Saturday 10 February 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 10/2/2024

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Hot stuff

There’s cause for celebration this week as Paris unveils the design of the 2024 Olympic medals – and we think that they’re monumental. Elsewhere, we bid on saké cups at a Japanese art auction and head to Italy for a taste of the best Neapolitan street food. Then, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire as we prepare to ring in the Year of the Dragon. But first, Andrew Tuck kicks things off with a few tales from a week spent in good company.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

The opener / Andrew Tuck

Working wonders

Some house news. The Chiefs is our conference that asks leaders (whether business, civic or diplomatic) to come on stage and tell us their life stories, discuss their successes and reveal the ambitions that motivate them to press on. This year it’s heading to Hong Kong on Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 March. We’ll be making the most of the city’s connections to not only gather panellists and speakers from Hong Kong but also from across the region – Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore. We would, of course, be delighted if you joined us (all details can be found here). It’s the third outing for The Chiefs – we managed to pull off a very successful gathering in 2020 in St Moritz – despite the coronavirus pandemic doing its thing – then, in 2022, we were in Dallas. The friendships, connections and insights from both still play a part in my life today – and I hope the lives of many of the attendees too.

I am not sure what was happening a little more than nine months ago at Monocle but I am wondering if there was a break in the usual cascade of projects and production weeks that allowed the team to focus on other things. I say this because, in the space of just a few months, a large number of our team have all become dads (some for the second time). Lex Self, our foreign editor, kicked things off, then our Europe editor, Ed Stocker, welcomed his second offspring in Milan, followed in January by our photo director, Matt Beaman (double exposure to dad-hood for him too). And, then, just a couple of weeks ago, our editor, Josh Fehnert, became a dad for the first time. It’s nice seeing how modern men react to parenthood, how they relish the role and welcome the cloak of change that lands on their shoulders. I suddenly know a lot about prams.

London has been rain-lashed this week. And cold. But at Midori House it has been a fast and fun week. On Monday we dispatched the March issue to print but we also had a day looking at an interesting digital project and organised an evening to bring everyone in the company together. These gatherings are always enjoyable because we ask people from across Monocle and Winkreative, our sister company, to talk about somewhere they’ve been, a project that has just come to fruition. Though we spend a lot of time together and have numerous editorial and commercial meetings, we find that these mingling moments are still revealing and allow people to shine. This week our fashion editor, Natalie, briefed us on what she had seen at Pitti Immagine Uomo in Florence, as well as the shows in Paris and Milan, and discussed the business shifts that she witnessed at each event. The Winkreative team unveiled some of their latest brand work. Rebecca from our commercial team put a spotlight on our recent Monocle Radio pop-up at the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair. How nice to work surrounded by so much talent.

Image: Reuters

The Look / Parisian medals

Landmark statement

The Olympic medal, available in three colours, is, you would think, a design that requires no improvement (writes Alexis Self). Think again. In the modern era, redesigning the Games’ visual identity for each of the event’s new iterations has become a competition as fierce as any that takes place in the pool, stadium or velodrome. The last of these summer sporting gatherings were held in Tokyo, a city famed for its design. The Games of the XXXIII Olympiad, which will begin in Paris this July, will also have a certain aesthetic expectation upon them.

Tokyo’s medals were announced to the public alongside exhortations such as, “the brilliance of the medals’ reflections signifies the warm glow of friendship depicted by people all over the world holding hands”. Despite this, the actual design won gold for keeping it simple. Paris, on the other hand, has leaned towards the more experimental side of things. Designed by local jeweller Chaumet, they feature 18g hexagonal tokens that sit in the centre of swirling grooves meant to represent light rays bursting forth.

Despite their referential shape (an homage to France’s “L’Hexagone” nickname), the tokens don’t seem like anything special. That is until you learn from which material they have been hewn. Not just iron – but iron taken from the Eiffel Tower, presumably in an official capacity with some sort of industrial-sized filing instrument and not surreptitiously grated off one of the legs. It’s a nice nod to the idea of Paris as a “moveable feast”. However, with all that metal, you’ll need to be an Olympic athlete to move it.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

How we live / Dragon babies

Fuelling the fire

Nothing screams wealth and success like fire-breathing progeny (writes Gregory Scruggs). That, at least, is the fervent belief of adherents to the Chinese zodiac when it comes to the Year of the Dragon. Some superstitious couples have timed their baby-making to align with the Lunar New Year in the hopes of having auspicious offspring. Legend has it that the first Chinese emperor descended from a dragon. Those who carry this sign are allegedly natural leaders and self-starters with big, bold ambitions.

