Monocle #142

Monocle’s April issue is all about smartening up – this means everything from your business to your plans and your wardrobe. We sit down with a bumper crop of interviewees who are thinking big, from the UN secretary-general to the Estonian prime minister and Tony Blair to key players in the design and fashion industry.

We revisit Beirut to see how this resilient city has rebuilt after the blast and press for answers behind the scenes at a key Hong Kong newspaper.

Elsewhere we have a dashing style survey to keep you looking dapper this season, a sunny preview of our book about Italy and plenty in the way of recipes, recommendations and reportage.

At the front: Editor’s letterOur editor in chief welcomes the excitement in the air as the world begins to reconnect.

The opener: As the world makes efforts to kick into gear, bright ideas are sparking up across the globe, from the fashion house bringing haute couture to your door, to small towns tempting newcomers by offering free board – at a price. And why not a case of home-grown wine to cap it off?

Brunello Cucinelli: Every month we ask leading figures to give their outlook on events, business and culture. Here we find out how a fashion entrepreneur made a successful global brand by paying people more, feeding them with local produce and showing compassion.

Pup stars: South Korea was infamous for its dogmeat dishes. Now well-heeled pooches check into their own hotels.

My cabinet: Representing Australia’s 60,000 sheep farmers, Sydney’s The Woolmark Company certifies the quality of wool for export worldwide. We introduce the employees.

Affairs: Power aheadEmerging from the pandemic, we face a new set of challenges to add to the world’s many persistent issues. But this also presents an opportunity to reassess. We meet five leaders and thinkers who will influence how the world turns from here.

After the blast: Last summer an explosion rocked Beirut. This month we asked our correspondent, who reported for us in the days following the blast, to return to those streets to meet the people rebuilding the Lebansese capital.

Diplomacy Briefing: Sweden’s ambassador to Finland on what keeps the two countries aligned; Israel’s recognition of Kosovo sends tempers flaring; the uae joins the space race.

Politics Briefing: The man who might be Germany’s next chancellor; the end of Brazil’s anti-corruption task force; an election in Ecuador.

Defence Briefing: The US Navy considers renaming some of its ships; Chile purchases some new missiles for its second-hand frigate; Russia’s fighter jet finds its market.       

Cities Briefing: Japan’s mixed-generation living experiment finds success; Lucerne’s train station goes underground; a Tel Aviv-based start-up helps US city leaders hear what residents are saying.       

Between the lines: Reporting from the middle ground of a divided city, the ‘South China Morning Post’ treads a tricky path. But will it be able to continue its balanced reporting as press freedom is increasingly attacked?   

Business: Field workWith its wide-open spaces and commerce-friendly buzz, the Westhoek region is proving that rural spots can be business hubs too. Welcome to the real remote working.       

How to impress: Anyone who says the past 12 months haven’t made them think again isn’t telling the truth. Here are 20 ideas for changing your business for the better, being brave and taking action.

Business Briefing: A letter from London on the temperature of the UK’s post-Brexit creative industries. Plus: news reports and Q&As from Hong Kong to the US.

Culture: The truth huntersOne story has dominated the news for the past year but, from Iraq to Myanmar, reporters and photographers have not stopped covering the world’s darkest conflicts. These are people dedicated to shining a light, challenging authority and taking notes to make a difference.

Life in motion: This year’s spring releases have a distinct air of self-reflection to them. From a surreal, life-affirming drama set on a gritty Paris banlieue to a transportive collection of poems recorded over dreamy soundscapes, here are our cultural picks this month.

Sound effects: The rise of Italian-Egyptian songwriter Mahmood might not be music to the ears of the far right but the Milanese’s original take on US R&B and Middle Eastern motifs, not to mention Japanese anime, is refreshing the image of Italian pop both at home and abroad.

Design: Good formWe explored the world of product design and asked the best in the business what it’s like to envision new things that excel in form and function.

