Thursday 23 November 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 23/11/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Photographs of Hamas-held Israeli hostages on the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City

Image: Alamy

Affairs / Yossi Mekelberg

Work in progress

In every war, there are crucial moments that can turn the tide for better or worse. This might be the case in the Israel-Hamas conflict, with both sides agreeing to the release of 50 women and children held in Gaza, and 150 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, as well as a four-day truce. These are small steps but ones that point towards longer humanitarian ceasefires – and, possibly, an end to the fighting.

Since 7 October, Israel’s primary objective has been to destroy Hamas, not only as a military force but also as a political movement. It was only after public pressure that the need to bring hostages home became the country’s focus. From a military perspective, both sides can benefit from the ceasefire. While Hamas is desperate for a chance to regroup, the Israeli military needs time to reassess its tactics and examine how close it is to reaching its goals. It also allows for urgently needed humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and sets a precedent for the future release of hostages. Israel has indicated that the pause in fighting could be extended by an additional day for every 10 captives who are freed.

Even though the resumption of hostilities seems inevitable, the current steps taken towards maintaining a ceasefire are a welcome development. The fact that an agreement was reached, after mediation from Qatar, is a positive sign that constructive communication could prevent further hostilities in the region and facilitate dialogue between the two sides in the future.

Yossi Mekelberg is an associate fellow at the Chatham House Middle East and North Africa programme. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Energy / Canada & EU

Eco friendly

Ursula von der Leyen is in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador today to discuss key geopolitical issues at the 19th edition of the EU-Canada Summit. European and Canadian authorities hope to elevate their partnership specifically in regards to their common fight against climate change. “Such an alliance would be beneficial because it would further strengthen the collaboration – and competition – between European and Canadian companies,” says Alessandro Motta, head of public affairs at Saipem, an Italian energy-infrastructure-engineering company whose recent carbon-capture project in Canada will be showcased at Cop 28. “Canada is aiming to become a leading global supplier of green technology and is passing new legislation to attract more green investment and decarbonise its oil and gas sector. The agreement has the potential to get some of the most promising industrial-emissions-reduction projects from both parties off the ground, stimulating low-carbon economic growth – an important step for climate action.”

Bottega Veneta’s spring/summer 2024 runway

Image: Alamy

Fashion / Global

Living luxe

Luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter has revised its strategy for spring 2024, doubling down on premium labels with a focus on “quality and craft” and buying in to brands known for their timeless designs, such as Fforme, Liberowe, Bottega Veneta and Veronica De Piante. This approach has been applied across the Net-a-Porter range, with premium brands added to its beauty, homeware and fine-jewellery departments.

Despite challenges facing the global economy, the retailer’s strategy reflects a broader industry tendency to focus on top-end customers with financial prowess – and an appetite for luxury fashion. According to Net-a-Porter, its highest-spending clients make up 2 per cent of its total clientele and 42 per cent of total sales. But as its owner, Richemont, prepares to offload 47.5 per cent of its Yoox Net-a-Porter stake to rival Farfetch in 2024, maintaining customer loyalty will be more important than ever.

Making a dogged effort

Society / UK

Every dog has its day

Is the wire fox terrier about to go the way of the dinosaur? The Kennel Club, guardians of all things canine in the UK and organisers of the esteemed Crufts dog show, has placed the breed on its at-risk list. Just 281 puppies have been born in the UK so far in 2023 – that’s 78 fewer than 2022 and a dramatic fall from some 8,000 fluffy annual arrivals back in the late 1940s.

Fashionable breeds, such as French bulldogs and all sorts of poodle-based cocktails, are to blame. The news has gone down badly in some quarters and a press release was issued yesterday from a resident in our editor in chief’s home*. Macy (aka Macy Noodle the fox terrier) said, “I would like to remind people that we are loyal, settle on laps like a curled comma, have a jolly gait and will lick ears when required. This must not be met with us being asked to do a dodo. We demand more puppy action.” Our editor in chief concurs.

*The dog in question has been featured many times in Monocle and makes regular appearances in The Monocle Weekend Edition on Saturdays.

Beyond the Headlines

Inside scoop: the interior of a Hutsmith cabin

Image: Hutsmith

Q&A / Dudley Radford

Wood intentions

Dudley Radford is the founder and design director of cabin-making business Hutsmith, which uses cutting-edge construction techniques to prioritise sustainability in its buildings. What started out as a small business has now expanded to more than 60 cabins, all of which are fitted with solar panels and rainwater-harvesting capabilities. Here, Radford tells us how the company’s ideas developed and how to provide sustainable solutions for housing.

How did the company begin?
I have been in the renewable energy and sustainability sector for about 15 years and have worked on everything from energy grids to electric vehicles. Outside my day job, I designed a couple of cabins with an architecture practice. We made no money from them but we got good feedback and gained valuable knowledge on how to build sustainably.

How do you build cabins with sustainability in mind?
The first thing that we wanted to fix was the amount of wood that was wasted. All of our buildings are now clad in locally sourced wood and we use a Japanese practice called Shou Sugi Ban, which involves burning the wood to make it more durable. Our latest model has in-built batteries that are charged by solar panels, as well as a kitchen and an outdoor toilet. When you look at it, you might ask yourself, “At what point could a cabin become an example for actual housing to follow?”

What’s next for the company?
We’re in the market to sell these buildings but it’s equally refreshing to be able to experiment with the concept of housing. We have also just finished working on our first sauna. We took it upon ourselves to understand the medical benefits of saunas and have since been approached by a well-known gym-equipment brand to distribute them. We have also been contacted by a wine-cellar company because cabins can provide the ideal humidity and temperature in which to store bottles. It shows how these little buildings can have so many specific uses.

For more on Hutsmith and to listen to our full interview with Dudley Radford, tune in to the latest of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Foreign Desk

Weah concedes defeat

Liberia’s president, George Weah, has been praised for his sportsmanship after peacefully conceding the country’s election this week. Andrew Mueller explains why this is remarkable and why the football legend might have lost his position in the first place.


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