Saturday 8 July 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 8/7/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Into the groove

This week we make the most of the sunshine and heat things up further with some sensual summer tracks. We also take a trip to the tearooms of Taipei and put our best foot forward in a new pair of Pescura sandals. But first, a word from our editor in chief, Andrew Tuck, on luxury team-building in Gstaad.

The opener / Andrew Tuck

Relight your fire

As we hit the midyear point, Richard Spencer Powell, our creative director, suggested to Tyler that it would be helpful if the three of us could find a couple of days out of the office to think about the editorial projects that we need to deliver, the stories that we want to tell and how to hire the best talent as we continue to grow. Tyler not only concurred (well done, Rich) but proposed a very special venue: the Gstaad Palace hotel. That’s the kind of suggestion that you grab with both hands and get in writing the second that it’s made. So, on Tuesday, after meetings in Geneva, we took a train along the glinting lake to Montreux, where we switched to a GoldenPass Line train that zigzagged up through the mountains, offering spectacular, panoramic vistas from its windows. A lot of photos were taken.

OK, enough already, I hear you say. But there’s a point here, I promise. The company retreat and the management get-together have in recent years gained a bad reputation. They are regarded as moments when too much paintball gets played and amateur efforts at building trust go awry (“How was I supposed to know that I had to catch you when you fell backward? I was still at the breakfast buffet”). But sometimes the very act of making a journey, of ending up somewhere different, is all that you need for perspectives to change and for your focus to shift from the immediate to what’s on the horizon.

And what a horizon it is when you’re having dinner on the terrace of the Gstaad Palace. The air was so wildly clear, the light so damned perfect, and the mountains were dotted with alpine-cute farms so impeccable that it almost seemed like a set. Had Tyler somehow just taken us to a warehouse in London with a state-of-the-art projector screen? Even the goats looked as though they had spent the morning in hair and make-up (“Don’t take too much off the beard – it’s a trademark”).

I know I am pushing my luck here but, really, a nice dinner at the Gstaad Palace also offers more management tips and a greater understanding of how you can create trust and a team than a role-playing game. There’s the 24-year-old Italian sommelier who is on his ninth season at the Palace and who has the welcome confidence of a man twice his age – how do we make sure that we always echo his enthusiasm and dedication as we recommend on our pages not only wine to drink but also places to visit and invest in, and cultural moments to savour? Then there’s the teamwork on display as plates arrive, food is served and wine glasses are replenished, all with faultless choreography. Because that’s our business too: ensuring that radio shows hit their mark, books head to the printers on time and magazines come together with a flourish. How do you replicate the camaraderie of a fine service team?

Then there’s all the flambéing. There are some gloriously old-school things about the Gstaad Palace and one of them is how many things you can have flambéed by a waiter at your table. There’s an almost endless display of cheek-warming culinary arson and, after a while, you feel a little cheated when a flame-free dish arrives (“I’d prefer to have my green salad flambéed please”). But here’s a lesson in trust too. That joyful waiter knows what he’s doing and has practised this again and again; the guests are relaxed even as flames shoot skywards from their pudding plates because they know that they are in safe hands. Honestly, scoffing that soufflé was purely educational.

Image: Mathieu De Muizon

While we were in Gstaad, two special packages came our way. The first contained an advance copy of the new edition of The Monocle Companion, our paperback essay series. Josh Fehnert, our editor, has pulled together this brightly covered summer treat that delivers “50 ideas for a better world”. We also got our hands on our next hardback book: Swim & Sun: A Monocle Guide. It’s a celebration of the best beach clubs and bagni, a view of life from a stretched-out towel after taking a dip in the water. Both will be available from Monocle later this month, before being sent out to the best bookshops around the world (and if you run a bookshop or a retail outlet that doesn’t have our books on your shelves, we can always hook you up with our partners and distributors at Thames & Hudson who can fix that problem).

