Saturday 6 April 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 6/4/2024

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Turning a new leaf

It’s full screen ahead in this week’s dispatch as we head for all-day breakfast at a cinematic diner in Toronto and meet a US-based ceramicist firing up the world of design. Plus: our sartorial edit broaches the subject of red-carpet brooches, while new-season shoes from Soeur put a spring in our step. But first, Andrew Tuck’s green fingers get to work…

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

The Opener / Andrew Tuck

Out in bloom

Do you have a reset button? A simple thing that helps you to feel focused, well, yourself, basically? At this time of year my Sunday morning visits to Columbia Road flower market begin to increase in frequency as new plants are bought for the mews where I live. Over the years, the space taken up by foliage has gently expanded as more houses have decided to colonise a patch of what is a public thoroughfare with their pots and plants. There’s no way through the mews for cars, just a gap at the end for bicycles and pedestrians, so the worst that happens to this display is that, every now and then, some delivery driver takes out a terracotta-housed hydrangea with a hasty turn of their wheel. Nobody is trying to go too grand with their efforts, so debris is simply cleared and plants rehoused. But gardening, even at this limited scale, has become a reliable reset button.

It’s also good to have a pleasurable distraction that your partner has no interest in. I have, on occasion, forced the other half to come with me to the market but only if I know that I won’t be able to lug everything back to the car solo. On these occasions he’s essentially the getaway driver. But back home I know that there’s no risk of him wanting any involvement in repotting an oleander – and, in truth, I’d be a little annoyed if he did suddenly appear with secateurs primed. You need your own domains. (This is also the man whose knowledge of British ornithology has only just expanded beyond the realisation that not all birds are pigeons or seagulls). Last Sunday, needing that reset button to be pressed with alacrity, I hastened to the market while even the dog had barely stirred.

Columbia Road is a strip of Victorian shops and pubs that hosts plant and flower stalls every Sunday. Meanwhile, many of the boutiques and coffee shops here do almost all their trade in the arc of just a few hours. It can be elbows out come summer. And there are routines to be observed – coffee from Pavilion or Hermanos Colombian Coffee Roasters and, last Sunday, definitely a hot-cross bun. Then you can walk past every stall, seeing who has what to offer; it’s bargain-land if you choose wisely. There’s the banter of the stallholders as they shout out their offers, often with their youngsters in tow learning the trade. There are plantsmen and women who hand out advice – and a few who have time to chat. Then purchases to be made; one of the only times when cash is king.

Back home in the mews, hours were lost as new arrivals found their spots and those that had succumbed to winter’s ways were removed. At the end, I stood back, feeling a little chuffed, reset. Then, as I caught my reflection in the window, I realised for the first time how I now look just like my late dad. That man who, when I was a child, I’d spy every Sunday tending the garden, no matter how inclement the weather. The man who showed a five-year-old how to plant sunflower seeds, an eight-year-old how to grow strawberries. My muddy hands now as old as his, the fingernails needing to be scrubbed under the kitchen tap. A passion passed on. Circles closing.

Some house news. The Monocle charabanc is going to be pootling down to Italy in the coming days as the team wends its way to Salone del Mobile in Milan via Paris and Berlin. Perhaps you would like to join us? On Tuesday 9 April we’ll be in Paris at 3 Rue Dupin and in Berlin on Wednesday at Kurfürstendamm 170. On the mornings of Monday 15, Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 April, we’ll be in Milan, hosting three start-of-day panels, where design experts will be quizzed by some combination of our design editor, Nic Monisse, Tyler Brûlé and yours truly. It’s all taking place at the Sala di lettura in the Pinacoteca di Brera. I am assured that fine coffee and freshly baked cornetto will be served; well, the talks are all in partnership with Swiss household appliances brand V-Zug. To secure a seat, all you need to do is drop a note to the mistress of all Monocle events, Hannah Grundy, at and indicate which morning you would like to attend. Don’t worry about the pastries; there’ll be plenty to go round.

Image: Getty Images

The Look / Lapel brooches

Suits you

It is not usually a good idea to tinker with a tailor’s good work (writes Tomos Lewis). The fine tailoring of a good suit should, after all, be allowed to speak for itself. But so far this year, classic dark suits, including those worn by famous men gracing red carpets, have increasingly been paired with an addition to their lapels: a brooch.

At the Oscars ceremony in March, brooches adorned buttonholes everywhere, from the stylised gold-circle worn by Irish actor Cillian Murphy (pictured), designed by Hong Kong jewellery house Sauvereign, to US actor Colman Domingo’s sunburst brooch set in the centre of his bowtie. It all harks back to something simpler – the boutonnière, or buttonhole, which is best when understated, rather than something resembling an entire bouquet thrust onto your lapel.

Similarly, the brooch should add to, rather than compete with, the blazer it’s pinned to. The return of jewellery to men’s tailoring is something that we should welcome being broached anew.

