Thursday 30 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 30/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Liam Aldous

Georgia’s ruling party has approved its controversial ‘foreign agents’ law. What’s next for the nation?

Rain fell on the dismayed protesters waving Georgian and EU flags outside Tbilisi’s parliament on Tuesday night – as if their spirits needed any more dampening. Despite more than 40 days of fervent street protests – and a presidential veto – against a controversial law that restricts the rights of media and civil society groups, parliamentarians finally gave it their assent. To top things off, the first version of another law that amends financial controls was adopted yesterday, edging the country closer towards becoming a tax haven. These recent moves by Georgia’s parliament signal a clear realignment within the Russian sphere of influence.

Critics have likened these laws to Russian legislation aimed at curbing independent media and NGOs. But the ruling Georgian Dream Party held its line by riding out a political storm that saw opposition boycotts, warnings about EU accession talks (Georgia received official candidate status last December), US sanctions levelled at government officials and their families and a heavy-handed police response that unleashed so-called “snatch squads” on protesters, beating, arresting and intimidating the movement’s leaders. This has galvanised the younger generation around a Europe-facing vision for the future.

But there is one glimmer of hope in the country: Georgia’s president, Salome Zourabichvili, who, despite her largely ceremonial role, has emerged as an opposition figurehead. During Sunday’s Independence Day celebrations, Zourabichvili announced a new “Georgian Charter” to unite opposition parties, reform democracy and revive the country’s flailing EU candidacy. She placed a 1 June deadline for parties to sign up to her initiative, which also proposes a short-term cross-party transitional government and a “second” general election in 2025. Georgia’s future is unclear – and as it enters a tense election cycle, the road ahead is cleaved between youthful aspirations, age-old fears and the reluctant path of appeasement.

Liam Aldous is Monocle’s Madrid correspondent. This week he reports from Tbilisi. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings


Sweden highlights manufacturing prowess by bolstering Ukrainian defences

Sweden has announced the details of its largest-ever military-aid package to Ukraine. Totalling $1.23bn (€1.13bn), it will bolster Ukrainian defence capabilities with Sweden’s stock of armoured tracked personnel carriers, as well as ammunition, medium-range missiles and maintenance parts. Sweden will also transfer two Saab-made ASCC airborne early-warning and control planes.

At a time when Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is under constant bombardment and Russian missiles are targeting energy facilities as far west as the Polish border, the airborne systems will enable the country to better track activity in Russia’s airspace and speed up reactions to threats. The move highlights Sweden’s manufacturing prowess at a time when fears over Russia’s rate of military production are increasing. The planes, which are produced at defence company Saab’s southern Swedish base, will, no doubt, prove their worth over Ukrainian skies.


Scents of place: Why one New York-based perfumer has a nose for business in Japan

Kyoto’s historic wooden machiya townhouses are not always treated with the respect that they deserve. But this is not the case for the 150-year-old family-owned former saké brewery by the Kamo river, which has recently been turned into a new home for New York’s Le Labo Fragrances. The atmospheric building has been renovated with a light touch: door frames and walls have been left in a comfortably worn state and nothing feels overly restored. “It was about finding the right balance between preserving the past and bringing in new life,” says Deborah Royer, Le Labo Fragrances’s global brand president and creative director.

The courtyard garden has been revived, while the old kura storehouse at the back has been turned into a small coffee stand. A tatami mat room upstairs hosted a Kyoto calligrapher for the opening and will be used to welcome other craftsmen in the future. “We always try to connect with local artisans,” says Royer, who tends to avoid traditional ad campaigns. “We don’t overdo the explanations; we try to [focus] everything around the fragrances.”


Brand-new look for Art Basel’s French iteration

Art Basel takes place in two weeks’ time. But the brand also operates other major international art fairs throughout the year – in Miami Beach, Hong Kong and Paris. This week has been an exciting one for the Parisian edition, which arrives in October. The fair has announced the exhibitors of its 2024 show, as well as a brand refresh. Originally named Paris+ par Art Basel, it will now go by Art Basel Paris. For fair director Clément Delépine, the change came about due to feedback from participating galleries.

“We realised that Art Basel Paris could leverage the power of the bigger brand and be of service to the city in a better way than a dedicated name could,” he tells The Monocle Minute. The name change is a strategic move to fully integrate the Parisian fair within the larger Art Basel family. But it remains a unique event. The anticipated third edition will be housed in the historic Grand Palais, which will reopen a section of the building for the occasion amid restoration works. Some 190 galleries from 42 countries, including 51 first-time participants, will attend what is expected to be one of the art world’s major events of the year.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Peter Miller

Bookshop owner Peter Miller on the art of shopkeeping – and why it matters

Peter Miller has run his eponymous architecture-and-design bookshop in Seattle for more than four decades. Along the way, he has accumulated a lifetime of wisdom about how to run a business. His new book, Shopkeeping: Stories, Advice and Observations, published by Chronicle Books, offers valuable insights. The Monocle Minute caught up with Miller to discuss some shopkeeping essentials.

What’s the difference between a shop and a store?
For me, the word “shop” is the highest honour. A store is simply about supply and demand, whereas a shop is more about what you’re trying to present to the customer.

How should a shopkeeper dress?
I insist on wearing a different tie every day. My interest is that you take care of your appearance. It is all about reflecting the image of the shop, whether you’re keeping it clean, replacing a broken lightbulb or wiping the counters. In a sense, shopkeeping is like making the bed. To honour the customer, you continue to make the bed and dress well.

Are we poised for a shop revival?
To start a new shop, you have to retain optimism; a sense that things matter. If nothing mattered, you could do everything on your laptop and you wouldn’t need shops. Some have argued that I’m pushing against a tide. Many people order what they need online but I think that this will eventually lead to a shop revival. At some point, you simply have to stop watching Netflix and go out into the world.

Our full interview with Peter Miller will feature in a June episode of ‘The Urbanist’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Katrine Noer

Monocle Radio / On Design

June issue preview

A look at some of the stories that feature in Monocle’s June issue. We visit a cinema in Switzerland that has undergone a restoration and interview creative giants Samuel Ross and Sabine Marcelis.


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