherry-blossom-themed events in the US capital, ranging from galas and children’s days to the pet-friendly Petalpalooza festival, concludes this weekend with a parade and a Japanese street festival. Cultural hot spots that will continue the celebration beyond this weekend include the National Museum of Asian Art, which marks its centenary in May (the current rainbow exhibition by Japanese artist Ay-Ō is fabulous).

For the Japanese embassy in Washington, it’s a chance to flex a little soft-power muscle, though the effort is relatively understated. Today’s parade has been largely Americanised (Mickey and Minnie Mouse are flying in from Orlando) but the ensuing street party on Pennsylvania Avenue is the largest annual celebration of Japanese culture in the US. Some residents might let out a sigh of relief when it’s all over but this is a welcome departure from the political rancour that gums up the works for the rest of the year.

The Monocle Concierge / Your questions answered

Twin city

Tune in to Monocle Radio’s ‘The Concierge’ podcast for the latest travel news and dispatches from salubrious destinations around the world. If you are travelling somewhere and would like some expert advice, click here to ask the Concierge a question. We will answer one every week.

Dear Concierge,

I will be in Budapest with my spouse and baby for a few days. Which neighbourhood should we stay in and what are your top recommendations for food and retail?

Thank you,
Deniz Can Akkaya,
Ankara, Turkey

Image: Alamy

Dear Deniz,

As you might already know, Budapest is twofold. The city consists of distinct halves: the quieter, more residential Buda with its hills and soaring baroque castle, and the bustling Pest. We recommend staying in the latter. Not only does it have some of the city’s best architecture (the fairy-tale-esque parliament building is just one example), it also offers top-class hospitality, culture and retail.

Pest’s beating heart is the fifth district and Párisi Udvar or Gerlóczy Boutique Hotel would make a perfect base from which to explore it. Start the day with a breakfast at Lui bakery behind the parliament building, before grabbing lunch at Börze, a deli that reimagines Hungarian favourites such as goulash and galuska (egg noodles) in classic coffee-house surroundings. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with Onyx, which offers gourmet food and wine tastings. Make sure to check the opening times and reserve well in advance.

With sustenance sorted, it’s time for shopping. Two of Budapest’s best-known domestic clothing brands, Nanushka and Aeron, have their shops in the fifth district, while you’ll find international fashion and design along Andrássy Avenue, which has been included on Unesco’s World Heritage List (the state opera house is here too; there are guided tours as well as performances). At the end of the avenue is City Park, which offers many wonders besides greenery: the Szechenyi Baths (pictured), with its 15 indoor and three outdoor pools, the verdant House of Music by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto and the Museum of Ethnography, which is shaped like two hillsides.

On your way back, explore the side streets between Andrássy Avenue and Wesselényi Street. There are many smaller design shops, galleries and bookshops in this area, including Massolit and Kahán Art Space. Jó utat!

The Interrogator / Dan Shake

All shook up

Dan Shake is a British DJ and producer known for his disco-infused take on house music. This week he released his new EP, Verde, and will be playing at a number of festivals across Europe this summer, including in Ibiza, Croatia and Albania. Here, he tells us about recording the sounds of the field next to his home and the embarrassing earworm that he can’t get out of his head.

Image: Dan Medhurst

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the morning papers?
Coffee, always: I can’t start my day without it. I have an espresso machine that is ingrained into my daily routine.

Do you have a favourite weekend market?
I wish that I did. I haven’t had a weekend off for about five years, thanks to my agent. However, I highly recommend the Ortigia street market in Syracuse, Sicily. I was lucky enough to play there with time to explore, fresh oysters and uni [sea urchins] in the morning.

Which radio station and DJ do you listen to?
Oh, there are so many. But the stations that I listen to most are BBC Radio 6 Music, NTS and Worldwide – and sometimes Classic FM if I want to unwind.

Any podcast recommendations?
RA Exchange [from electronic-music website Resident Advisor] is always a good listen if you’re into that genre. I really like the Zoe Science & Nutrition Podcast too.

What are you currently humming in the shower?
Embarrassingly, it’s Vitas’s “The 7th Element”. I’ve been trying to get it out of my head for a week or so but it keeps popping back. This probably won’t help.

Some magazines from your weekend stack?
Wired, DJ Mag, The World of Interiors and this amazing dog magazine called Four & Sons.

