Saturday 22 July 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 22/7/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Feel the need to cool off? Andrew Tuck has the ideal antidote to the heat – even if the idea leaves him cold. Plus: we step into the season’s finest footwear, explore the best of Albania’s urban regeneration and our in-house music curator shares his favourite tracks to keep you dancing through summer.

The opener / Andrew Tuck

In hot water

There is an issue on which Tyler Brûlé and I have a fundamental, irreconcilable, difference. And it’s unfortunately a topic that I find myself increasingly defensive about with other people too: the temperature of the water when you go for a dip (of the swimming, not the hummus-and-pitta, variety). Perhaps it’s a result of his Winnipeg years or Estonian stock, but when Brûlé comes across a vast body of freezing water, his immediate, duck-like instinct is to take off his clothes and dive in (whereas mine is to quickly find somewhere to hide from him, or anyone else, with such wayward tendencies). Unfortunately, his ilk is taking over. Sophie Grove, the editor of Konfekt, has mermaid-like genes and an equal passion for chilly swims – I am only surprised that she has yet to switch out her office chair for a barrel of icy water. Meanwhile, Alex Milnes, our photography editor, stops off in Hyde Park on his way to work to swim in the Serpentine, where not only do you risk frostbite in the winter months but you also must walk across all the goose poop just to get in the lake.

So I am heartened that, despite all of these odds, our latest book is called Swim & Sun: A Monocle Guide. For the next few weeks, it’s exclusively available via The Monocle Shop but will be landing at bookshops around the globe very soon. Over 240 pages, we guide you to some of the best pools, beach clubs, bagni and badi as we dive into the water from Sardinia to Sydney. It’s a celebration of what happens to your mind when you swim in the ocean; trust the water to keep you afloat. Or when you make it out on a raft in the lake and look back at your friends on the shore and feel a wave of gratitude. It’s also a book about the moments after a swim when, in summer, you sit on the sand taking in the sunset – perhaps with a glass of rosé in hand. The collection has a splash of urbanism and history in it too.

And as well as a long recommendation list of beautifully shot swimming spots, there is a series of evocative, celebratory essays about the joys of the front crawl. And, I admit it, one of the best pieces of writing is by our cool Serpentine swimmer Alex, who says of his morning routine, “It helps me to de-stress, it wakes me up and calms me down. Despite constantly moving, it’s the only time of the day that everything stops.” But he’ll be delighted to know that I still have no intentions of joining him.

Image: Mathieu de Muizon

In the Barbie vs Oppenheimer marketing extravaganza, it’s definitely the latter that I want to see first. I tried to book tickets for a screening today and saw that they had some left at the Imax for a 16.00 showing – which was a nice surprise considering everyone had told me that it was sold out there. I wisely checked with the other half who, in turn, wisely checked my ticket discovery. It transpired I had made a small error: the only Imax tickets left were for the 04.00 showing. The successful PR onslaught also meant that when I randomly wore a pink shirt this week, I was asked whether it was in celebration of Barbie.

A far more important date is fast approaching: The Monocle Quality of Life Conference. This year it’s in Munich and we have a great line-up of speakers coming to join us for the event, which runs from Thursday 31 August to Saturday 2 September. I was delighted this week when Matus Vallo, the mayor of Bratislava, confirmed that he will be speaking. A few weeks ago, I spent some time with Vallo in his hometown, looking at how this architect-activist-musician-urbanist is changing the Slovak capital for the better – he and his city are the subjects of the Expo in the current July/August double issue. And this is what makes the conference such a joy – you get to hear people tell their stories, reveal the battles they have faced and the successes they have achieved, and consider how you too could do more, fix things, set off on a better course. It’s as bracing as a lake swim. Well, if that’s your thing. Do come. Get your ticket today.

The Look / The sleeker sneaker

If the shoe fits

At some point this summer, every fashionista from Los Angeles to London and Tokyo seems to have turned heel and changed their footwear (writes Grace Charlton). Scores of trainer enthusiasts have quietly done away with chunky soles and fat footwear and opted for the next trend to hit the ground, which I’m calling “the sleeker sneaker”.

