Saturday 7 October 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 7/10/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

News and improved

This week, we head to Ireland to learn the secrets of a small-town magazine that has become a big event in its local community. Plus: we double down on denim and visit a 90th-anniversary celebration taking flight in Paris. But first, Andrew Tuck on why, sometimes, a difference of opinion can lead to a renewed perspective.

Image: Peter Flude

The opener / Andrew Tuck

Readers’ lives

Sometimes it’s hard to work out the direction of travel. On Wednesday a reader I had met at a Monocle event took me on a tour of his expanding office empire on London’s much-maligned retail strip, Oxford Street. His model is simple: annual leases with just about everything included, from the business rates to the potted plants and knick-knacks on the shelves. Though the street may be full of semi-dodgy stores and too many bland chains, and while many businesses still struggle to entice young staff back to the office, he’s operating at 98 per cent occupancy. Some of the individual offices have space for just four people and others host larger teams. As we did our early-evening inspection, I was struck by how many young staff were here, late, tapping away, often running their own companies and deciding that being together was essential. And, my guide explained, while Oxford Street was perhaps of little appeal to his tenants, the close proximity to the bars and restaurants of Soho meant that he was never short of takers. It sounded like the same office world – the companionship of colleagues, some fun after work – that has always found favour.

Earlier that day we had an interesting visitor to Midori House. And, again, it started with a regular reader of this column who suggested that I should meet with a friend of his, a Republican politician from America’s South, who was in London. I extended an invitation and asked Chris Lord, our US editor who just happened to be in town, to join too. Our visitor, it transpired, is a Trump supporter – “The man’s a hammer”, he explained. As someone who tends to hit his thumb while using a hammer and then finds himself jumping around the room shouting profanities, the analogy is good because it works no matter what you think of the man. Our guest was amusing, clever, frank and a good talker, and I soon realised that his concerns were often not that different from those brandished by many on the left – it was the causes and solutions that differed. He spoke about falling literacy and numeracy rates, especially how this affected young black Americans where he lived. He spoke about the need to have diverse workforces – his core team is all female and includes black Americans and Hispanics too – but he just didn’t believe that ESG rules were the fix. He wants clean, accountable, corruption-free government. Sometimes, you know, it’s good to hear people out, see where common ground lies and allow your views to be tested. I enjoyed our encounter.

Back on Monday I met with a delegate from our recent conference in Munich – lunch on him and a very enjoyable one too. Now, if you have in the past dithered about purchasing a ticket to our Quality of Life Conference, his story shows why it’s worth it. My host is a successful entrepreneur who recently sold his business but, while with us in Munich, one of the speakers said something that got him thinking. They are now in touch and a new venture is already being cooked up. I like being in the company of people who look at the road ahead and see no barriers, have the confidence to step forward, and don’t feel dented but, rather, energised when things do go wrong. I’d like a dose of that spirit, please.

A few times this week, people, successful Monocle readers, have told me about their amusing parenting issues. One dad has managed to get his children into a London school where many of the other parents are celebrities, yet, while his children get invited to endless house parties and sleep-overs, he’s stuck making uncomfortable introductions in the limo lineup. I got the feeling that he may try passing himself off as a very tall seven-year-old the next time one famous couple in particular host their next children’s tea party.

Thursday night. Midori House was the venue for a talk hosted by Monocle and the Korean car brand, Genesis, to look at the intersection between design, service and hospitality. The panel was excellent: Guy Ivesha, founder of Maslow’s, which runs two pioneering spaces in London that have offices (yes, he’s doing well too), private members’ setups and also public-facing hospitality; Judy Joo, the Korean-American chef and entrepreneur who has become something of a celebrity with her TV appearances and cookbooks; and the Lore Group’s Jacu Strauss, who, as creative director, designs its portfolio of hotels in London, Amsterdam and Washington. While the moderator questions from Emma Nelson and I were no doubt genius, it really took off when Monocle’s readers dived in with their quizzing – we attract a perspicacious bunch. Afterwards the conversations continued over drinks and Korean food courtesy of Judy, with readers who I had met before and many new faces.

Monocle aims to be a convener of conversations with a rich variety of views, to be a hospitable media brand and to do social media that’s face to face. I am pretty confident that’s now a fact.