What’s the best thing that you’ve seen on TV recently?
I thoroughly enjoyed Severance on Apple TV. It’s a dystopian series about a company that separates its workers’ minds between the professional and social. It will keep you thinking long after you’ve finished an episode.

What do you listen to before drifting off?
Usually soundscapes of some sort. I like rain and wind noise. I live in the middle of the English county Devon and have actually made my own field recordings, which I listen to when I’m touring. They make me feel like I’m in my own bed.

Culture / EXPO Chicago

Bright and breezy

If you’re in the Windy City for a whoosh around the trade fair hall on Navy Pier, we suggest you make a stop at these shows around town.

‘Gio Swaby: Fresh Up’, Art Institute of Chicago. Bahamian artist Gio Swaby’s kaleidoscopic textiles are portraits of strong women sewn from intricately patterned bits of cloth. Collected here, they are a joyous celebration that questions the stereotypes of femininity – and how they have been stitched together over time – while also being an ode to the power of fashion and accessories to express the character of the wearer.

‘Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s – Today’, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Works by 37 artists have been brought together for this reflection on unsettled identities, forever divided by geography and time. Pieces by established names such as Ana Mendieta, Felix-Gonzales Torres and Frank Bowling sit alongside those by lesser-known artists with roots in Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad and Jamaica.

‘Sunday Service’, Stony Island Arts Bank. Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates’s work to revitalise sites across the city’s South Side continues apace. This weekend, his cultural initiative, Rebuild Foundation, opens up the archives at the Stony Island Arts Bank (a former bank turned gallery-cum-library and arts centre), as well as hosting a “Sunday Service” DJ set inspired by house-music legend Frankie Knuckles. Gates is also opening a new record shop nearby inspired by Tokyo listening bars.

Fashion Update / Officine Universelle Buly, Kobe

Follow your nose

Historic French beauty brand Officine Universelle Buly is quickly growing beyond its niche and addressing a global audience under luxury conglomerate LVMH, which bought it in 2021 (writes Natalie Theodosi). The brand has outposts in Tokyo, Taipei, Seoul, London and Hong Kong; Ramdane Touhami, the Paris-based entrepreneur who, along with Victoire de Taillac-Touhami, has spearheaded its revival, remains adamant about introducing new design ideas at each boutique.

The brand’s latest opening in Kobe was designed to resemble a “small house” combining architectural inspirations from the Japanese city with Touhami’s penchant for artisanal design. A modernist façade with green patinas is contrasted with antique marble floors and lacquered wooden cabinets crafted by a master cabinet-maker from Burgundy.

The outpost contains a coffee shop with a specialist Italian machine that avoids spreading the smell of roasted coffee so it doesn’t interfere with customers trying on perfume. Drop by for a unique olfactory experience and some of the best cosmetics on the market. The Huile Antique body oil, inspired by ancient-Greek cosmetic practices, comes highly recommended.

What am I bid? / Venice’s Bauer hotel

Keepsake hotel

Anyone who has attended a biennale in Venice is likely to have a hazy memory of a night at the Bauer (writes Stella Roos). In its 142-year history, the five-star hotel just off Piazza San Marco has seen many revellers traipse through its long, gilded lobby, often en route to a late-night negroni on the waterfront terrace. You might recall the four big Venetian coats of arms that hung above the reception or the 16th-century Murano-glass mural depicting La Serenissima that covered a wall – or you might not. Either way, both could now be yours. Under new Austrian ownership, the Bauer has been closed for a major renovation and 4,200 lots with 10,000 objects that formerly filled its halls will be auctioned by Artcurial in Paris between 24 and 27 April (followed by an online-only sale from 28 April to 4 May).

Image: Artcurial
Image: Artcurial

The nearly two-metre-high coats of arms (lots 44 to 47) are estimated to fetch between €700 and €1,200 each, while the 56-piece mural by Venetian artist Jacopo de’ Barbari (Lot 43) is expected to be snapped up for between €2,000 and €3,000. For homes without the ceiling height of a palazzo, there’s a standing champagne bucket with the Bauer insignia (€400 to €500) or 10 hotel-room keychains (€100 to €120). Even for those feeling melancholic about the fate of the Bauer, the sale presents a treasure trove of chandeliers, silks and satins by Venice’s most storied houses, all at everything-must-go estimates. “This is a chance for nostalgists to have their own piece of the icon,” Emilie Volka, director of Artcurial in Italy, tells The Monocle Weekend Edition. “It’s just all quite well-worn.”


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