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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

 


Royal New Zealand Ballet to broadcast Hansel & Gretel online from Friday, April 3

Filed by Lucire staff/April 1, 2020/10.40

Commencing Friday, April 3, the Royal New Zealand Ballet will broadcast performances, originally recorded live, through Facebook Première—and you don’t even need a Facebook account to watch them.
   Hansel & Gretel, which premièred in Wellington last November with the support of Ryman Healthcare, is first up, with performances taking place on Friday, April 3 at 7.30 p.m., Saturday, April 4 at 1.30 p.m. and Sunday, April 5 at 10.30 a.m. The performance runs for one hour 45 minutes, with an interval. The ballet was choreographed by Loughlan Prior (his first full-length ballet) and scored by Claire Cowan, with designs by Kate Hawley (whose cinematic credits include Suicide Squad, Edge of Tomorrow, Pacific Rim), lighting by Jon Buswell, and visual effects by POW Studios. Lucire reviewed the ballet première last year, asking rhetorically: ‘what can be made when you have every creative firing on all cylinders?’
   Kirby Selchow and Shaun James Kelly are in the title roles, and Hamish McKeich conducts Orchestra Wellington.
   ‘Last year, audiences around New Zealand fell in love with our zany production of Hansel & Gretel,’ says RNZB artistic director Patricia Barker. ‘Being faced with so much uncertainty as we are glued to our televisions for any good news, we at the RNZB thought we could all use a little extra sweetness and pick-me-up. We are so pleased to be able to share this special ballet, 100 per cent made in New Zealand, with audiences again. Stay tuned for further announcements!’
   RNZB executive director Lester McGrath adds, ‘We have an amazingly loyal following on Facebook, and they are already used to tuning in to live-streamed events such as our annual participation in World Ballet Day. However, you don’t need to have a Facebook account in order to enjoy these broadcasts. We encourage anyone and everyone with internet access to make the most of this great opportunity to connect with their national ballet company.’
   The company is also putting together online resources for those isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic. RNZB Education’s NCEA resources are available, and ballet masters and dance educators are developing online classes. Vodafone is the RNZB’s telecommunications’ partner.
   Full details can be found at rnzb.org.nz/live.

 


March 28: an Instagram round-up during COVID-19

Filed by Lucire staff/March 28, 2020/11.44

It’s actually refreshing that we haven’t heard much from celebrities and influencers during the pandemic; instead, press coverage has been on doctors, nurses, other frontline health care personnel, and essential workers who are keeping our countries moving.
   Out of interest, we thought we’d take a look at a selection of Instagram accounts—something we haven’t done for years here at Lucire—to see just what a cross-section of “names” are sharing.
   New York model Imani (@champagnemani) shows that you can be stylish and comfortable while working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, tagging the Working from Home Fits account (@wfhfits). Imani’s wearing items from NewTop Jewelry (@janes8103), Eckhaus Latta, and Ugg boots.
   Model Bree Kleintop (@breekleintop) is out dog-walking in Alo Yoga, though there’s no telling when the photo was actually taken. We know that Kleintop is self-isolating from an earlier post—don’t we all have several thousand photos on our phones?
   Actress Franziska Knuppe (@franziskaknuppe) reminds us not to lose our positive vibes during the pandemic, and for those who are at home, she has a new shoot and interview in the latest German edition of Gala. The magazine photo was taken by Frauke Fischer, with make-up by Melanie Schoene, using Shiseido.
   We couldn’t ignore one politician: New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern), possibly the only PM who has an infant at home toilet-training. New Zealand is in a four-week lockdown in the fight against COVID-19, and the PM is no exception: while still showing up for press conferences, she’s observing the 2 m physical distancing rule, while at Premier House in Wellington, she has a “bubble” with her fiancé and daughter. Ardern shared a Lego Duplo tower and reminded people they can get official information on the country’s COVID-19 fight at the government website, www.covid19.govt.nz. After all, no one wants to wind up like Boris.
   Rising model Tehya Elam (@precioustehya) wished a friend happy birthday with artwork of a sunflower, sending out a personal wish during these uncertain times. Earlier in her account she shared Psalm 91 in a call to others to have faith.
   Parisian model Mika Schneider (@mikaschndr) is staying at home, too, but managed to do a shoot. Considering the limited circumstances we’re all facing, the four shots are excellent, and shows that models are keeping themselves entertained—not to mention adding to their portfolios.
   Russian model Viki Odintcova (@viki_odintcova) used an earlier photo shot by Aleksander Mavrin while relaying a more personal message in Russian, lamenting the fact her diary is less packed during the pandemic. She had managed to get herself organized with a new system, before things came to a halt, her meetings now on Skype, and filming on hold. She’s looking forward to getting back into the swing of things again and travelling. Till then, it looks like Odintcova’s staying put, too.
   Finally, Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) says she misses being outside in her city and also walking her dog, sharing an older photo with her wearing Inamorata, her own label.

