Saturday 15 June 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 15/6/2024

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Eyes on the prize

In this week’s missive, we up our sartorial game in breezy, slim suits and plan a long summer weekend in Mallorca, where we meander the pristine palaces and hidden courtyards of Palma. Plus: we keep an eye on the inner workings of a Paris-based lunetier and round up the highlights from this year’s edition of Art Basel. But first, Andrew Tuck reflects on his time in the French capital, with a hint of nostalgia…

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

The Opener / Andrew Tuck

One for the record

I am not sure how it ended up in our house. There were many wonderful things about my parents but musical taste really wasn’t one of them. The small collection of records in their possession leaned heavily towards albums released by Saturday-night TV crooners, their covers featuring gentlemen sporting forced smiles and a lot of chunky knitwear. With this as the soundtrack to my early ears, I would probably now have the right to sue them for aural abuse. They did, however, give me an early fondness for Nana Mouskouri that, many years later, inspired me to commission a story about her for Monocle (so, I’ll forgive them).

But let’s get back on track. Somehow tucked in among the mellow crooners was a Françoise Hardy record – a single. For a boy given to daydreaming about a life with a hint of glamour, this record was heaven. While Nana might be able to conjure up the temptations of a night in a Greek taverna with the local shepherds and a bottle of retsina (could be fun), you only had to lower the needle onto Françoise’s vinyl gem and suddenly you were in Paris (not the Paris of riots and strikes, mind, but the Paris we dream of).

The single’s A-side featured Hardy singing “All Over the World”, the English version of her song “Dans le monde entier”. It’s a tune about love and longing. Looking at the lyrics again now, I can’t quite explain why they caught the imagination of an awkward teenager but I would passionately sing along and do my best impression of a French lover in need. “Who cares if tonight I don’t know where you are. Are you thinking of me now, missing having me around?” No wonder I wasn’t on the football team.

Hardy died this week, aged 80, and it’s clear from all the obituaries that she was someone who, for many people, embodied the essence of France, of a certain French style. She modelled for Paco Rabanne and Yves Saint Laurent, was courted by Bob Dylan, lauded by Mick Jagger and she acted and wrote. France’s culture minister, Rachida Dati, said this week, “How to say goodbye to her? Eternal Françoise Hardy, legend of French song, who entered, through her sensitivity and her melodies, into the heart of an entire country.” And a random teenager in British suburbia.

I am writing this column today as my train heads back to London from Paris. As mentioned the other week, we are opening an office in Paris this month (and have now appointed a bureau chief). But this time we were in town to host two parties to celebrate the launch of our most recent book, ‘France: The Monocle Handbook’. The first was in the bookshop 7L, in the room that houses Karl Lagerfeld’s library, while the second was in the great independent book and magazine shop Bonjour Jacob.

It was an interesting time to be in the city with the Olympics approaching but also because of Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call a snap election. Among most of the people we spoke to, there was a sense of unease about the decision: had Macron just made a genius or terrible move as he responded to the right-wing gains in the European Parliament elections? We also had other conversations with people in fashion, architecture, finance and publishing. Despite any nervousness about polling day, it was interesting how many people spoke warmly about their home city, about their attachment to its streets, its vitality, and also about its beauty. It’s going to be great having a new base in the city and continuing all these conversations.

Ahead of the party at 7L, I met with our soon-to-take-up-residence bureau chief at La Palette in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The clouds had given in for the day, so we sat outside. Cool people came and went, the gallery owners pulled down the shutters for the day and life seemed rather good. It’s funny the journeys we get to make. This was the Paris that I envisioned as a daydreaming teenager – but I restrained myself from scaring our new employee with a heartfelt Hardy impersonation.

Image: Paul Smith

The Look / Slim suits

A cut above

The return of the suit has been part of the sartorial conversation ever since we got to press restart on our social lives, post-lockdown (writes Natalie Theodosi). In the early days, designers tried every trick in the book to ensure that suits felt as comfortable as a pair of joggers: oversized silhouettes, crease-proof nylon fabrics or extra-large pockets. Anything to convince people to get out of their sloppy athleisure and embrace a sharper look. It was a good way of transitioning back into a more active way of life but it also reflected the initial confusion that came with the hybrid world.