Design Briefing: A unique retail concept for fashion giant Maison Margiela and a conceptual Japanese space that has made the most of a modest budget.

The Monocle Shop: Spring is most definitely in our step this month, with a selection bringing forth light fabrics, bold tableware and fresh finishing touches for your home.

Oh, and a bright tote to take outside.

Entertaining: Under its own steamA newfound faith in regional produce and the city’s unfussy spirit has transformed Brisbane’s culinary scene.       

Food & Drink Recipes: Five top dishes to try from monocle’s recipe writers, including Turkish wraps and a one-pot pasta.       

Food & Drink Briefing: This month’s food scoops include an elegant Berlin bakery on the rise; the saucy condiments setting Hong Kong on fire; and a Cretan food brand putting graphic grannies back in the kitchen. And we’re fishing for compliments at a Los Angeles food truck.

Fashion: Spring it onOur round-up of the latest looks for spring takes in unisex cashmere from Amsterdam, ethical cotton from Nigeria, Japanese specs in the spotlight and the resurgence of a thoroughly modern Marimekko.

The best of times: These classic chronographs have had a seasonal update.       

Upward trends: The keepers of five game-changing fashion brands reveal the targets for their own labels and what they expect from the wider industry in 2021.

Jacket in: After a year of athleisure, will men ever be lured back to tailoring? Yes, say designers, but only by the likes of the ‘easy jacket’.

Time for change:On a visit to Swiss watch-maker Omega’s new flagship, we find an inviting take on retail design and smart staff on hand to give museum-style tours.

All together now: Look sharp: with spring around the corner, there’s never been a better time to smarten up. Crisp meets casual in the season’s best combinations.

Med school: ‘The Monocle Book of Italy’ is our grand tour of the nation’s best design, business, food and fashion. Here its editor, Chiara Rimella, holds forth on the challenges and charms of cataloguing her home nation’s best bits.

National treasures: Italy has gifted the world so many great things but what are the quintessential qualities of the country itself? From sociable swimming hubs to unfussy mealtimes and enviable urban spaces, we choose our 10 favourite traits that define an often misunderstood nation. For more on the best places in which to enjoy these experiences and many more, we suggest that ‘The Monocle Book of Italy’ be your guide.

Wandering stars: Italy is constantly on the move, by every mode of transport imaginable. There is a unifying theme however: elegant design and utility go hand in hand here like nowhere else, as evidenced by our book’s profiles of some of its defining makers and marques. Here are a few of our favourites.

Making a scene: Italy’s cultural output is largely defined by the theatrical. After all, opera – that most melodramatic of art forms – is a very Italian affair. In ‘The Monocle Book of Italy’ we profile the very best of the country’s galleries, cinemas, magazines, books, radio and TV. As a taster, here are our five favourite museums, a round-up of the papers and a few must-see films, all set to an Italo-pop soundtrack.

Brick by brick: There’s no better way to understand Italy’s architecture than with a stroll through its cities, which are imbued with layer upon layer of history. The Romans, after all, were responsible for many of the fundamentals of urban life we’re now accustomed to, from roads to arches, domes and even concrete. Here are a few of the structures, both ancient and modern, that we marvel at in ‘The Monocle Book of Italy’.

On the make: ‘The Monocle Book of Italy’ charts Italian design from coffee cups to cars and shop signs to logos. Here we share some highlights that define the nation’s playful take on making it.

Top of the shops: From the merchants of the Middle Ages to today’s leading fashion brands and specialist shops, Italians have long excelled in the art of retail. We share some of our favourites.

Perfect pantry: Italian food is probably the world’s best but to match the country’s top chefs, you’ll need the right ingredients to hand. To round off our book preview we share some Italian staples.


The call of the suburbs: Born of a serendipitous coming together of able young architects and modernist ideas, the Christchurch School gifted its home city a set of bright and spacious houses built from concrete and timber. Now, as a new generation takes to suburbia for space, safety and a new life, we visit the homes that should shape their dreams.