Saturday 16 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 16/3/2024

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

All the right moves

Feeling lucky? We take a chance on St Patrick’s Day attire and a leap of faith on moving to a new city. Plus: we speak about Russia’s political future with activist Evgenia Kara-Murza and get the royal treatment at a palace in Seoul. But first, Andrew Tuck heads for the stage – and the dance floor.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

The opener / Andrew Tuck

Intellectual property

This week I could almost match my column buddy Tyler Brûlé for the number of places that I’ve visited and people who I’ve had the privilege of meeting. It has run from conversations about creating more equitable cities to a drag performance in Lisbon on Thursday, where I found myself singing along to endless anthemic belters. But, unlike my partner in crime, Mr Brûlé, I missed the moment when the handbrake should have been applied and so I am writing this feeling as crumpled as a linen suit on a steamy day in Colombo.

The biggest chunk of the week was spent at Mipim, the world’s largest real-estate fair, which is held every year in Cannes. The event takes over the town and every bar, restaurant and hotel is filled with delegates. This is a place, however, that’s used to the tidal in and out of visitors. It plays host to numerous trade conventions across the calendar, including the famous film festival and advertising-industry shindig Cannes Lions. You can see the appeal of this spot for a fair. This week skies were blue and the Croisette, lined with grand hotels, looked preened to perfection.

And why does Monocle attend? Mipim is an amazing gathering of mayors, developers, economists and government ministers, all of whom are here to explain their visions for how we are going to live in cities across the globe. And, depending on where you choose to dive in, you can find yourself discussing how to fix the affordable housing crisis or learning why the demand for data centres could threaten power grids and undercut the push to make our cities more sustainable. We conducted more than 20 interviews.

One of the things that Mipim is keen to encourage is a more varied mix of folk; it’s a little dominated by men in dark suits. Come evening, as the temperatures dipped, Cannes must have been home to the greatest number of male gilet- and swishy-scarf owners ever to have congregated in one place. But there are signs of change: what someone at the fair described as an uptick in white sportif footwear. And this matters, because to enrich the conversation, Mipim needs to be a place where creative folk in Common Projects footwear can meet money men and women in shiny shoes. You can hear from some of the people who I met – sporting a variety of shoe solutions – on this week’s The Urbanist podcast.

And a Mipim tip. Well, more of a reminder. When you are wearing noise-cancelling headphones, please remember that while they might cut out the chatter of folk around you, those same people can still hear you loud and clear. On one stand, we sat alfresco at a table that was also being used by a woman on a video call. She was talking to a colleague about her intention to block the plans of a mayor, whom she repeatedly named. She talked about her in derogatory terms and then made a series of comments that most people would recognise as bigoted, all the time lured by those little white earpieces into thinking that she was in some secure audio space. And, yes, she had a lanyard on that revealed her name.

Favourite, if a bit camp, slogan? The Florida stand that encouraged people to come and “flamingle”.

Staying with Stateside visitors. I wonder whether there’s a rumour going around that it’s hard to find water in France. While nobody likes to feel parched, you can usually spot a millennial American because they carry around metal flasks containing enough liquid to irrigate a field of maize. But, wow, the bladder control that must be required to drink a swimming-pool’s worth of water every few hours is enviable.

One of our meetings was with Felicity Black-Roberts, vice-president of development for western Europe at Hyatt, who told us that in Europe, Hyatt has expanded from some 30 properties in 2008 to about 200 now. It’s always interesting to see where social trends bump into economic planning and Black-Roberts reflected on the strength of the business-traveller market (the pandemic doomsters who predicted that all business meetings would be digital have been proved wrong). She added, however, that people want more space and hotel designers are now charged with creating more suites. Upgrading life after check-in. I’m all for that.

The drag show? Lisbon? Palma? That can wait for another day but let’s just say that I have renewed admiration for the power of a red sequinned frock and the ability to sashay away.

Image: Getty Images

The Look / ...of the Irish

Green with envy

Today you find The Look, accustomed to smooth sartorial sailing, in something of a dilemma (writes Robert Bound). Don’t get us wrong: we love a party. However, this weekend’s great green shindig presents something of a costume quandary. St Patrick’s Day, the most beloved of celebrations for the Irish and an invitation extended generously to anyone else up for a blowout, is a proper aesthetic nightmare.

Off we go with the belted-and-buckled green top hat, the dunce’s cap of celebratory headgear. How about a stick-on ginger beard? Now you’re talking! Why not add a pipe to complete the leprechaun look? Better not light it, though, unless you felt that Oppenheimer required a sequel. Then you have your bright-green bow tie, waistcoat, frock coat, knee-length breeches and buckled shoes – all from an indistinct period known as “Fairytale Bonkers”. Has cultural appropriation ever been meted out so unsubtly and in such flammable materials?

When The Look thinks of Stephen King’s It, we see not a murderous clown but a leprechaun with a green balloon and a glow-in-the-dark ginger beard. We imagine the poster for Jaws but with a great nylon shamrock surging up from the deep. You just can’t do much with bright green and orange, lads.

