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Hoshinoya smartphone app monitors onsen crowd size

Filed by Lucire staff/July 1, 2020/10.59


Karuizawa, one of the 15 resorts where the new app is first deployed

In response to the coronavirus, Hoshinoya Resorts has rolled out a new smartphone app at 15 properties, which monitors the size of crowds at their popular onsen, public hot springs.
   Onsen, which is one of the highlights of going to a ryokan or resort, allows guests to release themselves from the stress of “stay-home” practices. But overcrowding can compromise the experience. Hoshino’s app will lead to safer and more comfortable use of the springs, as it creates an environment that avoids the occurrence of the “three Cs”: close contact, confined spaces, and crowded places.
   The app detects real-time crowd size via use of distance sensors which communicate with IoT-sensitive devices. The IoT device can count accurate numbers of people, make real-time connections between data and the cloud, adapt to different environments, and help guests stay informed of the optimal hours for onsen visits.
   Though Hoshino provides the download to guests, the information can easily be obtained through a web browser. But the innovative app is a convenience enabling visitors to read QR codes through their smartphones and to be informed in real-time about the perfect moment to immerse oneself in the healing waters.—Stanley Moss, Travel Editor

 


Maldives plans to open up July 15; Las Vegas says flights continue to increase

Filed by Lucire staff//8.30

We’re not entirely sure about the wisdom of some destinations telling us they are reopening, while COVID-19 is still very much present in our world.
   In a regular analysis by Lucire publisher Jack Yan, where infections as a percentage of tests done are analysed—a figure not adopted by mainstream media—there are some countries still with very high numbers.
   France, one European country opening up, still has a high (and rising) infection rate at 11·90 per cent at the time of writing, three times higher than Germany’s (3·62 per cent) and the UK’s (3·32 per cent). Sweden is on 13·19 per cent, and falling.
   The Maldives, on 4·69 per cent, tells Lucire that they will reopen on the 15th, with resorts and hotels on uninhabited islands accessible, while those on local islands open on August 1.
   Tourists do not need to pay extra, or produce a certificate showing that they are COVID-19-negative prior to entering the country. Those without symptoms will not be required to quarantine. Travellers will need to fill out a health declaration card on the inbound flight or at the airport, and those who have symptoms en route need to inform their Health Protection Agency. They are also advising those who have symptoms, and those who have had contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days not to travel there.
   Arrivals must wear masks and be thermal-screened, and physical distancing needs to be maintained.
   Those who arrive with symptoms will be given a PCR test at their own cost, then sent to isolation, either at the resort (if its policy allows) or a state-run facility.
   There is contact tracing and random testing, and a set of restrictions on inter-island travel.
   The other requirement is that travellers must have a confirmed booking with a Ministry of Tourism-registered establishment.
   When departing, tourists will undergo an exit screening, and symptomatic ones will be subject to a PCR test.
   Further updates are on their foreign affairs’ ministry website, www.foreign.gov.mv.
   Given that the Haj is cancelled this year, it is a brave step for the Maldives to open up for tourism again, especially while COVID-19 runs rampant in some countries.


Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau

   Las Vegas, meanwhile, has sent us news that their summer flights continue to increase.
   This is up from 110 a day during the ‘lowest point of travel’ during the pandemic to 280 a day in July. By August, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors’ Authority forecasts the figure will rise to 330. This points to demand as well as ‘renewed confidence in air travel’, says the Authority.
   The US is on a falling national infection rate figure of 7·98 per cent; the state of Nevada is on 5·71 per cent.
   By comparison with other countries where Lucire has a notable readership, New Zealand sits on 0·38 per cent, and Australia on 0·32 per cent. European countries once considered hot spots, Italy and Spain, are on 4·46 and 5·44 per cent respectively.
   Potential travellers are advised to consult with their own country’s health authorities as well as the WHO’s website on COVID-19.

 


