Friday 14 July 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 14/7/2023

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Sophie Grove

Make do and mend

As well as a boulangerie, the classic Parisian neighbourhood always included a knife-sharpening service, an electrical-repairs shop (replete with myriad light bulbs) and a retoucherie for repairing clothes. Fixing was a part of life. One of the ironies of the modern era is that as our awareness of “being green” and recycling has increased, many of the places dedicated to preserving and restoring things have closed. In France, consumers now throw away some 700,000 tonnes of clothing every year.

This week the French government sought to address this habit when it announced that it will start subsidising repairs: citizens will soon be able to claim back some of the cost of fixing their clothes. It’s part of a five-year plan to change consumer behaviour.

Sadly, quite a lot of our fixing infrastructure is already lost or eroded by gentrifcation. During my four years living in Saint-Germain-Des-Prés, I saw more than a few trusty retoucheries shut up shop as rents escalated and chain stores moved into the spaces once occupied by quincailleries or drogueries where you could buy Marseilles soap to lovingly wash and fluff up cashmere, moth traps and Papier d'Armenie to refresh rooms. These wunderkammers of products for polishing and preserving were also social spaces to chat about sprucing up a copper pan or mending holes – knowledge has been lost too. In London it is arguably worse - you are hard pushed to find someone who will fix a lamp or record player – as I found out recently when my over enthusiastic three year old broke both in a single weekend.

The French government’s plan is a good start but turning the tide on disposable culture will take more than a nudge. Let’s hope that the small financial stimulus gives people a chance to reacquaint themselves with the joy of fixing (rather than ditching) their possessions. Whether it’s repairing a buckle on a clog or a hem on a dress – or a more ambitious refashioning of a piece of clothing – there is a profound satisfaction in giving new life to the old things that you love. Each mend tells a story of a break or incident that will make you smile or laugh in years to come.

Sophie Grove is Monocle’s executive editor and editor of our sister title Konfekt. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Greece & Turkey

In the friend zone

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured, on left, with Mitsotakis) at the Nato summit in Vilnius this week in a bid to rekindle relations. The neighbouring countries have witnessed decades of territorial disagreements over issues in the Aegean Sea, energy resources and the ethnically split Cyprus. Last year, Erdogan halted bilateral talks in a dispute over airspace after he accused Mitsotakis of pressuring the US to prevent the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

But relations improved following the country’s devastating earthquakes in February when Greece became one of the first nations to send support. The neighbours have reportedly opened new channels of communication and cabinet ministers from both sides are scheduled to meet in Thessaloniki this autumn. Erdogan’s new approach to foreign relations comes as he seeks to shift focus to Turkey’s domestic challenges, which include stabilising its failing economy and rebuilding the country’s south.

Image: Shutterstock

Transport / Malaysia & Singapore

Back on track

Malaysia and Singapore have resumed talks on the construction of a high-speed train that would reduce the travel time between the two countries to just 90 minutes. The project was suspended after the 2018 Malaysian elections, when the nations failed to agree on several of the rail line’s proposed changes, and officially halted in 2021. Subsequent negotiations and structure revisions proved to be unsuccessful.

Nevertheless, MyHSR Corp, the Malaysian state company responsible for delivering the project, is now seeking proposals to revive it. “It will bring tremendous benefits to the people,” Fauzi bin Abdul Rahman, non-executive chairman of MyHSR, tells The Monocle Minute. “In addition to being a safer, faster, more efficient and sustainable travel option, the project will help us to contribute to Malaysia’s agenda in generating long-term growth and sustainability for the people and the nation.”

Image: Getty Images

Culture / USA

That’s a wrap

For the first time since the 1960s, many of Hollywood’s actors are going on strike after failed negotiations with studios. SAG-AFTRA, the industry’s largest actors’ union with 160,000 members, will join the Writers Guild of America, which has been striking since May, in taking industrial action.

The effect will immediately be visible during the summer’s film premieres, which usually involve the glittering presence of stars on the red carpet. “The decision to strike comes down to two issues: better compensation in the TV streaming era and concerns around talent being replaced with artificial intelligence,” Scott Bryan, TV critic and broadcaster, tells The Monocle Minute and explains that it is lesser-known actors who are struggling to support themselves. “As you know, we can go a long time in our profession between jobs and people want to work but sometimes they can’t," Hollywood actor, Matt Damon, tells Monocle. "Nobody wants a work stoppage but we have to do what’s right by them."


Design / Venezuela

Part of the furniture

Julio Kowalenko and Rodrigo Armas form the team behind the cross-disciplinary architectural and design practice, Atelier Caracas. The pair tells Monocle about their work, which includes fashion and collectable design projects produced through a Venezuelan lens.

What inspired you to explore furniture design?
Julio Kowalenko: Both Rodrigo and I have always looked for inspiration outside architecture, be that fashion design, industrial design or art in general. In order to finalise our ideas, however, we use the same rigour and complexity that we were trained to use as architects.

Rodrigo Armas: We have mainly designed commercial and residential buildings. But years ago, we had the crazy idea to make a credenza cabinet (pictured). Two months later, it appeared in Architectural Digest France. After that, we were immersed in the industrial design world. We are currently in the process of designing more furniture pieces.

Who are your clients right now?
JK: We mostly target international art collectors; clients who are willing to understand that a piece of furniture can be something that is not particularly ergonomic. For us, furniture design is a place where we can express our ideas without any gravity involved.

RA: We have had people tell us that our credenza cabinet was not functional. This was not the end result. It is more of a sculptural process.

Venezuela has had several political and economic issues recently. Do you think that it’s beneficial to draw focus away from them and shift the conversation to design and culture?
JK: We always say that the real problem in Venezuela is culture. Venezuela used to be an architectural mecca in the 1950s. There was so much going on at that time, not only in Venezuela but also in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia. Now there is a disconnect from that golden era – that’s what we are trying to revive through our designs.

For more on Atelier Caracas, tune in to our extra episode of Monocle on Design on Monocle Radio.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Concierge

Tokyo, Timor-Leste and Croatia

This week we speak to Aiko Imaizumi, chief concierge of the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, about her recommendations for summer in the Japanese capital. We also meet Eliad Cohen, the Israeli DJ behind the Papa Party club night, and Naomi Xu Elegant tours Timor-Leste. Also in the programme: Raul Leal, CEO of SH Hotels and Resorts, tells us about his new opening in London; Guy De Launey takes us to Roxanich Winery and Design Hotel in Motovun, Croatia; and our correspondents around the world answer listeners’ questions.

Monocle Films / Culture

Britain’s smallest radio station

Located in the northwestern corner of the Scottish Highlands, Gairloch is a coastal village of about 700 people that is known for its mountains, sea loch and rugged landscape. Monocle paid a visit to Two Lochs, which is nestled on Gairloch’s shores, run by a handful of volunteers and has built a loyal fanbase of global listeners.


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