Finally, the clock is ticking on the countdown to the Monocle Quality of Life Conference in Munich, which runs from Thursday 31 August to Saturday 2 September. It will feature an epic line-up of speakers, great dinners and receptions, lots of time with the Monocle crew and perhaps a management retreat just for yourself. It’ll be a moment for you to step out of your normal routine, meet inspiring people and see things anew. And I am sure that we could also suggest somewhere for a spot of night-time flambé.


Stepping forward

Scholl’s famous open-toe slides have traditionally been reserved for people in need of some extra reinforcement (writes Natalie Theodosi). The cushioning inside the soles of the shoes helps to support the arches of the wearer’s feet. The company was founded in 1906 in Chicago by Dr William Scholl, who wanted to apply his medical expertise to footwear design. The brand has been a staple in the world of orthopaedics ever since, though there was a short spell in the 1960s when its wooden Pescura sandals were seen on the feet of English models Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. Scholl’s sandals are recommended at the doctor’s office to help manage injuries and the company’s shops sell as many blister plasters and nail-treatment kits as they do shoes.

Image: Issimo

But the tide, it seems, is shifting. It has recently become far more common to spot the classic Pescura mules among the front rows of Paris fashion shows or on the feet of elegant beachgoers in Capri. Following in the footsteps of Birkenstock, the business appears to be winning over the fashion crowd and going mainstream as a result. A number of collaborations – including with Los Angeles-based label Re/Done and Marie-Louise Sciò, creative director and CEO of Pellicano Hotels – have been helping this process along. Sciò worked with Scholl on a new capsule collection for her hotel group’s retail platform, Issimo, updating the Pescura sandals with luxurious velvet or linen fabrics that evoke the elegance of her company’s Italian outposts. She tends to wear her Pescuras with chic kaftans, white linen suits and Breton tops, proving that even as temperatures rise, you can stay comfortable and dress the part.


On the bright side

Londoners are used to running for cover from summer showers, which so often disrupt outdoor events such as Wimbledon (writes Sophie Grove). But at a recent rooftop gathering of journalists to celebrate the launch of a beauty brand, the opposite was the case: as the sun came out from behind a cloud, guests scrambled indoors. There was no shade in sight and this skin-conscious crowd wasn’t taking any chances with the morning’s damaging UV rays. The deck emptied in minutes.

Image: Mathieu De Muizon

As our knowledge of dermatology has increased over the past few decades, the idea of willingly basking in the sun has become less and less popular. Our perception of wellness has changed and our desire to look “sun-kissed” has largely disappeared, creating an SPF-savvy generation of people who wouldn’t dream of applying tanning oils as their parents once did. It’s likely that this sun-prudent instinct is also part of another modern phenomenon: the pursuit of Instagram-perfect complexions (which has also contributed to the rise of plastic surgery for twenty- and thirtysomethings who plan to see off furrowed brows before they get a look in). All of these factors are changing how we behave. There’s now a tendency to eschew beach holidays altogether or simply stay in the shade.

Though skin scientists should be heeded, there’s still room for vitamin D in our lives, albeit in moderation. Take time to stroll down the sunny side of the street, have lunch in the dappled light of a pavement café and spend a few lizard-like moments on a patch of warm grass in the afternoon. Or, indeed, sip a coffee on a south-facing London terrace. Just don’t forget a lick of SPF.

The Monocle Concierge / Your questions answered

Down to a tea

The Monocle Concierge is our purveyor of top tips and delectable recommendations for your next trip. It’s also on hand in audio form on Monocle Radio, with reports and the latest travel news from around the world. If you’re planning to go somewhere nice and would like some advice, click here. We will answer one question a week.

Image: Alamy

Dear Concierge,

We are planning a long weekend in Taipei to celebrate a birthday and we are wondering if you have some little gems to share. While we know that many great small businesses have sadly shut as a result of the pandemic, we would like to support existing ones in the city.

Angela and John,
Hong Kong

Dear Angela and John,

While it is true that many small businesses shuttered during the pandemic, Taiwan remained relatively insulated from its effects compared to some other countries around the world.