Greed a topical comedy about fast fashion and the practices that support it

Filed by Jack Yan/June 28, 2020/12.01

Greed, the new Steve Coogan comedy directed by Michael Winterbottom (The Trip), is a satirical tale about a thinly disguised version of Sir Philip Green, the head of Arcadia Group, who stood accused by various British government committees of plundering British Home Stores while it was under his company’s control. The phrase levelled at Sir Philip, ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’, once dealt to Tiny Rowland, is used here at Coogan’s Sir Richard ‘Greedy’ McCreadie, just in case you weren’t sure whom they were parodying.
   Lucire attended one viewing at a packed cinema, where moviegoers were turned away as it proved to be far more popular than anticipated.
   Given the cast—Coogan, Isla Fisher, and David Mitchell—it would be wrong to expect much more than a comedy, and on this count, it delivers, with more topical panache than most films of the genre.
   Up for criticism by the film are fast fashion—McCreadie spends his adult life pushing suppliers in Sri Lanka (the Indian locations are unconvincing) into a race to the bottom—as well as the shallow “unreality” of reality TV, or, as the trade calls it, unscripted drama. Included in the mix are the corrupt practices of modern business and their legal loopholes, and tax havens such as Monaco, where McCreadie’s ex-wife, Samantha, played by Fisher, is resident. Through all of this is the device of the officious bystander, Sir Richard’s biographer, Nick, played by Mitchell, who gets to interview certain parties, which Winterbottom shoots in documentary style.
   Sir Richard’s 60th birthday bash on Mykonos obviously references Sir Philip’s £5 million 50th on Crete in 2002, right down to the togas, and this is where things take a turn that not even Sir Philip’s enemies would wish on the milliardaire. Asa Butterfield, as the McCreadys’ younger son, and Dinita Gohil, as Amanda, a Sri Lankan-born Brit working for McCready, give the film more depth at the points where it’s needed, showing that the farce in which the ultra-rich live have real victims, inside and outside of the immediate family. Whovians will spot Pearl Mackie as Cathy, the director of the reality show in which daughter Lily McCready, played by Sophie Cookson, stars, trying the Method whilst playing herself.
   There’s a sense from earlier reviews—inevitable that we would have seen them given New Zealand’s later release—that the film doesn’t know what genre it is, whether it’s comedy, drama or documentary, an assessment with which we disagree. While the film puts a new spin on the term ‘eat the rich’, the last act wraps up the entirety of the film neatly: namely that for all the lessons that we might have learned, the fictional McGready family ticks on, with little changed. No, the outcome isn’t funny, but it is a call to action—it’s Winterbottom exercising pathos. Showing statistics about fast fashion, the income gap, and the single-digit earnings of Asian garment workers takes that one step further. Are we choosing to fund these lifestyles and the fast-fashion machine, or should we opt for the sort of designers often championed by this magazine, who work with Fair Trade, eschew seasons, and emphasize quality?
   And sometimes it takes a film that is largely entertainment to make us realize just what has been going on. The message could well be lost if this were an out-and-out documentary, which would have had a limited audience; better to have us question our consumerist habits—you know, the ones we still observed as we lavished Amazon with US$11,000 per second as the COVID-19 pandemic panic began—in the form of entertainment, ensuring a wider reach. It’s not the first to do this, and it won’t be the last—it’s a long tradition that includes The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and South Park on television and, more recently, the oddly slow-moving Brexit with Benedict Cumberbatch, and the German feature Curveball. There’s nothing more appealing in the grey depths of winter, with overseas travel not available to us, than sunny, colourful Greek locales. And when you can travel again, pack those labels with a more ethical background.—Jack Yan, Publisher

 


A sense of belonging

Filed by Jack Yan/June 17, 2020/11.16


Jack Yan

Above: Wellington, New Zealand’s Lambton Quay, normally a main thoroughfare, during that country’s lockdown.

Over the last two issues of Lucire KSA, we ran a story each on COVID-19. The first examined how companies fared after previous economic crises, looking at the past for answers. Last month, we examined what companies were doing in response to the pandemic, a report from the present. This month, it may be prudent to take some punts about the future.
   Even before the COVID-19 crisis, China was selling cars with air filtration and purification systems, such as the Oshan X7 and the Geely Icon. These two SUVs were responding to the pollution that plagues Chinese cities, and when the Icon was launched in February, its system was turned into a positive selling point as fears about COVID-19 mounted. When the X7 was revised in March 2020, its system received an upgrade, to allay fears about the novel coronavirus. But these are minor product enhancements, for what is the point of these SUVs during a lockdown when driving is curtailed?
   We often refer to the automotive sector in Lucire because it’s one of the most evident places where brands and trends emerge, and with fewer players than in fashion, it’s often easier to see what those might be. Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior vice-president for global car design, pointed out to Forbes that after each major crisis—he uses World War II as an example—there is a creative surge, and that the US car industry of the 1950s picked up on it, with ‘a promise of the future.’ He says, ‘Many times, this whole “vision of tomorrow” comes from the difficulties of today. So I think we as people will express our emotions physically and you’ll see this in all the arts.’