 


Twelve things I do to keep balanced while working from home

Filed by Jack Yan/March 17, 2020/23.08

When I was 13, my father became self-employed after being made redundant at his work. By choice, my mother did the same when I was in my early 20s. They both loved the lifestyle and I imagine it was inevitable I would do the same in my career, beginning at a time when I was still studying.
   As some who self-isolate because of the COVID-19 pandemic say that their mental health is affected, I thought I’d share how I’ve been based at home for over three decades—a period that saw the founding of this magazine in 1997.

1. For those working, make sure it’s not just one project. There’s nothing more wearing that having just one thing to work on the entire day. I always have a few projects on the go, and make sure I switch between them. The second project should be a lighter one or be of less importance. Even if it’s not work, make sure it’s something that gives you a bit of variety.

2. Make sure you have a decent work set-up. I find it important to have a monitor where I can read things clearly. Also I set mine on a mode that restricts blue light. If you’re working at home, it’s not a bad idea to have comfortable settings on a screen. If your monitor doesn’t have a native mode to restrict blue light, there’s always F.lux, which is an excellent tool to make screens more comfortable.
   If you’re used to standard keyboards and mice, that’s great, but for me, I have to ensure my keyboard is either at around 400 mm in width or less, and my mouse has to be larger than the standard size since I have big hands. Ergonomics are important.


Above: Westward view from the publisher’s office

3. Find that spot. Find a comfortable space to base yourself with plenty of natural light and ventilation. At-home pet cats and dogs do it, take their lead.

4. Stretch. Again, the cats and dogs do it. Get out of that chair every now and then and make sure you don’t get too stiff working from your desk. Exercise if you wish to.

5. If you relax to white noise or find it comforting, there are places that can help. One friend of mine loves his podcasts, and others might like music, but I enjoy having the sound of web video. And if it’s interesting, you can always stop to watch it. One site I recently recommended is Thought Maybe, which has plenty of useful documentaries, including Adam Curtis’s ones. These give an insight into how parts of the world work, and you might even get some theories on just what landed us in this situation in 2020.
   When Aotearoa had two network TV channels, I dreamed of a time when I could have overseas stations accessible at my fingertips. That reality is now here with plenty of news channels online. If that’s too much doom and gloom, I’m sure there are others that you can tune into to have running in the background. Radio.net has a lot of genres of music.

6. Find that hobby. No point waiting till you retire. Was there something you always wanted to learn about but thought you’d never have time? I recommend Skillshare, which has lots of online courses on different subjects. You learn at your pace so you can delve into the course whenever you want, say once a day as a treat.

7. I do some social media but generally I limit myself. Because social media are antisocial, and they’re designed to suck up your time to make their owners rich (they look at how much attention they capture and sell that to advertisers), there’s no point doing something draining if you’ve got some good stuff to do in (1). However, they might be cathartic if you want to have some human contact or express your feelings. Personally, I prefer to blog, which was my catharsis in the mid-2000s, and which I find just as good today. It’s a pity the old Vox isn’t around these days as there’s much to be said for a long-form blogging network.
   Sarb Johal started the #StayatHomeEnts hashtag on Twitter where Tweeters have been putting up some advice on what we each do to keep entertained. I just had a scroll down and they’re really good!

8. Many of us have this technology to chat to others, let’s use it. We’re luckier in 2020 that there’s Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. I had thought that if we didn’t have social media, we’d be finding this an ideal opportunity to connect with others around the planet and learning about other cultures. I remember in the early days of the web how fascinating it was to chat to people in chat rooms from places I had never visited. I realize these days there are some weirdos out there, who have spoiled the experience for the great majority. But I’m sure there are some safe places, and if they’re not around, see what friends are in the same boat and form your own virtual networks. Importantly, don’t restrict yourselves to your own country.

9. Don’t veg: do something creative. For those of us with a creative bent, draw, write, photograph, play a musical instrument—something to de-stress. I can’t get through a day without doing one creative thing.

10. Anything in the house that you said you’d always do? Now’s your chance to do it, and hopefully you’ve got your tools and equipment at home already.

11. If you’re in a relationship, don’t get on top of each other—have your own spaces. Having said that, seeing my partner helps as I used to go into town a few times a week for meetings; because I see her each day, that need to meet up with colleagues to get out of your own head space isn’t as strong.

12. Take plenty of breaks. You’d probably have to anyway, in order to cook (since you’re not heading out to a café) so structure in times to do this. It soon becomes second nature. Don’t plough through till well after your lunchtime or dinnertime: get a healthy routine. Remember that self-isolation means you can still go for walks, just not into crowded places or with someone. When we self-isolated in January over an unrelated bug, my partner and I headed to a local park that wasn’t busy during the day and we were the only ones there.

