Friday 21 April 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 21/4/2023

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Grace Charlton

Design à la mode

As Salone del Mobile comes to a close on Sunday, Milan can rest easy in the knowledge that its status as the world’s pre-eminent design destination remains intact after a couple of subdued years. Almost 2,000 exhibitors competed for the attention of hundreds of thousands of visitors, who had come seeking inspiration and to explore new developments in furniture, lighting and textiles. (In case you were wondering, no, creamy-white bouclé sofas and armchairs aren’t going out of style and, yes, minimalist, warm-toned lighting remains a good investment.)

Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto

An industry that has been insistent on getting in on the action this year is fashion. Italian and global luxury houses have swarmed Milan’s palazzos and courtyards throughout the week for Fuorisalone (the satellite events taking place away from the trade halls) to showcase their latest homeware collections, attracting a certain sunglasses-at-night crowd. Spain’s Loewe displayed a collection of whimsical, raffia-heavy chairs at Palazzo Isimbardi, while Hermès showcased rugs, chairs and lamps at La Pelota in Brera (pictured).

The convergence of fashion and design shouldn’t be surprising, given the aesthetic interests of both fields. And it makes a lot of sense in Milan, which is one of the world’s fashion capitals alongside Paris and New York. The luxury brands have brought some extra glamour to the proceedings and some of the hottest aperitivo events were hosted by the likes of Louis Vuitton and Hermès – though walking through the throngs outside the Bottega Veneta shop at Via Montenapoleone was not for the fainthearted.

There has been some concern that exhibitions by large fashion houses could overshadow young designers trying to launch their careers or smaller, craft-led studios – but the prestige they have brought has only enhanced Salone’s reputation. And, yes, there might have been a few of us from Monocle sipping frizzante wines at their events but I promise that our sunglasses always come off as soon as the sun sets.

Grace Charlton is a Monocle writer and researcher. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe today.

Image: Reuters

Politics / India

Seizing advantage

A court in Gujarat has rejected opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s petition to reverse his defamation conviction. Gandhi (pictured), who was the face of the Indian National Congress and expected to be Narendra Modi’s main challenger in the 2024 election, faces two years in prison and a six-year parliamentary ban. The prime minister isn’t in the clear just yet, however, as he faces a backlash from other challengers who view the ruling as politically motivated and opportunistic. Following Gandhi’s sentencing, Mamata Banerjee, head of the All India Trinamool Congress, the fourth-largest party in parliament, called for all opposition parties to unite against Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The political establishment in the world’s largest democracy is in shock. What Modi is banking on is that the shock won’t galvanise the opposition.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Global

Close to the edge

Israel has moved to consolidate relations with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan – two nations that conspicuously border its adversary Iran. Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, met Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev (pictured, on right, with Cohen), on Wednesday to strengthen ties between the two countries, following last month’s opening of Azerbaijan’s embassy in Tel Aviv. Cohen then travelled to Turkmenistan, making the first visit there by an Israeli foreign minister in 29 years.

Against a backdrop of rising tensions between Israel and Iran, these actions are likely to irk the latter, particularly as Cohen has also opened an Israeli embassy in Turkmenistan less than 20km from its Iranian border. “It must be extremely satisfying for an Israeli foreign minister to inaugurate an embassy so close to the Iranian border,” Yossi Mekelberg, associate fellow with the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, tells The Monocle Minute. “But his main aim is to forge closer trade and security relations with these countries. That could make Tehran extremely nervous.”

Image: Alamy

Retail / Germany

Wearing it well

Luxury-fashion online retailer Mytheresa has issued a warning that its sales and profits will slow this year as a result of inflation, rising interest rates and increased competition. But the Munich-based business is optimistic that it will remain profitable, with sales for 2023 forecasted to grow from 9 per cent to 11 per cent, generating between €750m and €765m in revenue. The slowdown reflects a broader shift in the luxury-retail market, with some shoppers now returning to physical boutiques, seeking the kind of personalised service that is usually absent online.

As a result, many e-commerce players have struggled to keep up with sales targets. Yoox Net-a-Porter, for instance, suffered losses of more than €200m between April and September last year. Mytheresa is proving that it’s still possible to maintain a healthy bottom line as an online retailer. It is doing so by partnering with brands on exclusive products and travelling the globe to host events for its most loyal customers. Thinking beyond the screen can be the answer for digital businesses too.

Image: Coffee Expo


Bean counting

Espresso machines are growling and milk steamers are hissing as North America’s largest coffee trade show, showcasing more than 600 exhibitors and typically attracting some 10,000 attendees, opens its doors today. Beyond the latest in smart barista uniforms and well-designed tableware, this year’s Specialty Coffee Expo, which takes place at Portland’s Oregon Convention Center, features a much-needed update to its quality protocols, which had not been substantially changed since their creation in 2004.

After three years of research involving 1,600 professional coffee tasters, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has introduced the Coffee Value Assessment, which aims to align the industry with the rigorous requirements of other speciality foods, such as chocolate and olive oil. Now, when a bag of single-origin Tanzanian arabica purports to feature “notes of chocolate and nut”, for example, the claim will be based on quantifiable measures, rather than just the subjective tastes of a roaster or marketing company. “This new phase has been about incorporating more rigorous sensory science and economic thinking into our system,” Peter Giuliano, the SCA’s chief research officer, tells The Monocle Minute. “Speciality foods are marketed as being ‘special’ and these kinds of standards quantify what that means.” The expo runs until Sunday.

Image: Atmo

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Culture

‘Cairo Conspiracy’ and Dameer

We meet Tarik Saleh, director of Cairo Conspiracy, a thrilling new film that explores the relationship between Egypt’s religious and political elites, and speak to up-and-coming Bangladeshi musician Dameer. Plus: we head to the Tenderloin Arts Festival to find out how a group of artists is creating a new story for the downtown San Francisco neighbourhood.

Monocle Films / Helsinki

Sisu: The art of Finnish fortitude

Finland is a swimmer’s paradise and residents take to the water year-round. In colder months the practice often involves carving a hole into ice – a demonstration of sisu, the unique Finnish concept of fortitude in the face of adversity. Monocle joins journalist Katja Pantzar on an icy dip, to explore the mindset that dates back more than 500 years. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, available now from The Monocle Shop.


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