Friday 18 August 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 18/8/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Ed Stocker / Opinion

Money for nothing

When I lived in Argentina between 2009 and 2014, the capital’s world-weary taxi drivers would refuse to change 100 pesos notes, then the country’s highest denomination. Today, they’re worth less than a third of a US dollar each, the result of years of double-digit inflation that now stands at more than 100 per cent. In the nine years since I left, things have gone from bad to worse: poverty has risen sharply, there has been another default and the Southern Cone nation has had to depend on bailouts from the IMF. As the country has seesawed between the populist left and market-friendly right, it’s perhaps no surprise to see the emergence of a far-right zealot (he calls himself a libertarian) in the form of Javier Milei (pictured). As the surprise winner of Sunday’s primaries – widely seen as a dry-run for October’s presidential election – some are now calling him the favourite.

In truth, Argentina has a history of lionising its leaders, none more so than former leader Juan Perón and his wife, Eva. But while Peronism was and is fluid in terms of political orientation, Argentina has managed to avoid the new breed of contemporary far-right leaders that emerged with Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro – until now. With his 1970s hairdo, five dogs (Conan, Murray, Milton, Robert and Lucas, in case you were wondering) and Trumpian way of saying shocking things, Milei is resonating with Argentinians. When he talks about la casta política parasitaria chorra – a parasitic, thieving political class – he has a point. Former leader and current vice-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was sentenced to six years in prison after being found guilty in a fraud case at the end of last year, though she is currently immune as a result of her political position and is appealing the decision. The centre-right has also had its scandals.

With Milei vowing to dollarise the economy, bring in sweeping privatisations and shut the Central Bank, people are being lured by the promise of radical new suggestions. But they should be wary of false idols pedalling quackery. They will do nothing to fix Argentina’s highly complex and decades-old problems. Ending its rampant corruption is the best place to start.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor at large. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Affairs / TAIWAN

Making a statement

Taiwan’s vice-president, William Lai (pictured, on left), has wrapped up a trip to Paraguay, one of the handful of its remaining diplomatic allies, which included stopovers in New York and San Francisco. The Chinese administration considers self-governing Taiwan part of its sovereign territory and condemned Lai as a “troublemaker through and through” for his visit to the US.

Lai, who is the frontrunner in Taiwan’s presidential elections in January, said that Chinese attempts to “verbally and militarily intimidate” Taipei would be taken as signals that Beijing “is attempting to intervene in its election”. Taiwan is one of Asia’s most robust democracies. In the face of rising US-China tensions over issues that include its sovereignty, Lai used his stopover in San Francisco to reaffirm its commitment to democratic values as well as its good relationship with the US. In a speech in the Californian city, he also pledged that Taiwan will aim for “peace as the lighthouse and democracy as the compass”.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / USA

Signed, wheeled, delivered

A little less svelte but no less zippy, a legion of new cargo bikes is set to ply the streets of New York. The Department of Transportation has allowed larger pedal-assisted courier cruisers to go into operation, which are more practical than the smaller versions that have been piloted so far. The ambition is to have some 2,000 on the city streets by 2026.

It’s a cleaner method for getting goods around town – they’re battery-powered, rather like an electric bike – and will also weave around the forthcoming congestion charges that are due to come into effect in April, making them a hit for New York’s movers and shakers. “The UK market is more mature; couriers such as UPS and even chimney-sweep services are already using cargo bikes there,” Jonah Bliss, co-founder of Curbivore, a leading US conference on last-mile delivery, tells The Monocle Minute. “Brands are always looking for something that can move a package that one per cent faster.”

Image: Andrés Fraga

Design / Spain

Concrete plans

What did you do on your holidays? Sit on the beach? Read under a tree? Or visit a concrete factory? Mallorcan company Huguet is hoping that it’s the latter that will appeal to people visiting the sunny island this month. The business, run by Biel Huguet, grandson of the founder, has come to international renown as a result of collaborations with a roster of global design talents, all keen to make concrete tiles, terrazzo sinks and numerous unique products at the brand’s factory in the town of Campos.

And, hoping to spread the word even further, Huguet is now throwing its gates open to visitors with an exhibition that runs until 25 August, featuring projects and prototypes by Sergison Bates, MVRDV + Gras, David Chipperfield and Isla, which are all displayed in a pop-up space by architecture practice Ted’A. There is also a chance to see the tiles being made (more at Factories, it seems, may be the new beach club rivals.

Fashion / London

Slow and steady

Luca Faloni’s eponymous menswear brand, founded in 2014, celebrates the traditional artisanal trade of handcrafted Italian goods. Here, Faloni talks about his company’s slow-fashion philosophy, the challenges of scaling a small business and why online feedback will never compare to engaging with customers directly.

What is it about the brand’s style that keeps attracting customers?
We offer timeless products, made with quality materials. Our customers trust the brand to make stylistic choices for them. We also like to connect with them when they visit our shops rather than rely on feedback from online sales. There are a lot of numbers that you can analyse online but they don’t tell us anything about consumer behaviours. Having a direct in-store relationship with our customers is how we attract them. We learn what they like, how they live and which products we should improve.

Do you think that brands are too affected by trends and the idea of seasonality?
I certainly think that they put too much emphasis on changing everything every year. There are always ways to improve things but our designs are part of a permanent collection. If you’re constantly modifying products, you’re producing items that no one really wanted in the first place. This is bad for costs and, ultimately, bad for the environment.

What are your future plans?
Our top priority at the moment, aside from growing the brand, is to make sure that when we scale up, we don’t compromise on quality. It becomes complicated when small businesses expand, so we’re investing money into making sure that we stick to our core brand philosophy. We also have a lot of exciting retail ventures coming up in Europe, the US and, eventually, Asia.

To listen to the full interview with Luca Faloni tune in to the latest edition of ‘The Entrepreneurs’, on Monocle Radio.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Sachsenhausen, Frankfurt

Frankfurt is known as Germany’s financial capital and is home to one of Europe’s largest airports. But when it comes to food, the city has a surprisingly unique take on a particular German and Austrian staple: the schnitzel. Monocle’s Christopher Cermak, an Austrian citizen and one-time Frankfurt resident, tells us about one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, Sachsenhausen, where traditional-style pubs are at their best.

Monocle Films / Hospitality

Escape to the country: Côte d’Azur

Nestled in the hills above Nice, Casa Sallusti is a permaculture farm and hotel that was created to show how you can still enjoy the good things in life while taking care of the planet. We visit its founder, Isabella Sallusti, and meet the young folk who are working at the farm, having decided to swap the city for slow-paced living.


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