GM

Oshan

Above, from top: Oldsmobile Golden Rocket, a 1956 show car from GM that pointed to an optimistic, jet-age future. The Oshan X7 SUV, with a standard air purifier.

   Other emotions that have emerged during this time include loneliness, in those countries or communities that are facing a lockdown, and the desire for human contact, alleviated somewhat by the knowledge that many are in the same boat, and by the ease of digital contact in developed countries, with VR, Skype and Zoom, the latter entering the vernacular and enjoying a massive rise in popularity, despite privacy concerns. But on the flip side are emotions of appreciation, in countries where governments have acted and people have been unified.
   Travel editor Stanley Moss, based in Italy, chatted last month to the general manager of the Baglioni Hotel Luna in Venezia, Gianmatteo Zampieri. Stanley reported in our web edition that the conversation was ‘lively’, rather than pessimistic, when at the time Italy had one of the most troubling COVID-19 numbers on record. He writes, ‘The Rialto Bridge is deserted, and uncrowded phantom vaporetti lazily float by. The St Mark’s Basin stands empty, with only stray small craft passing.’
   Mr Zampieri remarked, ‘The Lagoon is like a mirror. There’s not a boat to be seen, the water is crystal clear, and schools of little fish are swimming in the canals. We have a gondola landing at our entrance, and we are seeing little crabs crawling up the gondola poles. Ducks are nesting on the vaporetto docks, and laying eggs there.’
   Stanley continues, ‘Mr Zampieri has an optimistic perspective on all this. He says that following these difficult times we’ll be given a chance to return to a Venezia renewed, where the air and water are clean, landmarks uncrowded and Baglioni’s teams rested and ready to welcome back guests.’
   Many will have seen the photos of Venezia’s clean waterways, or how the Himalayas are now visible from the state of Punjab, India, where they had been hidden due to air pollution. At Lucire’s HQ in Wellington, New Zealand, native kererū pigeons can be seen flying in flocks and close to homes, whereas before they would be seen individually or in pairs, seldom venturing quite so closely into neighbourhoods.
   Lockdowns saw an appreciation of the quietness and the absence of noise pollution, a silver lining for those who were forced to stay home.
   In economies that are opening up, the hum of traffic has returned, along with rush hours, immediately rendering the rural-like quietness nostalgic.
   It may well accelerate certain emerging movements. It’s not difficult to link this love of nature to better air quality, less pollution, and the desire for improved public transport or alternative fuels. With fashion such a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions—Quantis estimates c. 8 per cent can be attributed to apparel and footwear, while 114,000 million items of clothing were sold in 2019—fast fashion has become more exposed during the crisis. A shocking 70 per cent of the product winds up in landfills or is incinerated, and inventory is currently growing in warehouses around the world. The Business of Fashion estimates that fashion is an industry that will need between US$20,000 million and US$30,000 million per annum to meet global climate and development goals in the coming decade.
   With several of my colleagues at Medinge Group, the Swedish think-tank dealing with brands with a conscience, we summarized in one session how we have become more acutely aware of how natural resources should be used sustainably, how many indigenous populations have been appropriate guardians of them and of global biodiversity, and how it has been possible to opt for self-sufficiency and sourcing a lot of our food locally, potentially boosting a localization movement.
   Somewhere in between these truths is an understanding that collaboration and co-creation are potential ways forward for the industry: to both consume more mindfully and produce more responsibly. Climate activists like Greta Thunberg rightly point out that earlier generations could have done better, and COVID-19 may have woken more up to the idea that change can happen, and we can create a better way.
   It would seem more important, then, to look at brands and responsibility, both of which are beginning to be the ways out for many sectors.
   In the 2020s, it is becoming more evident that brands should promote a sense of belonging, because people agree with its values and wish to be seen to be connected with them. Perhaps the analogy of a desirable club is not inaccurate. The top–down approach of the generation before, mass marketing products through mass media, is history: it does not build brands, and is better left to low-cost retailers keen to push short-lived product over quality. In 2020, in the midst of COVID-19, there is no stigma to having less tidy hair or older clothes, because neither signals a lack of standing; and a brand pursuing a profit strategy over one centred around purpose may find such an approach off-putting to its audiences.
   Improving the pay of workers, for instance—something our fashion feature interviewee in this issue, Johan Graffner of the Swedish label Dedicated, does with its suppliers—has been shown to make them more productive. Essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis have been praised as people have come to appreciate the value of their work in providing our necessities. Reworking and reframing the relationship workers have over their work could be a way forward: that those who invest their labour have the same voice as those who invest their capital, something pushed for by a group that counts Profs Nancy Fraser, Thomas Piketty and thousands of scholars from around the planet. They note that a strategy centred purely on profit has led us astray. Providing dignity, however, may be more in line with how people have come to feel over their work.
   Fair Trade impacts the workers living in places where work has been outsourced. Simon Anholt, in his book Brand New Justice, goes further with suggesting a shared equity model. Building environmental and social strategies into the brand is yet another step that could be taken, with measurable outcomes—many metrics for this already exist. Kering (the parent to Gucci, YSL and others), for instance, has an Environmental Profit & Loss Account, which assigns a financial value to environmental impact.
   The other reset must come with our use of resources. If collaboration with one’s own workers is possible, then it must equally be possible to work with those who understand biodiversity best. My colleague at Medinge Dr Nicholas Ind writes, ‘Indigenous people represent 5% of the world population, but manage 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity.’ Yet this traditional knowledge is often overlooked, though it would be fair to say that people appreciate its value far more in the midst of this crisis.
   These greater goals are more appealing to the consumers who will emerge in a post-COVID-19 landscape. However, shifting to it, and giving it more than lip service, will require governmental support, the third limb in making this model work. Many territories have shown that working together with government and governmental agencies can defeat the virus: Taiwan, Hong Kong and New Zealand are among those that have experienced a largely unified approach and brought new daily infections close to zero. We can work on the same side. Intervention may be justified when it comes to wages, to prevent the temptation to force them down in order to maximize profits. Without governmental input, that US$20,000 million to US$30,000 million per annum target cannot be easily achieved.
   In such a context, it has made the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 particularly prescient as it sought to insulate the country from precisely such shocks by diversifying the economy and the labour force. The brands that have emerged now need to visibly demonstrate that they have desire, as well as the means, to be part of a better world—and make us want to belong.—Jack Yan, Publisher