The Look / Double denim

Widening the jean pool

I have tried to steer clear of double-denim since childhood – most likely as a result of the over-circulated images of Britney Spears and her then-partner Justin Timberlake that made their mark on pop culture in the early 2000s (writes Natalie Theodosi). As popular – and replicated – as the look was at the time, I could never come to terms with heavyweight denim turned into a maxi gown or a blazer with a back pocket at its front. It was attention-grabbing but lacked any trace of elegance.

Images: Getty Images

More than 20 years later, it seems that the Canadian tuxedo is making a comeback and, this time, the contemporary iteration is looking much more appealing. I have already spotted a few stylish colleagues sporting the look around Midori House and, last month, during the London and Milan fashion weeks, denim also seemed to be the material of choice, both on the runway and the streets. Some showgoers opted for loose denim trousers and matching tops by Polish designer Magda Butrym, while luxury labels offered a more elevated take on the material. Milan-based Plan C introduced denim for the first time in the form of chic tunics, paired with matching trousers and basket bags, while Loro Piana introduced its new denim-silk fabric, which was made by combining 60 per cent denim with 40 per cent silk. Now that there are many more luxurious options and elegant silhouettes flooding the market, it is high time to reconsider the double-denim look.

Image: Mathieu de Muizon

How we live / Yard-sale season

Show and sell

There is little rhyme or reason to the contents of my crockery cabinet (writes Tomos Lewis). A couple of German-made, orange-glazed earthenware dinner plates reside next to a handful of light-pink espresso cups (made in Prague in the 1980s, I’m told), which sit near a few big, glass goblets emblazoned with the motif deployed to herald the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. If this all sounds like the headache-inducing miscellany that you would likely find at a yard sale or a church jumble, then you wouldn’t be far off the mark. Because that’s where, in the early days of setting up a home in Toronto, I filled many of my smaller domestic needs by rummaging through the embarrassments of pre-loved riches arrayed in alleyways, front gardens and driveways that mark the city’s yard-sale season.

In Toronto, the season loosely runs from the tentative early days of spring (a period unofficially nicknamed the “spring clean”) right through to the closing days of autumn. In the US, miles-long stretches of certain highways in states ranging from Wisconsin to Illinois, from Georgia to New York, have even become yard-sale “alleys”, to where treasure hunters make their pilgrimages year after year. While picking through someone else’s household leftovers might not be everyone’s route to domestic contentment, my more inquisitive side relishes yard sales for the glimpses that they give of the people hosting them – the neighbours who you share the city with. A woman, from whose front yard I bought a sturdy, circular, military-green card table a few years ago, which I use as my writing table, regaled me with tales of the smoky, dimly lit nights that her father, a military veteran, spent around it during his poker-playing heyday in the 1950s, before she passed it on to me.

Some might be put off by the effort required to stage your own yard sale – the sorting, pricing and displaying of your wares, outweighing the guarantee that your miscellany will sell – but there’s something to savour in the fact that the goodies you’re tired of will, no doubt, be treasured by someone new, for whom there will inevitably be a diamond or two to squirrel away from the rough.

Image: Getty Images

Outpost news / ‘West & Mid Kerry Live’, Ireland

Fine print

On Ireland’s west coast, the town of Dingle carries more cultural clout than its population of just over 1,600 might imply. Art galleries, distilleries, ceramicists and weavers’ studios all crowd its winding streets, as do some 50 pubs in which live music is a near-constant feature. Many events take place in the town centre throughout the year, attracting thousands of visitors at a time. Tourists make up much of the clientele, encouraged by the dramatic cliffs and lush greenery of County Kerry.

Like many of Dingle’s residents, Lorcán Slattery found it hard to keep track of everything that was going on. “By the time you’d heard about an event, it was over,” he says from the desk chair in his small office in Dingle, on the day that his magazine, West & Mid Kerry Live, goes to print. He explains that in 2010 he quit his job managing a shipping company to launch the freesheet, hoping to solve his problem of not knowing what was happening in the town and when. Unlike the more established papers in the region, which cover hard news, West & Mid Kerry Live publishes events listings, the odd general-interest piece and plenty of ads for local businesses. The paper has gained a reputation as the go-to affairs round-up for West and Mid Kerry, printing 5,000 copies a fortnight. “These days, festivals even change their schedules to suit our production run,” says Slattery.

