As we went to press with this week’s issue, much of the UK went into another lockdown, joining France and Germany in an attempt to curb infection spread. This time around, it seems especially gruesome: to see non-essential services go dark is particularly hard when hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers have worked so heroically to crank their business up again. I had become used to the small freedoms that had been afforded us in our co-pandemic lifestyle, and relished the rare treat of going out. I am so glad I took the opportunity to eat, drink and be merry while we were allowed to, and can’t wait until we can do it once again.
The tremendous energy of brands and businesses to keep on trucking through this nightmare can only be applauded. Whether it’s restaurants refitting their operations, brands moving to online business platforms or entrepreneurs using this opportunity to initiate new services, this year has not suffered from a lack of innovation or drive to overcome. Likewise the efforts by brands to protect specialised industries. “Made in Italy”, a mantra long used to promote that country’s manufacturing interests, has this year evolved to become an urgent battle cry. Italy accounts for more than 40 per cent of global luxury-goods production, according to McKinsey, but the vulnerabilities inherent in its supply chain have been critically tested by this disrupted year.
In the most extravagant gesture of its imprimatur, the LVMH-owned Bulgari unveiled its high-jewellery collection in July with an event that placed the pieces at the centre of a narrative championing Rome’s artistic and architectural wonders, as well as highlighting the atelier’s extraordinary skills. In “Baroque Stars”, the house’s charismatic creative director Lucia Silvestri talks about the expressive decorative style that has shaped the Eternal City, while Isabelle Kountoure and photographer Alessio Boni capture the highlights of a 120-piece collection described by Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin as “the richest we have displayed”.
Bulgari is not the only Italian brand (by way of LVMH) to make a claim for exceptional craftsmanship in this issue. In “Keep Your Knits About You”, we unveil Loro Piana’s latest collection – a magnificently spoiling loungewear line. Ostensibly these hoodies, track pants and sweaters have been designed as menswear, but I would warn anyone so fortunate as to be able to enrobe themselves in Loro to make sure their wardrobe boundaries are very clearly demarcated – or be prepared to share.
Elsewhere, the gallerist Alison Jacques has commanded this year with projects that have offered both quite beautiful distraction and food for thought. In a career in which she has championed female and often underappreciated artists, Jacques has emerged as a gallerist to watch. Francesca Gavin meets the art-world dynamo determined to give the unheard voice its due (“XX Vision”).
To which end, I would also like to take this opportunity to introduce The Kudos Project, a column we created with writer Charlene Prempeh earlier this summer to shine a light on black-owned businesses we should support. Having first launched online, Charlene is now building a directory of talents that represent businesses from all sorts of different fields – from farmers and biologists to tech entrepreneurs and perfumers. This issue sees the column make its print debut with a feature about the Brooklyn-based eyewear makers Coco and Breezy. Identical twins, and spectacle-makers to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, the pair are also philanthropists and musicians: they have just released their new song “U”.
And lastly, enormous thanks to the FT news editor, Matt Garrahan, who managed, somehow, to disengage himself from the day job to write a paean to the polo shirt. OK, it’s not quite in the same league as reporting on the latest Brexit negotiations or happenings on Wall Street, but in HTSI-land, the renaissance of this classic piece of men’s sports apparel is the very definition of breaking news.