Demographers trace the first Dragon baby boom back to 1976. Alarmed Taiwanese officials ran public-service announcements to dissuade another baby boom in 1988, though the birth rate still jumped up by 8 per cent. That year, Singaporeans had 25 per cent more children than in 1987, prompting government officials to open nine new primary schools as they struggled to keep up with an additional 9,000 youngsters. In Canadian school districts with large ethnically Chinese populations, enrolment spiked by up to 16 per cent in the wake of the 2012 Year of the Dragon.

While makers of baby products ramp up supply ahead of Dragon years, they might want to hold off on the scaly patterned nappy design. East Asia is in the midst of a fertility slump – the birth rate in China last year was the lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic – and experts doubt whether the allure of an ancient tradition will be enough to counteract broader macroeconomic forces that discourage women from having children. Besides this, dragon life has its downsides: stiffer competition for university and job placements. That’s one reason why my Chinese-Malaysian wife insisted that we plan for our newborn son to hop into the world in January, at the tail end of the Year of the Rabbit.

Culture cuts / Read, watch, listen

Stranger things

‘Top Doll’, Karen McCarthy Woolf. A reclusive billionaire dies and leaves behind several New York apartments, a California mansion, at least one Monet and a collection of antique dolls in the poet’s most recent book. What follows is a strange, semi-fictional biography of the eccentric heiress Huguette Clark and all the things that she loved and left behind.

‘Poor Things’, Yorgos Lanthimos. Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest film, adapted from a novel by Alasdair Gray, tells the story of Bella Baxter, a young woman brought back to life by an unorthodox scientist. Eager to understand the world, she runs off with lawyer and man-about-town Duncan Wedderburn on an adventure across the continents. An odd, beguiling take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

‘Great Doubt’, Astrid Sonne. The Danish musician’s experimental arrangements take on a pop sensibility in her third album, out via the Copenhagen-based label Escho. “Give My All” borrows from Mariah Carey, while “Everything is Unreal” owes its sound to Laurie Anderson. Expect sparse soundscapes punctuated by occasional hints of melodrama.

The Monocle Concierge / Your questions answered

Slice of the action

The Monocle Concierge is our purveyor of top tips and delectable recommendations for your next trip. If you’re planning to go somewhere nice and would like some advice, click here. We will answer one question a week.

Image: James Mollison
Image: James Mollison

Dear Concierge,

My partner and I are planning a long weekend in Naples in June. What are your recommendations for great food and things to see and do? We love going where the locals eat and discovering hole-in-the-wall locations.

Thank you for your help,

Laurence Fortin

Dear Laurence,

Naples has spent the last decade reclaiming its title as the cultural capital of the southern Italian coast. The best way to discover it is to get lost in the maze of vicoli (small alleyways). But a good place to start is the Complesso Monumentale di Santa Chiara, replete with blooming lemon trees and painted majolica pottery. From there, make your way to the Cappella Sansevero, a jewel of Italian baroque art that houses the famous Veiled Christ statue by Giuseppe Sanmartino.

Take a stroll down the Lungomare promenade to take in the sea air and breathtaking views. Naples also boasts plenty of beautiful palaces and gardens, from the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte to the lesser-known Villa Floridiana in the Vomero neighbourhood.

Food is a source of immense pride for Neapolitans and not just because the city is the birthplace of pizza. For traditional street food, head to the Friggitoria Vomero, which has been perfecting its fried panzerotti recipe for almost 100 years. For something sweet, visit Pintauro, a quaint shop on via Toledo, loved by locals for its delicious black-cherry biscuits and traditional pastries. Finally, no Naples guide would be complete without a good pizza recommendation. Every pizzeria claims to be the best but Pizza 3.0 Ciro Cascella offers some of the tastiest tuck in a relaxed atmosphere. Buona visita!