 


Sophie Morris live-streams Songs and Stories from the Stage concert on June 18

Filed by Lucire staff/June 15, 2020/22.47

Singer, actor and presenter Sophie Morris will present a live-streamed performance, Songs and Stories from the Stage, from her living room on Thursday, June 18, at 7.30 p.m. NZST (0730 GMT, 8.30 a.m. British summer time), in partnership with Boosted NZ Live. The show will appear on Boosted and on Morris’s Facebook page.
   Morris, who Lucire profiled early in her career as a soprano in 2013, transformed her living room into a stage during the COVID-19 lockdown in New Zealand.
   ‘The world is a little different right now,’ she writes, ‘including the performance world. I wanted to share music and stories from my adventures as a performer—from my living room.’
   Viewers have the option to donate via her Boosted project page, with 50 per cent going to Pet Refuge NZ, a charity providing shelter for pets affected by domestic violence, and helping victims of domestic violence by removing one of the barriers to leaving violent home situations. The funds will help the charity build a new shelter, slated for a 2021 opening.

 


LA Mask: an elegant way to make sure your personal face masks remain handy

Filed by Lucire staff/June 12, 2020/0.38

Elizabeth Faraut, who created the LA Loop—dubbed ‘the Original Necklace for Eyewear’—21 years ago, launches a new product that’s very much of our times: the LA Mask, a functional way to make sure people remember their masks when heading out during these times, when COVID-19 remains very much a health issue in so many countries.
   Working on a similar principle to the LA Loop, which became a simple, elegant and practical way to keep your eyewear around your neck, LA Mask allows wearers to hang their personal health masks the same way.
   Faraut was inspired to create LA Mask when going shopping, finding, as many have, that it was too easy to leave one’s mask behind. ‘As shelter-at-home became the new normal, it didn’t take me long to figure out that going grocery shopping early on Sunday morning was the way to go. And while I may have realized the best times to shop, there were snags along the way: when I would arrive at the market and realized I had forgotten my mask, creating LA Mask was a necessity,’ she said. ‘While easy, no-fuss, minimal–practical has been my mantra since founding LA Loop, LA Mask is a game changer in our ever-changing world.’
   Faraut offers the LA Mask with or without a mask. The mask hangs against the chest. Without it, LA Mask becomes an elegant necklace, or it could be worn as a bracelet.
   LA Mask is hand-made in Los Angeles. The masks sold with it use vintage fabrics, and all are pre-washed. The Classic collection masks are 100 per cent cotton blend.
   For June and July sales, LA Mask will donate a portion of the proceeds to Downtown Women’s Center (DWC), focused on serving and empowering homelessness and formerly homeless women.
   LA Mask is available via LA Loop’s website, www.laloop.com, and at international retailers.

 


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