Planning a Christmas shopping trip? The Monocle Concierge knows just the city to really get you into the festive mood – you’ll have to wrap up warm. In hotter climes, members of Kenya’s parliament will need a new work wardrobe and some inspired impressionism goes under the hammer. But first, Andrew Tuck loses his specs appeal. (But don’t worry, he’s on the lookout for an upgrade.)
Some jolly news. It’s that moment in the Monocle calendar for us to host you at our Christmas markets. First up this weekend it’s the turn of our team in Zürich, who would love to see you at our Dufourstrasse 90 HQ. The market is a chance to buy lovely gifts, warm your cold bits with some Glühwein and succumb to the siren call of our COO, Anna, by purchasing an indecent number of Monocle subscriptions. Then, next weekend – that’s 9 and 10 December – Midori House in London pulls out all the crackers with stalls, food, Santa, live radio and cheesy treats (of the culinary variety – not any of our radio hosts). Come and say hello to us. We’d love to see you.
Last Sunday, I lost my glasses in the bushes. I was helping a friend get their garden in order – you would marvel at my nimbleness with the old secateurs – when my glasses were dislodged by a waggling tail of wisteria and plummeted into a large tangle of ivy in a neighbouring garden. Now, looking for your glasses – in the dimming afternoon light – is tricky if, well, you don’t have your glasses. Or if they are in a neighbouring property.
Despite my best efforts and a return visit in sunnier conditions the following day, they have vanished (perhaps now that India’s tunnel rescuers have triumphantly completed their task, they might lend a hand). So a new pair.
First stop, a well-known optician where the upsell is intense: they can give me a second pair for half-price, will charge less if I lock myself into a monthly finance scheme for two years but would not recommend that I use another pair of frames I have from a rival brand. Next stop, one of those disruptor opticians where the vibe is more discount airline with endless add-on costs if I want a better lens, the thinnest one, and the shop assistant is not in a mood to be helpful – hoodie hood up over baseball cap is not what you call a welcome. So I am soldiering on with an old pair and have made an appointment for an assessment with an eye surgeon – and if they also want to upsell me on a few face tweaks, so be it.
When you come to our Christmas market in London, you should also take a moment to go and see the crew at The Monocle Café, just around the corner on Chiltern Street. There’s a very good team in there and, on a chilly winter’s day, it’s the place to be. Last week, while my colleague Luke and I were jumping around the Gulf, the café also turned out to have good soft-power credentials for our brand. We met a government minister who congratulated us on the progress of our business as a trusted media player and then revealed that he can’t resist our tasty Danish-bun display. He visits every time he’s in London. Then we met another senior government minister, with a royal title, who also comes to the café for nourishment (to get the magazine and our coffee). It shows you the power of good hospitality. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a global political player to visit; we believe in buns for all.
A final blast of Monocle. Out now is Monocle’s December/January issue as well as our annual lookahead, The Forecast. And, from next week, you can also pick up a copy of our winter newspaper, Monocle Alpino – copies will be available at the Monocle Christmas markets. In short, we are taking over the newsstand as well as wooing the world with sticky pastries.
Monocle’s Tokyo bureau migrated all of 100 metres for its annual Christmas bash on Wednesday (writes Fiona Wilson). Colleagues, neighbours and friends gathered in L’Ombelico, the snug Italian restaurant that occupies the ground floor of the new Trunk Hotel Yoyogi Park. With the lights dimmed and the pizza oven fired up, the conversation flowed as all the people we’ve met, interviewed and been helped by joined in to celebrate with Tyler Brûlé and the Monocle Tokyo crew.
Colleagues came in from overseas to join the early festivities: James Chambers flew in from Bangkok, Naomi Xu Elegant from Kuala Lumpur and Richard Spencer Powell, our creative director, from London. A mild late-November night encouraged the throng of guests to take the party out to the terrace and Trunk Hotel’s general manager, Kenji Yui, and his team looked after us all.
We’re always happy to see familiar faces, such as Wonderwall designer Masamichi Katayama and the smartly-attired barbers from popular local salon Ban. After we had said goodbye to everyone, Monocle family members stayed on for a festive dinner of pizza and Japanese steak. Christmas starts here!
The parliamentary dress code might be the least of ordinary Kenyans’ worries (writes Naveena Kottoor). But more than a few eyebrows were raised when Moses Wetang’ula, speaker of the country’s National Assembly, announced that he was banning the so-called Kaunda suit from its premises, alongside “any attire outside of what is prescribed in Rule 9 of the Speaker’s Rules”. The Kaunda suit, named after late president of Zambia and Pan-Africanist Kenneth Kaunda, consists of a safari jacket with a single-breasted design, multiple buttons, short sleeves and flapped patch pockets on the front, paired with matching trousers. It is an outfit beloved by Kenya’s president, William Ruto, who never misses a chance to shine in public. He wore what has become his signature outfit for the first time in June – reportedly to promote local manufacturing – and during a recent visit to the country by King Charles III (pictured, on left, with Ruto).
Ruto is not the first African leader to eschew the conventional Western suit. The late Nelson Mandela popularised the Madiba shirt, a loose-fitting silk garment worn untucked, with a similar design to former Indonesian president Suharto’s batik attire. In other non-Western countries, such as Iran, government officials are reportedly forbidden from wearing ties because they are seen by those in power as a symbol of Western decoration. The fashionable “look” for Iran’s diplomats are collarless or banded shirts, which some refer to as “the diplomat”. Diversity in attire among our leaders is something to be celebrated, not censured. Let’s hope that Kenya’s parliament sees the error of its ways and that we get to see more, not less, of the Kaunda suit on the world stage.