Image: Alamy

Many are ditching their boxy Reebok Club C 85s and ample Axel Arigato Marathon Runners in favour of less clunky models such as the Adidas Samba or Gazelle: bonus points to those who have managed to get their mitts on a pair designed in collaboration with Grace Wales Bonner. For months, I have had an eye on a pair of Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 shoes in my size. The trainers rose to fame in the 2000s after being worn by Quentin Tarantino’s heroine in Kill Bill. As with any sartorial shift, demand means scarcity: these sleek sneaks are getting thin on the ground.

Image: Mathieu de Muizon

How we live / Foul play

Mixed bag

Most people adore a mutt but even the most ardent doggy devotees deplore picking up after them (writes Georgina Godwin). Luckily, most responsible owners – me included – grin and bear the task for the greater good. And for those who don’t? There may be a reckoning on the way – beware the paw patrol.

Robert Ménard, a journalist-turned-mayor of the French town Béziers, is planning on introducing a trial scheme requiring every dog owner to carry their pet’s “genetic passport”. The scoop? Leavings found in public parks, roads or on pavements can be quickly tested to identify the guilty party and fines of €122 can be issued for the cleaning.Under the mooted plan, owners would also be charged €38 for failing to produce the passport on command. I’m sympathetic to the idea but conscious that animals and owners can sometimes be caught short inadvertently. My springer spaniel, Bella, is blessed with an excellent metabolism and dietary system but has been known to have a “five-bag walk” on occasion. I hope there’s some leniency for genuine emergencies.

The issue of dog doo in our cities has long been a blight. Let’s see if Mayor Ménard’s merde policy can teach crappy dog owners some new tricks.

Image: Alamy

The Monocle Concierge / Your questions answered

Up and coming

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.

Dear Concierge,

I’m going to Albania for a total of 10 days. I will be spending four of them in Tirana and the remaining ones in the countryside. I would love to get to know the capital and spend time exploring the countryside. Many thanks!

Christopher Bartl,

Dear Christopher,

Albania used to be Europe’s best-kept secret but people are rapidly catching on to its pristine Adriatic beaches, spectacular nature and vibrant cities. Now is definitely the time to go.

A large-scale urban transformation project is currently taking place in the country’s capital. Central to its regeneration efforts is the Pyramid of Tirana (pictured), which has recently undergone a conversion, turning the building into a cultural centre. The structure was originally designed as a museum to honour notorious communist dictator Enver Hoxha but Dutch architects MVRDV have just finalised its transformation into a “people’s monument” with cafés, studios and workshops. If you’re feeling playful, you can even honour Tirana tradition by sliding down the outside of the building.

Other evidence of the city’s regeneration efforts can be found at the two Bunk’art museums, housed in Hoxha-era bunkers. Albania’s young entrepreneurs can be seen hatching their grand ideas in the stylish cafés and restaurants along Tirana’s main plaza, Skanderbeg Square. There are also plenty of dining and drinking options in the Blloku neighbourhood that was once home to Hoxha’s residence but is now bursting with boutiques and bars. For a creative detour, try Tulla Culture Centre and Destil Creative Hub. Both offer working space, galleries and performances, and in Tulla’s case, a small record shop. Its owner, Alban Nimani, sings in a well-known band – and he’s up for a jam if you are.

To explore the countryside, give Elton Caushi a call at Albanian Trip. He will create anything from a slow food tour to a week-long trek for lepidopterists who are keen to appreciate Balkan butterflies. For the beach, head to Vlore where architect Elian Stefa will host you at the Hotel Picasso, which boasts its own art gallery.

Culture hits / Summer playlist

Bon voyage

In the fifth instalment of our 60-track playlist featured in our July/August double issue, Fernando Augusto Pacheco, Monocle Radio’s senior culture correspondent and music curator, picks 10 of the most exciting French pop songs to keep you bopping through the summer.

‘Tirer la nuit sur les étoiles’ by Etienne Daho and Vanessa Paradis. Two music icons perform a delightful ode to warm, starry nights.

‘Avec toi’ by Magenta Club featuring Lola Le Lann. French-language take on 1998’s iconic “Music Sounds Better With You”.

‘Le tourment d’amour’ by Francky Vincent. This perfect summer song is also the soundtrack of director Claire Denis’ masterpiece Beau Travail.

‘Dance’O’Drome’ by Yuksek. Another ecstatic hit from the music producer.