Culture cuts / Book recommendations

Thrills and spills

‘The Shadow Network’, Tony Kent.
UN super-agent Joe Dempsey and London lawyer Michael Devlin are on the trail of The Monk, leader of a cabal dedicated to wrecking the world order. Fighting this global threat is a war on many fronts, from the US to the Middle East – and the pace never lets up.
Published by Elliott & Thompson

‘A Spy Like Me’, Kim Sherwood.
This Bond-not-Bond franchise sequel features Double-O agents scouring for terrorists, while searching for missing service legend James Bond. Fast, sassy fun, this is Fleming for the 21st century.
Published by Hemlock Press

‘The New Couple in 5B’, Lisa Unger.
New Yorkers Rosie and Chad Lowan inherit an apartment in the iconic Windermere building. The residents are welcoming, the portents less so. Rosie witnesses a biker die in a crash just as the good news arrives, the Windermere’s aged doorman is ever-present and a gruesome history emerges when a neighbour is found dead. An unsettling, haunting read.
Published by Park Row

For more book recommendations, pick up a copy of Monocle’s April issue, which is out now.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

How we live / Food delivery

Keeping it wheel

On weekdays, your correspondent walks to the Tube station near his home, then from another Tube station to Midori House; the reverse after The Monocle Daily (writes Andrew Mueller). In total, it’s about a 30-minute urban trudge. That half hour usually yields a dozen examples of obnoxious, dangerous and/or illegal behaviour by food-delivery riders: running red lights, speeding along footpaths, ploughing through pedestrian crossings, riding after dark on unlit bikes (and e-bikes) – and worse. My interactions with these tedious hooligans include being run into, knocked down, sworn at, spat on, mildly assaulted and threatened with stabbing.

The experiences of friends lead me to believe that this litany is not exceptional. That their employers couldn’t care less is self-evident. In London, at least, municipal authorities or police don’t seem bothered either. But for what it might be worth to any passing mayor, I submit that the following should be immediately decreed.

Make every rider identifiable. Their fluorescent saddlebags should be emblazoned with a unique number. This intimation of accountability should be a restraining factor and it will make them easier to trace if it isn’t.

Compel the companies to proactively monitor the behaviour of their riders by sending observers to likely trouble spots. And why not hold the companies responsible for their employees: scrutinise CCTV of junctions and crossings, and fine them for every transgression by one of their riders. In London, the implementation of the latter measure at £100 a time would enable us to pave Trafalgar Square with gold in a week.

Words with / Tung Chiang

License to kiln

With a history stretching back more than 70 years, San Francisco-based Heath Ceramics has established itself as a leading producer of world-class ceramics. Monocle traveled to its shopfront in Mission District to meet with clay studio director Tung Chiang. A self-taught ceramicist, Chiang moved to the US from Hong Kong in the 2000s to start a career as an industrial designer. Here, he tells us how he continues the long legacy of the brand.

How did your experience in industrial design shape your approach to ceramics?
Industrial design helped me understand how things are made. It also taught me about the relationship between consumers and products. Understanding who the customers are and how they use things is essential. But it is most important to have your own voice. To do this, I combine personal experiences with my professional life.

What makes your work different from that of others?
Ceramics and tableware don’t usually have a story but I want them to have one. Heath Ceramics creates modern pieces with longevity, which makes them relevant for the future. What makes us different is this combination of future, past and present. I don’t want people to see my work for its newness; I want them to connect with it via the memories that it evokes.

Though you work in San Francisco, you are still inspired by nature. Tell us more.
Nature’s designs have existed for a far longer period of time than artificial ones. Many people would agree that nature is the better designer but this doesn’t mean that humans should compete with it. As designers, it is our job to understand that we are part of nature and continually try to connect with it. People forget that this is not a human-centric world and I hope that my work will help to bridge that gap.

Tell us about the process of glazing.
Glazing is chemistry. It is a functional aspect that has been developed and used for a long time. When you fly on a plane and look down at Earth below, the ground looks as though it has been glazed. I try to mimic this in my designs. To start, I often try to imagine a human glazing for the first time. I remove all the knowledge and experience of humanity and attempt to produce something new. Though my work is inspired by nature, I would also like nature to be inspired by my designs.

For our full interview with Tung Chiang, tune in to Wednesday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Alamy

The Monocle Concierge / Your questions answered

Park life

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.

Dear Concierge,

I will be visiting Toronto with my wife and son this summer. Could you please suggest places to see and things to do? We would also like to explore some towns nearby.

Brian Tam
Hong Kong

Dear Brian,

Summer is a great time to visit Toronto. Since winter lasts so long here, people flock to the parks and outdoor patios as soon as the sun comes out. There’s a sense of fun and excitement in the city.

If you’re looking for nature, head to the West End, where you’ll find green spaces such as Trinity-Bellwoods and High Park. The surrounding areas are filled with great cafés, restaurants and boutiques. Ossington Avenue in particular hosts an array of other fantastic places to eat and drink. Try The Lakeview, a diner that serves all-day breakfast in classic booths, which has been the setting for many films such as The Shape of Water and Hairspray. Nearby is Wonder Pens, which sells all things paper, ink and pens. For more stationery and other good things, head to The Monocle Shop and Café round the corner on College Street.

Head towards High Park and you’ll find Mjolk, a homewares shop and gallery run by husband-and-wife team John and Juli Baker. Since you’re already in the area, stop by The Good Neighbour Espresso Bar, a classic example of a homey Toronto café.

Lastly, take a trip to the Toronto Islands, by far one of the most popular destinations for sun-seeking Torontonians. You can take a 20-minute ferry ride across the lake to the islands. Once you’re there, rent a few bikes and cycle between the many beaches. As you’ll be with your son, you might also enjoy Centreville Amusement Park, a popular place for families that offers rides, games and snacks.

Image: Soeur

Wardrobe update / Soeur x Leandra Medine Cohen

Sole sisters

Founded by sisters Domitille and Angélique Brion, French brand Soeur has been the epitome of Parisian elegance since it began in 2008. It has now packed its bags and crossed the Atlantic for a summer capsule collection made in partnership with US author Leandra Medine Cohen.

This second iteration of the collaboration aims to create a fun and eclectic wardrobe for the urban woman, from well-fitting polo shirts and poplin trousers to sheer dresses and skirts. We already have our eyes on the butter-coloured suede Madeline ballerina flats which are sure to put a spring in our step.

For more sunny styles, pick up a copy of Monocle’s latest issue, which is available to purchase now. Or subscribe so that you never miss an issue. Have a great Saturday.


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