Start the weekend at Dadaocheng, one of Taipei’s oldest neighbourhoods, which has experienced a boom in new shops and energy over the past decade.

Have a stroll down Dihua Street (pictured), which is flush with tea shops and retailers that stock items that would make excellent gifts, from sacks of dried fruit, fish and meat to sweets and nuts. If you are looking for souvenirs, the shelves of Artyard are brimming with homemade ceramics.

For lunch, head to Emmanuel Fish Soup in Zhongzheng District, a third-generation restaurant that has served reliably good bowls of tilapia in broth and stir-fried rice vermicelli for nearly half a century.

From there, head to the Zhongxiao East Road for a visit to Hermit’s Hut, a traditional tea shop, to learn more about the slow art of tea brewing and sample its selection of rare oolongs.

Finish off with a birthday dinner at Monsoon, a vegan ode to the food of the Hakka people, a minority whose cuisine features a variety of pickled and cured dishes. Reservations are required, so plan ahead. Oh, and a very happy birthday from the Monocle Concierge, of course.

Culture cuts / SUMMER PLAYLIST

Move closer

In the third instalment of our 60-track summer playlist, featured in our July/August double issue, Fernando Augusto Pacheco, Monocle Radio’s senior culture correspondent and music curator, picks 10 sensual tracks to savour with a drink in hand for the perfect apéro time.

‘That! Feels Good!’ by Jessie Ware. Ware’s disco, which is full of wild joy, is always worth falling for.

‘Amante Amore’ by Mina. A sensual, stunning tune from the Italian icon.

‘Stiekem’ by Maan featuring Goldband. Electro-pop earworm from the Netherlands.

‘Offline’ by Lie Ning. A tongue-in-cheek, sexy song about the joys of logging off.

‘Blue’ by LaTour. An atmospheric dance track that’s a throwback to the 1990s.

Image: Conor Cunningham / Capitol Records

‘Steamy Windows’ by Tina Turner. Pay tribute to the music legend with this daring funk piece.

‘Emorio’ by Trinix & Fafá de Belém. Uplifting summery tune with vocals by a Brazilian diva.

‘Eye’ by Aminé and Kaytranada featuring Snoop Dogg. Retro-sounding, synth-heavy hip-hop piece.

‘Summer Voyage’ by Pleasure Voyage featuring Done. Best enjoyed at a beach club, late at night.

‘Dive’ by Olivia Dean. A soulful track from an artist on the up.

Image: Conor Cunningham / Capitol Records

To listen to the playlist, find us on Spotify or tune in live to Monocle Radio for more songs. The entire playlist is also featured in our July/August issue, which is on sale now.


Piece of the action

Independent fashion brands have become less appealing to investors, especially those seeking to make a quick buck, but designers are finding innovative ways to fund their businesses (writes Natalie Theodosi). Déborah Neuberg, founder of Paris-based label De Bonne Facture, tells The Monocle Weekend Edition that the boom in the investment market during the pandemic has died down, especially for brands that aren’t purely commercial and image-driven.

Image: Anne Piqué

An alumnus of Hermès, Neuberg runs a sustainability-minded business that is in many ways at odds with traditional investors’ demands for rapid growth and extra-high margins. She favours timeless designs and works with specialised manufacturers across France to produce her collections. Though her business’s revenues have doubled over the past two years, when it came to funding its next stage, Neuberg looked at alternative modes of financing. She uses a community crowdfunding platform that allows customers, friends and anyone interested in supporting her brand to buy equity. “It’s an innovative way of financing,” she says. “People get to fund the business for what it is and become part of our circle of ambassadors.” The funds will go towards senior hires, marketing initiatives and investment in local artisans to create an even more specialised, limited-edition product.

With this campaign, Neuberg is also setting a new benchmark for independent luxury labels, demonstrating that you can get ahead without compromising on the values that inspired you to start your business in the first place.