‘Toupies’ by Rob & Jack Lahana featuring Catastrophe. A great slice of electro-pop from the duo’s debut album, Summercamp.

‘SMS’ by Aya Nakamura. A buzzy, infectious song from one of France’s biggest music exports.

‘Tristesse’ by Zaho de Sagazan. French chanson meets electro in this intimate, original track.

‘Adèle Castillon’ by Rêve. The former member of Videoclub impresses with powerful synths.

‘D’ici là’ by Flavien Berger. A gentle, elegant tune.

‘Tout ira mieux demain’ by Hervé. Introspective pop from one of France’s best current talents.

To listen to the playlist, find Monocle Radio 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.

Image: Torres Novas

Fashion update / Torres Novas towels

Life’s a beach

“Ask any grandmother in the country and they will know Torres Novas,” says Inês Vaz Pinto, partner at the Portuguese towel-and-terrycloth firm founded in 1845. Despite its reputation for making the plushest cotton towels in Portugal, the company filed for bankruptcy in 2011 (writes Gaia Lutz). But in 2018, Vaz Pinto, her husband Nuno Vasconcellos e Sá and friend Miguel Castel-Branco decided to breathe new life into the beloved brand. A year after the company’s relaunch, it is taking its legacy outdoors by adding beach towels to its growing catalogue of products.

The beach range quickly became a mainstay and now represents a significant chunk of the brand’s revenue. The designs are inspired by Portuguese landmarks and maritime motifs, such as the Barra collection, which takes its thin stripes in shades of pastel from the lighthouse of the same name in Aveiro, and the reversible Pena collection, which comes in bold colour combinations as a nod to Sintra palace’s striking yellow-and-red façade. For those who are wary about getting their towels mixed up by the pool, it’s even possible to customise them with your name or initials. “The idea of personalisation has proven to be very successful,” says Vas Pinto. “The three of us had to learn how to embroider at some point.”

Image: Yiorgos Kaplanidis

The Interrogator / Costas Voyatzis

All at sea

Costas Voyatzis is a Greek interior designer, founder and creative director of Yatzer, an online destination for art, fashion, design and hospitality from around the world. In 2011 he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the design industry by Architectural Digest France. Here he tells us about his inspiration for Yatzer, his favourite island destination and some hospitality tips from across the Aegean.

What was your main inspiration for Yatzer?
My motto and that of Yatzer is “Design is to share.” I wanted to create a platform on which people could discover and follow the most engaging creative projects.

What news source do you wake up to?
My mailbox. It serves as an endless source of news and insights from all over the world.

Tea or coffee to go with the headlines?
Greek coffee. I love the strong, creamy and invigorating flavour.

Analogue or digital when listening to music?
Life needs a soundtrack. I have a Spotify playlist that plays non-stop in the office.

Going anywhere nice this year?
I’m going to the most secluded island in Greece. It’s a hidden gem that I prefer to keep secret.

What’s the first thing that you will pack?
The sleek black Cosmia fisherman-style sandals by Ancient Greek Sandals, neatly placed in a spacious Unisphere tote bag by Aimé Leon Dore.

Recommendations for the Mediterranean?
Check out Mylos By The Sea restaurant on Leros. If you’re visiting Crete, head to Maiami, an art studio and brasserie near the Chania port. And should you find yourself on Mykonos, the restaurant Noema is exceptional.

What am I bid? / International ARC Salon

Keeping it real

The Art Renewal Center (ARC) launched in 1999, creating one of the largest reference databases online for realistic art with thousands of high-quality images. Forget abstract shapes, squiggles and spatters – this museum is about real people, places and things that, to the consternation of some, actually look like the objects that they intend to depict. The annual International ARC Salon competition has become a rendezvous for the best up-and-coming talents in the discipline. The 16th edition’s winners and finalists are now on display at Sotheby’s in Manhattan as part of the 21st Century Realism ARC auction.

The 60 lots range from sculpture and detailed landscape paintings to photorealistic portraits. Among the work are US artist Michael Davis’s The First to Get There, a trompe l’oeil still life expected to fetch between €3,600 and €5,400, and Jim McVicker’s serene painting Fall Morning, Wildlife Refuge (€9,000 to €13,500). The hammer falls on 24 July and some 90 works by artists from 25 countries will be on show until then.


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