   Normally I would have a small amount of meetings during the week but as I get older, they’re actually fewer in number, so I can cope with not having them.
   Do you have any extra tips? Put them in the comments and let’s see if we can build on this together.—Jack Yan, Publisher

 


The Body Shop’s Body Yogurt range a treat for Christmas

Filed by Victoria Whisker/December 18, 2019/12.45


It is the season for special edition scents: introducing the Body Shop’s Body Yogurt range including Rich Plum, Warm Vanilla and Juicy Pear. These ultra-lightweight and fast-absorbing yogurts are perfect for Christmas. They are best applied after a shower, locking in moisture and leaving your skin enriched with a fruity scent that lingers.
   The Yogurts have glycerin, which is a humectant that helps reduce the loss of moisture, actively drawing water from deep within the skin and the environment, leaving the skin supple and moisturized. The tub-like container locks in the custard-yoghurt-like jelly, looking more like shampoo in the way of consistency rather than the Body Shop’s best-seller, the humble Body Butters.
   Alcohol as an ingredient is not always bad: in fact, benzyl alcohol is a compound found in grapes and great for oily skin, as well as alcohol denat, which ensures quick drying and light texture. However, worrying to those with sensitive skin is the fragrance found, despite being dermatologically tested, which can cause irritation to the skin.
   This vegan moisturizer and super-lightweight Body Yogurt, made from plant-based products, leaves the skin feeling nourished and smooth all day. From Community Trade organic almond milk from Spain, vanilla extract from Madagascar and enriched pear extract from Italy, Body Shop hand-picks the best ingredients from all over the world.
   It really is the season to dream big: no longer being confined by standard packs, you can mix and match items in a reusable festive pouch. The pouch, made from 100 per cent natural jute, is made in India by Community Trade partner Teddy Exports, providing fair pay to communities. Sacks come in colour schemes of yellow, purple and pink, and can be reused as a toiletry bag. They also come as packs fitting the vanilla, plum or pear theme for a fresh and fruity twist.
   Also giving a fruit twist are the Rich Plum Lip Butter and Warm Vanilla Hand Cream: the plum yellow balm dries clear and leaves a matte finish to the lip, and the vanilla cream has a luxurious heavy texture with its natural lipid barrier enhancing technology. The Body Shop truly is looking after your skin this Christmas with its enchanting new scents.—Victoria Whisker

 


Oaks Wellington Hotel opens on Courtenay Place, in the heart of New Zealand’s capital

Filed by Jack Yan/November 19, 2019/21.47



Mauro Risch Photography

Jack Yan

The Oaks Wellington Hotel, which opened Monday, is located in an ideal spot in the capital city of New Zealand.
   Ask Wellingtonians which hotels spring to mind, and they’ll often be in the Featherston Street area—ideal for events such as the World of Wearable Art and the waterfront, but more of a trek to the city’s decent eateries along Courtenay Place, not to mention the 70 mm screen of the Embassy Theatre, ballets at the Opera House, convenient shopping at New World Supermarket or the weekend farmers’ market, the ever-vibrant shops of Cuba Mall, and the must-see exhibitions at Te Papa Tongarewa, National Museum of New Zealand. The nine-storey Oaks Wellington Hotel, situated at 89 Courtenay Place, next door to the St James Theatre, brings all of that to one’s doorstep—and the waterfront is still minutes away on foot.
   The launch on Monday attended by Lucire was hosted by Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites’ COO, Craig Hooley, the Hon Peeni Henare, associate minister of tourism, and the hotel’s GM, Jamie O’Donnell.
   After a NZ$33·5 million investment, working with the Chow brothers, who had been purchasing office blocks and turning them into hotels, the Oaks Wellington Hotel opened for business with rates beginning as low as NZ$165 per night.
   Lucire readers will already be familiar with Oaks’ sister group, Anantara, which has featured in our pages many times over the last decade. They are both part of the Minor Hotels’ group, and Oaks operates in five countries.
   The fact the Oaks Wellington Hotel is a block away from the Oaks, a local retail complex, is a coincidence—but sure to help those who know about the older building’s location.
   Older locals might know the location as the Colonial Motors building from 1922, and photos of Ford assembly lines appear on the ground floor, as a nod to its heritage.
   There are 226 rooms, and thanks to the building’s location, guests getting one of the outside suites could be facing in any direction, absorbing different Wellington vistas.
   Interior rooms are 25 m², with executive rooms getting an extra 4 m². Corner rooms on the top floor have wraparound balconies, and the largest room has 42 m² (not including its balcony).
   Antipodes supplies the Oaks’ amenities, and the hotel partners with Flight coffee, which is known for its fairer sourcing of coffee beans. O’Donnell pointed out the fibre internet in all rooms complementing the complimentary wifi—for those who’d prefer connecting to the internet with a cable, the Oaks has one covered. Smart TVs with Sky, and tea- and coffee-making amenities, are standard; kitchenettes are available with some suites. Reception has international power converters.
   Also enviable is the Oaks’ car park, which might be on the tight side, but it saves guests the trouble of looking for a spot in nearby buildings if they happen to book one of the 68 available.
   But you needn’t stay at the Oaks to enjoy all its facilities. A sizeable conference room aside (facing the Courtenay Place end), there is a standalone Oak & Vine restaurant, helmed by the excellent Kit Foe, whose CV includes cooking by appointment to HM the Queen. With Foe as executive chef, it’s a perfect restaurant to sample along one of Wellington’s favourite strips. Find out more at www.oakshotels.com/en/oaks-wellington-hotel.—Jack Yan, Publisher



Jack Yan



Mauro Risch Photography

Jack Yan

 


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