Do you have a favourite story from a recent issue?
We’ve been publishing something called the “Census Series”. We go through British newspaper archives to discover old stories that we find interesting or that might relate to what’s happening now. Every year there’s a pilgrimage up Mount Brandon, which is in the Dingle Peninsula. When we read past articles about the journey, we found a story from 1868 describing a group of 20,000 people who climbed the mountain. Quite the hike.

And a favourite image?
Mossy Donegan, who founded the paper with me, is a photographer. He takes all the pictures that appear on the front cover, usually of the scenery around Kerry. During a storm a few years ago, he took one of An Searrach (a horse-shaped sea stack just outside Dingle Harbour), which is a long-time favourite of mine. We used to get a lot of inquiries about where the photos had been taken – folks calling from the pub at 23.00, hoping to settle a bet there and then. Now, we publish the place names on the cover.

What keeps people coming back to the paper?
The first thing people turn to is our “60 seconds” feature. We briefly speak to someone from West or Mid Kerry about their life: which books they’d recommend, which historical figures they’d have over for dinner, that sort of thing. This interest in humanity is engaging – and with the population being what it is around here, there’s a fair chance that you’ll know the person being interviewed.

What’s the next big event?
Other Voices. It’s a music festival that takes place in Dingle every December. The crowds are a fair bit larger than they used to be. I was in an audience of 70 when Amy Winehouse performed in the local church on a cold, wet night. That was back in 2006. As many as 10,000 have come to town in recent years.

Culture cuts / Read, visit, listen

Synth sense

‘Wednesday’s Child’, Yiyun Li. Chinese-American author Yiyun Li’s third short-story collection follows a group of characters as they grapple with past failures and losses, from a middle-aged woman recalling a childhood tragedy to a live-in-nanny’s thoughts on motherhood.

‘Requiem’, Chris Ofili. British painter Chris Ofili pays homage to artist Khadija Saye, who died in the Grenfell Tower fire that killed 72 people in 2017, in a site-specific installation at Tate Britain. Spanning three walls and brimming with colour and symbolism, this poignant work of remembrance is both striking and haunting.

‘This Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We’, Mitski. Nashville-based songwriter Mitski trades the synth-pop of her past two albums for country melodies and Phil Spector-like orchestral arrangements on her latest record. It was a good call: the slide guitars and minimal strumming put her lyricism front and centre, allowing her to do what she has always done best.

Fashion update / Plan C

It takes two

Milan-based designer Carolina Castiglioni has always dabbled in the worlds of art and design, creating hand-embroidered knits or embellished skirts for her label Plan C, alongside custom furniture and artworks. When she discovered the work of Ukrainian-born photographer and painter Yelena Yemchuk, she was drawn to her captivating artwork and spotted an opportunity for collaboration.

Image: Yelena Yemchuk
Image: Yelena Yemchuk

Yemchuk created a series of collages inspired by Castiglioni’s new collection – a mix of elegant tailoring, relaxed denim and dresses in jewel-toned colours. “I was inspired by the graphic elements of Carolina’s clothes, so I started from there,” Yemchuk tells The Monocle Weekend Edition. “When I started working, I quickly moved into art, photography and graphic design but since the coronavirus pandemic, I rediscovered my love for collaging. It’s a very instinctive process.” By marrying art and fashion, Yemchuk and Castiglioni are offering a fresh lens through which to view clothes – and showcasing the benefits of cross-sector collaboration.

Aviation / Air France

Flight of fancy

France’s oldest aviation company is celebrating its 90th birthday in style this year (writes Lucrezia Motta). Air France has been at the forefront of aviation technology and innovation since its creation in 1933. To mark this important anniversary, the company has turned to fashion designer Xavier Ronze and historic Parisian department store Galeries Lafayette for a collaboration that features a 12-window display highlighting nine decades of travel, design, technology and fashion onboard its aircraft.

Image: Air France
Image: Air France
Image: Air France

Ronze, who heads up the dance-costumes department at the Paris Opera, has created five original dresses inspired by the hallmarks of the company, such as its uniforms and vintage promotional posters. The dresses are showcased in the window displays of Galeries Lafayette in the 9th arrondissement, along with a curated selection of Air France items, from in-flight tableware to miniature airplane models. The public will be able to admire these creations at Galeries Lafayette until this Tuesday.


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