INTERROGATOR / Henrique Sá Pessoa

In excellent taste

Portuguese chef Henrique Sá Pessoa is the founder of Lisbon’s two-Michelin-starred Alma. He recently opened Joia, a new dining spot in London. Here, he tells us about his favourite bookshop and weekend markets, and shares a few Mediterranean restaurant recommendations.

Image: Nick Andrews

Do you like coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Tea with a little milk (and sometimes honey) is my usual drink at breakfast.

Do you have a favourite weekend market?
Yes. In Lisbon there’s the Príncipe Real organic farmers’ market and there’s another near my house, the Benfica market, which sells fresh fish and vegetables, and has a few pastry shops. It’s very rustic and must be more than 70 years old. It’s in a very beautiful building with lots of natural light.

Favourite bookshop?
My restaurant in Lisbon, Alma, is inside one of the world’s oldest bookshops, Bertrand in Chiado. It’s an amazing shop and the building is incredible too – it has so much history. Alma used to be Bertrand’s warehouse, which makes it even more special to me.

What news source do you wake up to?
I tend to read the news online: CNN, Fox or the BBC. I also watch it on TV, usually on a local broadcaster called SIC Notícias. I also follow a couple of newspapers on Instagram, such as Expresso and NiT (New in Town), which is where I find out about restaurants, politics and general current affairs.

Do you enjoy podcasts? If so, which ones?
I listen to a lot of Spanish food podcasts, as well as comedy ones – especially when I’m in the car. I like Dave Chappelle and Kevin Hart.

What about books?
I mostly buy cookbooks and love autobiographies so I’d recommend books by Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc.

What do you listen to before drifting off?
Normally something chilled. I like a bit of everything: hip-hop, old rap, house. I also love songs from the 1980s, as that was my era.

Going anywhere nice this year?
I’ve travelled so much this year already. London is always such a great city to visit and I’ve spent a lot of time here since opening Joia. I haven’t been to New York in years so I’m planning to go in September, then later to Miami, which is my second home at the moment.

Any top Mediterranean restaurant recommendations for our readers this summer?
If you’re in Ibiza, try Casa Jondal by a Spanish chef called Rafa Zafra. It serves beautiful seafood and is right on the beach. If you’re in Valencia, head to the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Ricard Camarena. It’s a beautiful place with very imaginative cooking. In Lisbon I’d recommend Prado and Cervejaria Ramiro, a traditional Portuguese seafood restaurant.


Sharp focus

The shortlist for the 10th annual Prix Pictet award was announced this week as part of the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival 2023 (writes Matthew Beaman). Regarded as the most esteemed prize in the industry, it doubles as a celebration of the medium’s potential. “The power of the image lies in its ability to foreground critical and urgent environmental issues in a visually impactful yet direct way,” Isabelle von Ribbentrop, executive director of Prix Pictet, tells The Monocle Weekend Edition.

A committee of more than 300 nominators settled on 12 photographers from across the world. This year’s theme was “Human” and the shortlisted submissions explored everything from the plight of indigenous peoples and the collapse of economic processes to gang violence, borderlands and migration. The winner of the CHF100,000 (€103,000) award will be announced in London this September at the opening of the V7A exhibition, which will showcase the work of all 12 photographers.

Here are three of our favourite entries from this year’s shortlist:

Vanessa Winship – UK/Bulgaria
Winship’s work (pictured, top) is a series of arresting portraits of schoolchildren living on Turkey’s borders with Iraq, Iran, Syria and Armenia.

Vasantha Yogananthan – France
Yogananthan’s series Mystery Street (pictured, centre) offers a glimpse into the everyday routines of childhood. It is both an exploration of reality and an escape into multiple narrative possibilities that echo the freedom of children’s play.

Yael Martínez – Mexico
Addressing fractured communities in his native country, Martínez’s images (pictured, bottom) often reflect the suffering of those afflicted by organised crime and the failings of the state.


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