Isn’t a Christmas season headlined only by Santa Claus a bit dull (asks Gregory Scruggs)? Enter Krampus, a mythological half-goat, half-demon. In the folklore of the central and eastern Alps, this monster handles the naughty children while Saint Nicholas takes care of the nice. The two work in tandem. Saint Nick’s Feast Day is 6 December, while its eve is Krampusnacht. From Munich to Salzburg, costumed revellers parade through the streets wearing ornate wooden masks of utterly terrifying design: twisted ram horns, gnarled teeth and snake-like tongues. German and Austrian artisans carve these masks by hand and their craft has a newfound customer base: North Americans.
From Edmonton to Los Angeles, New Orleans to Washington, there has been a recent surge of Krampus enthusiasts who import authentic masks, don animal-fur costumes and make appearances at Christmas markets and festivals where they scare and delight in equal measure. In an increasingly sanitised Christmas culture comprising genteel Santas (the drunken variation at SantaCon pub crawls notwithstanding), the outlandish Krampus captures some of the more wild pagan energy of what is, ultimately, a winter solstice festival.
For upstanding Christians, meanwhile, therein lies the problem. When Krampus Seattle, my hometown’s troupe, descended upon a nearby Bavarian-themed mountain town that prides itself on Christmas tourism, a few pious locals bemoaned the intrusion on a holiday celebrating the birth of Christ. But Krampus seems to have had the last demonic laugh: its popularity has only grown since the kerfuffle. This year one was interviewed on prime-time morning television. As the men behind the costume argue, most children cry in Santa’s lap, while many who encounter Krampus break out in a smile.
The Monocle Concierge is our purveyor of top tips and delectable recommendations for your next trip. It’s also on hand inaudio formon 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, clickhere. We will answer one question a week.
I’m escaping to the Great White North for some holiday cheer this December – Montréal, specifically. Where should I dine, drink and, crucially, shop?
Lucky you! Montréal is one of Canada’s most picturesque cities. Come December, it becomes the country’s epicentre of holiday cheer. As one of Canada’s older cities, Montréal’s narrow, cobbled streets and bay-window shopfronts are reminiscent of Europe. At Christmastime especially, the city’s charm is on full display with string lights and wreaths hung on every corner.
It will be very cold at this time of year, so pack your mitts and snow boots, but a bowl of poutine and “steamie” (deluxe hot dog) at Chez Claudette will warm you up before heading to one of the city’s many outdoor skating rinks (we suggest the one at Old Port).
For a hearty meal, head to Nora Gray (pictured), which offers a twist on southern Italian fare. Other good options are seafood restaurant Garde Manger or Japanese fusion Fleurs et Cadeaux. Beneath the latter is Sans Soleil, which serves festive cocktails until the early hours.
If you’re looking to shop, we suggest starting by picking out some knitwear at Ça Va De Soi or Clark Street Mercantile in the Mile End neighbourhood. While in the area pop into accessories shop Want Les Essentiels followed by Japanese stationary shop Au Papier Japonais. Joyeux Noël!
If you’ve been fretting about leaving it late to sort a Christmas present for the impressionism fan in your life, Artcurial is here to help (writes Andrew Mueller). On 5 December, the auction house will conduct a brisk sell-off in Paris of 20 such pieces – paintings, sketches and sculptures. If it’s for someone you’re really hoping to impress – a wealthy, elderly and frail great-uncle, perhaps – the bigger-ticket items include René Magritte’s “La Tempête”, for which about €1.8m is anticipated, or an Edgar Degas statuette of a dancer (pictured) that should fetch circa €500,000 and will instantly render a mantelpiece more valuable than most houses.
The bargains – everything’s relative – include sketches by Gustav Klimt and Amedeo Modigliani, either of which you should be able to take home for less than €100,000 (it’s unclear whether the frames are included). And there is at least one explicitly festive option. Salvador Dalí’s cheery 1960 watercolour-and-ink piece “Don Quixote” was painted for a greeting card collection: it shows the man from La Mancha and his squire, Sancho Panza, dwarfed by what looks like a cross between a Christmas tree and a candelabra. Long exhibited in the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, it could be overlooking your Christmas dinner for circa €120,000.
Would you wear a jacket designed by your phone operator (asks Grace Charlton)? Swisscom, Switzerland’s leading telecoms company is venturing beyond the IT sector and into fashion, launching their very first collection, with more limited-edition releases to come over the next three years. Named after the company’s dialling code, 079, the first seasonal offering is a silver down coat, designed and produced in Switzerland.
Under the creative direction of Beda Achermann, founder of Zürich-based Studio Achermann, and with clothes dreamt up by the young fashion designers behind the label Ottolinger, Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient, 079 taps into a particularly niche aspect of Brand Switzerland and company loyalty.
The release of fashion-forward puffer jackets is certainly a more unexpected way of connecting with the Swisscom client base. Its brand ambassadors include rising tennis star Dominic Stricker, actress Ella Rumpf and figure skater Kimmy Repond – faces that represent a younger, more daring side to Switzerland. A fashion update worth texting home about.