The good news this year is that no one needs to be convinced to dress up. Instead of being part of mandatory office dress code, the sharp suit has returned as a wardrobe highlight: sneakers have been swapped for smart slip-ons or weather-appropriate boat shoes and ties have come out of storage boxes. It appears that everyone is ready to embrace a sleeker, slimmer silhouette this summer.

The slim suit was particularly visible on the streets of Florence this week for the city’s biannual Pitti Uomo menswear trade fair. The crowd of stylish buyers, writers and designers in town roamed around the Fortezza da Basso, where the event takes place, in trim beige or khaki tailored pants, cut just above the ankle, paired with suede slip-ons (Loro Piana’s Summer Walk styles remain a hit) and classic aviator frames. On the runway, Paul Smith, Pitti Uomo’s guest designer for the season, also offered slim-cut trousers, chore jackets and breezy shirts inspired by 1960s fashion. It’s a nostalgic but modern look. If you commit to it, you’ll certainly stand out anywhere, Pitti Uomo’s fashionable crowd included.

Culture Cuts / Art Basel picks

Playing to the gallery

There’s plenty to please the eye – and the wallet – at this year’s edition of Art Basel. Here, we round up three spots worth stopping by this weekend.

Art Basel shop, Hall 1
Many will walk away from this year’s edition of the fair as proud owners of a new piece of wall candy but there’s also a shopping option for those looking for more casual retail therapy. Curated by Sarah Andelman, co-founder of Parisian concept store Colette, the Art Basel shop features a selection of exclusive items, including a limited-edition capsule collection made in collaboration with artist Christine Sun Kim. For Andelman, part of the charm is the shop’s ephemerality. “I like that it only exists for a week,” she says. “If you want to enjoy the experience, you have to come in person.”

Robert Frank, Art Basel Unlimited
Pace Gallery has teamed up with Galerie Thomas Zander to present the third and final set of images from Swiss-American photographer Robert Frank’s series “The Americans”. The 83 pictures, often of diners, gas stations and cars, tell a moving, quintessential story of life in the US in the 1950s. “Robert used to travel to Basel when he was a boy to visit his aunt and uncle,” Lauren Panzo, Pace Gallery vice president, tells The Monocle Weekend Edition. “Celebrating the centenary of his birth at Art Basel through this exhibition is very special.”

Precious Okoyomon, Fondation Beyeler
The Fondation Beyeler’s museum and grounds have been taken over by contemporary artworks for this year’s fair. Outside, artist Precious Okoyomon’s nightmarish greenhouse explores the intricate interplay between nature, chaos, and regeneration. “It’s full of poisonous flowers; everything in here can kill you,” says Okoyomon of the structure. “I like to make spaces for things that struggle to exist or have been forgotten.” The sleeping animatronic bear hiding at the end of the path encapsulates the playful yet unnerving character of the work.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon


A load of hot air

Any observer of international relations understands that diplomacy is not always conducted via a dignified communique, solemn summit or sumptuous reception (writes Andrew Mueller). Nation-states are as capable of pettiness and spite as the individuals who comprise them. Even when that much is understood, however, it is dispiriting to see two countries descending to the level of neighbours who throw snails into each other’s gardens. A few weeks back, North Korea dispatched a flotilla of balloons into South Korea, in response, so Pyongyang claimed, to similar barrages of dirigibles launched in the other direction by activist citizens, rather than South Korea’s government. However, where South Korea’s bore confectionery, American currency and USB sticks loaded with K-pop, North Korea’s were tethered to bags stuffed with assorted malodorous waste: doubtless what the North believed a precisely equivalent response.

By way of retaliation, South Korea has fired up the vast speakers installed along the fortified border to blast capitalist propaganda across the misleadingly named Demilitarised Zone. These broadcasts also included K-pop. The sympathies of the right-thinking observer may well pivot towards the beleaguered North Korean border guards stuffing their ears with any surplus turnips. Really though, everyone thinks of North Korea as a tantrum-prone toddler, that everything launched from its territory, whether trash-bearing balloon or ballistic missile, is essentially a rattle flung from a cot. South Korea, a grown-up country, should rise above responding in kind. Though if it absolutely insists, the comportment of their neighbour’s roly-poly leader would lend itself nicely to Kim Jong-un-shaped inflatables.

The Monocle Concierge / Palma de Mallorca

Golden sands

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: Getty Images, Alamy, Cap Rocat
Image: Getty Images, Alamy, Cap Rocat

Dear Concierge,

We are planning to be in Palma de Mallorca for a long weekend in early July for some sun, seafood and relaxation. Any recommendations, including must-see locales or must-eat dishes?