Image: Martin Brusewitz

Design update / Christine Ingridsdotter

Home Swede home

Christine Ingridsdotter is founder of Ingridsdotter Studio. The Swedish brand issues designs by interior architect and designer Jonas Bohlin from the past 35 years, including ranges made for restaurants in the Scandinavian capital such as Sturehof, Riche and Taverna Brillo. Monocle caught up with Ingridsdotter at the Stockholm Furniture Fair to find out more about Ingridsdotter Studio, her new space at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts and “Made in Sweden” design.

Tell us about your latest designs.
Some of these tables and chairs, specifically the Liv collection, were made for restaurants in the city. The materials, such as steel, are typical of Sweden but the designs are more poetic and original than others found in Scandinavia. Some of the restaurants that Bohlin designed for resemble living rooms but the pieces were never produced beyond specific commissions. Now customers can actually bring these familiar pieces into their homes.

As part of Stockholm Design Week, you opened your studio at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts. Why was this important for you?
I opened up a studio there as a permanent showroom on the fourth floor of the academy. I chose to be part of Stockholm Design Week as well as the furniture fair because it’s important to open spaces in the city when the trade hall closes at night. You can go to studios and see the furniture in another context. You need a mix of both.

Tell us about your experience exhibiting at the Stockholm Furniture Fair for the first time.
I’ve been visiting the fair for many years but as an exhibitor it has been great. We’ve hosted talks that generated a lot of interesting conversations. A lot of Swedes recognise our pieces and they’re happy to be able to buy them now, both as private clients and interior architects. The international aspect of the fair provides a good opportunity to expand in different markets, such as the UK. But European markets are my top priority. Apart from the fact that they are easier to access [in terms of shipping and logistics], their audiences appreciate the values of high-quality and locally made design. As a modern producer, social responsibility and transparency for manufacturing is very important to me. I’m not into selling for the sake of selling.

Fashion update / Chanel’s New York opening

Time to dazzle

Chanel opened a fine-jewellery and watch boutique on New York’s Fifth Avenue yesterday (writes Natalie Theodosi). It is the house’s first retail space of its kind in the US. Architect Peter Marino, a longtime Chanel collaborator, designed the shop to resemble a golden jewellery box whose design elements – a gold and black colour palette, hand-applied coromandel-style wall finishes and touches of rock crystal – pay homage to the namesake designer’s apartment on rue Cambon in Paris.

Image: Chanel
Image: Chanel

Inside the boutique, you will find different salons, including one dedicated to private appointments and another for high-end watches. Every space offers an opportunity for discovery. There are one-of-a-kind artworks, including a piece by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz depicting the brand’s founder, Gabrielle Chanel, and an exclusive jewellery collection entitled “Eternal No. 5” in a nod to Chanel’s lucky number.

The French house’s J12 watches and signature Coco Crush quilted-motif jewellery ranges are seen by collectors as modern heirlooms. This ambitious opening is further proof of the significant mark that Chanel has left on the world of fine jewellery and watches since the designer opened her first shop in 1910.

Image: Bukowski

What am I bid? / Japanese art

Pieces of history

The lots on offer at Bukowskis’ auction of Japanese art, which closes tomorrow, are drawn from a span of nearly 400 years, from the Edo period to the 20th century (writes Andrew Mueller). Most of the more expensive – if not actually that expensive – pieces are artworks, including woodblocks by 19th century ukiyo-e master Hiroshige, the pick of which is the lovely “Grandpa’s Teahouse”; it could adorn your wall for less than €1,000, if you’re lucky. But among the household artefacts are several pieces that could lend a quirky yet understated touch to your home for non-outrageous prices: a set of porcelain saké cups inlaid with floral designs and accompanied by a papier-mâché doll (perhaps €150); an engraved silver teapot (circa €450).

When the whole auction is considered as a single trove, it is remarkable how coherent and consistent the Japanese aesthetic sensibility was for so long – a reflection, perhaps of the country’s long isolation. Certainly, it would not require advanced appraisal skills to guess where any of these 89 items had hailed from – especially not the Meiji-period folding screen (about €500). One panel is loose, which limits its utility as a defender of modesty but does allow the new owner to update or restore it as they see fit.

For the latest in everything from art and global affairs to architecture, pick up a copy of Monocle magazine today. Or subscribe so that you never miss an issue.


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