This is not a crack at the craic. The soul of St Patrick’s Day is noble and the tartans and traditions are distinguished. The marches, songs, proud pipers and delightful dancers, even the turning green of the Chicago river and the huge parades in New York, Boston and – who knew? – Dublin, are ebullient and unique. We’ll be toasting the Emerald Isle with a pint of the black stuff and a dozen divine Carlingford oysters. And it’s feasible, quite possibly, that we’re just jealous.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

HOW WE LIVE / Making a move

Ties that bind

There are so many things that make up life in a city, from its architecture and size to the entertainment that it offers (writes Christopher Cermak). All of these aspects inform whether you feel truly at home. My latest move was a big one: at the start of the year, I returned to London from Washington. It involved quite a deep consideration of how I wanted to live and where I was most likely to feel at home. I have reached a point in my life when adventure for its own sake is no longer attractive. A city needs to truly appeal to me before I decide to move there.

And what makes a city appealing? Above all, it’s the people: the friends and colleagues, the sports opponents, the relatives who don’t live too far away. It’s the personal ties that provide us with a feeling of comfort and a sense of place, beyond the cafés, museums and favourite neighbourhood nooks. There are times in our lives when we might be eager to make new friends and connections in a foreign place, sure, but then there are times when familiarity and lasting relationships are the strongest motivators of all. Take it from someone who has moved a few too many times in his life: consider your own motivations and what gives you a sense of place before embarking on your next city adventure.

Image: Getty Images


Sending a message

With Russia’s presidential elections under way, we speak to Evgenia Kara-Murza, a Russian human-rights campaigner and wife of UK-Russian activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is currently serving 25 years in a Siberian penal colony.

Do you know where Vladimir is and how he is doing?
He’s in a so-called “special-regime” prison colony in the Omsk region. He has been in a punishment cell – solitary confinement – since September. His bed is fixed to the wall from 05.00 to 09.00. The only other piece of furniture is a backless stool. He has the right to read and write for 90 minutes a day and have a 90-minute walk. He does still have access to his lawyer, who sees him once or twice a week for a couple of hours here and there, and he can send letters through the prison’s post system; they’re all censored, of course.

Vladimir is a British citizen. You recently met the UK’s foreign secretary, David Cameron. Did he give the impression that there was more the UK could or should be doing?
I’m very happy that this meeting took place because Vladimir has been in prison for almost two years now. Cameron assured me that the UK would be using every available resource to fight for Vladimir’s release.

Vladimir has suggested that the world should refuse to recognise Putin as the legitimate leader of Russia. Would that be effective?
It would be the morally and ethically correct thing to do. It would send a strong message, not just to the Kremlin but also to Russian civil society; to those Russians who have been risking their freedom and their lives to oppose the regime.

Vladimir visited Monocle in 2017. We were struck by his optimism and his belief that Russia could, one day, be another European democracy. Do you both still have that optimism, even after the invasion of Ukraine, the death of Alexei Navalny and Vladimir’s imprisonment?
I am still optimistic about my country’s future. Despite the police and the knowledge that they would be filmed and might face prosecution, thousands of people went to lay flowers for Alexei Navalny. Vladimir always says that his optimism is not the optimism of a misinformed person but the optimism of a historian. The history of human civilisation has shown us time and again that every dictatorship believes itself invincible until it falls – and the same fate will befall Vladimir Putin, I am absolutely sure. We just need to do everything we can to make this happen quickly. When Putin falls, I want to see him on trial for the many crimes that he and his regime have committed. I want to see him in prison for the remainder of his life.

For our full interview with Evgenia Kara-Murza, listen to Friday’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle Radio.


Seoul searching

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: Jun Michael Park
Image: Jun Michael Park

Dear Concierge,

We will be visiting Seoul and its environs this spring. Could you send us some recommendations for a four-day trip?

Thanks in advance.

Fideliz Diaz,

Dear Fideliz,

With subzero climes finally behind them, Seoulites shed their wool coats and parkas in spring to engage in a healthy dose of flânerie. A great place to find them in action is Yeonhui-dong, a low-rise residential area where fresh crops of independent shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants open every month. But before heading there, make sure to tour the Gizi Foundation, the legacy project of dansaekhwa painter Park Seo-bo, who passed away last year. If you need a coffee break, head to the nearby Hapjeong-dong area, where Anthracite offers a place of calm respite, its interiors a mix of concrete and wooden designs by Japanese architect Nami Makishi.

In downtown Seoul, plan a morning stroll through the Changdeokgung Palace, a World Heritage site whose serene rear garden used to be the royal playground for poetry, music, and dance. It’s a welcome respite from the city’s noisy traffic and business towers. If you’re too busy to roam the grounds, admire it from its fifth-floor restaurant, Myomi, which serves Michelin-starred contemporary Korean cuisine at lunch and dinner.

Then, stop by Hohodang, which offers some of Seoul’s finest tableware and homeware. The designs are unmistakably Korean but with modern twists. If you’re a fan of good food, then four days in Seoul are not enough. In the evening get a seat at Onyva wine bar, where chef Park Jin-yong and food writer Summer Lee mix creativity with fresh ingredients to perfection. They might also share their favourite dinner spots with you.

Image: Pitti Uomo

WARDROBE UPDATE / The Elder Statesman

True colours

When you’re in Florence for Pitti Uomo, you usually start noticing the season’s popular looks as soon as you approach the Fortezza da Basso, where the menswear trade fair takes place. In January there were plenty of colourful accessories: the buyers, editors and stylists in attendance still wore their customary tweed coats and monochrome suits but many also sported woollen beanies in an array of bold hues.

On the menswear runways of Milan and Paris later that month, guests kept their hats on to stand out, breaking up their all-black winter uniforms. The accessory has now made its way into brand showrooms. The luxurious styles by Los Angeles-based label The Elder Statesman, in cheerful yellow and green, are among our favourites.


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