Thomas Jordan

Dear Thomas,

Palma is a proper city with many places to eat and explore. But the centre can be busy in July, especially around the Cathedral of Santa María (pictured, top) when the cruise-ship crowds arrive. So, you should explore other parts of the Old Town. Just walk, get a little lost, and you’ll soon be in quiet streets lined with ancient buildings and hidden courtyards. If you want to see inside one of the austere-walled palaces here, one still lived in, then book a visit to see baroque manor house Can Vivot. For a hit of art, try the Museu Fundación Juan March or Palau March, which has a sculpture-dotted terrace that overlooks the city. Oh, and take a trip out of the centre to Fundació Miró Mallorca, where the artist lived and worked.

For food, try the hotel Cap Rocat’s wonderful sea-edge restaurant (pictured, bottom), which is just 20 minutes from the centre of Palma. Also for fresh sushi (really), you should try the counter restaurant in the Santa Catalina market near the fishmongers. The larger de l’Olivar market is great for seeing more of the island’s produce – and eating it. Ca’n Joan de s’Aigo is a celebrated coffee shop where people come to eat the fluffy “cuarto” cakes – there are three branches – and Ca’n Miquel is the best old-school ice-cream parlour (almond being a traditional island flavour). From good coffee shops to Michelin-starred restaurants, the city has it all. Have a great trip.

Image: Getty Images

Words with… / Mateo García Elizondo

Ghost writer

Mexican writer Mateo García Elizondo – grandson of renowned Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez – has been described as one of the most prominent young writers in the Spanish language. His latest book, Last Date in El Zapotal, a ghost story that pays homage to the 1955 Mexican novel Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo, will be published later this month.

Though the book is dark, there is also a lot of humour. Did you aim for these two to balance each other out?
It wasn’t part of the original plan but it turned out that way. I had this odd thought about creating a main character who really embraces the idea of death and from his viewpoint the book is funny at times. He has a different and more detached way of looking at things, if you look at life from the outside it can often be darkly funny. I like how the book turned out. Humour balances out the dark themes and I laughed all the way through working on it; I hope the readers will too.

The character navigates a suspended state between life and death, where reality often feels blurry. How did you explore this?
I’ve always been interested in altered states of consciousness. Before writing this novel, I wrote a lot of screenplays for movies and these are interesting because you can tell the story from the external view of a camera. But as a writer you don’t get to explore the thoughts of a character. Not as much as you can do in literary fiction. This book was an opportunity to really get into the mind of an individual. It gave me a chance to explore this theme of liminal spaces of consciousness. Where reality meets dreaming, life meets death and hallucination meets reality.

You have written screenplays and articles for magazines and you’re an actor. How do you manage to juggle this?
I mostly consider myself a writer but within writing, there are different formats that I can explore. What ties everything together is the desire to tell stories. I’ve always had this sense that stories are like a living entity. When they come to life, when they choose you to write them, they dictate the way that they want to exist. Some are better told in screenplay, some better told as a graphic narrative and some are better told in prose.

For our full interview with Mateo García Elizondo tune in to the latest episode of ‘Monocle on Culture’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Charly Ho-la

Wardrobe update / Maison Bonnet

Top of the glass

Maison Bonnet’s showroom and atelier is nestled within the Passage des Deux-Pavillons in the gardens of Palais Royal. This family-run lunetier has been in the eyewear business for four generations and is one of Paris’s best-kept secrets. The brand, which was founded by Robert Bonnet, has been servicing clients from Yves Saint Laurent to Aristotle Onassis since the 1950s. Today handmade frames are still the business’s core offering and Franck Bonnet, Robert’s grandson, heads up the company.

You’ll often spot him in the Maison Bonnet atelier with creative directors, architects and art collectors who work with him directly to design one-of-a-kind frames. The process starts with a 90-minute appointment to discuss the materials, colour and size of the frames. The glasses then take anywhere from two to nine months to make by hand. It’s an exercise in patience – and a testament to the beauty of craftsmanship in an era of mass-manufacturing.

For more Parisian wardrobe recommendations, pick up a copy of the ‘Monocle Paris Newspaper’. Or, subscribe to Monocle so that you never miss an issue. Have a great Saturday.


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