I was never a Monocle –person. I wanted to be, but never managed to curate my entire wardrobe to consist only of dark navy and khaki garments. In principle I endorsed each overpriced, minimalistic gadget that are part and parcel of the Monocle -lifestyle, but in practise my penchant for whimsical baubles would eventually mess up the otherwise good effort.
I also wanted to like the magazine itself, but there was always something. Now there’s a Monocle spinoff for women, out quarterly and called Konfekt. The second issue is just out and I had a closer look whether I, too, could finally master Monocle-worthy refined living.
In a pre-launch interview the magazine’s Editor in chief, Sophie Grove said that Konfekt aims at lifting the Central European profile in all things lifestyle and fashion. The focus is heavily on the Austria-Germany-Switzerland axis, nuanced by a couple of Scandi-bits and features from far and away places like Sardinia and Lisbon. As far as target audience demographics go, I probably tick each box the Konfekt-people had in mind: I’m white and don’t mind paying €20 for a tiny schluck of wine in a bar.
Also, I’ve lived in Switzerland, which probably helps.
Everybody featured in Konfekt is white, save for a woman in Berlin who introduces some flavourful Persian cooking, a Japanese master of ‘shibori’, an ancient hand-dyeing technique, a Mexican DJ and a British-Jamaican singer of soulful jazz. Going all white is an interesting editorial choice for a pan-European lifestyle magazine in 2021.
Assessing diversity in women’s magazines is absolutely not something I do for the sake of it, but with Konfekt the almost complete lack of it was obvious.
And what did all the white women discuss in the magazine, then? There’s a feature about women at the mega-exclusive Vienna’s Spanish Riding School, die Spanische, where those wishing to learn the art of dressage are basically expected to devote their entire lives to the school’s (strict) traditions. It was an interesting, insightful article in which the school’s first woman director admits that they might need to modernise a bit to keep the institution relevant in today’s world.
(There are few things about Austria that are more stuffy old skool than the UNESCO-listed die Spanische, whose Lipizzaner stallions caused an infamous quarrel between Austria and Slovenia when the latter was about to join the EU.)
There’s an awkwardly edited dinner “conversation” taking place in Stockholm’s Sturehof between “Stockholm’s leading cultural creatives”; two Swedish entrepreneurs, a Finnish press counsellor and her husband and the journalist. They chat about the pandemic (“We need cheering up”) and what it has taught them (“When I think about how much cooking I do, then I realise how valuable it is to own a good knife. You can do everything with it, including crushing the garlic – you don’t need a garlic crusher”).
The comments are peppered with the journalist’s attempts to moderate the conversation, such as “Please, have some more wine – you’re all being very polite. Let’s change our outlooks and think a little about fashion.” and
“Before we continue, does anyone fancy some dessert? I hear the burnt meringue with blood-orange sorbet is a winner. Just coffees? Ah, you’re all so disciplined. Let’s continue. What about soft power? The world has been rather inward-looking for the past while, do we need to start peering out?“
There’s some fashion as well, and the styling is very much in line with Monocle’s aesthetics. Lots of Hermès, Sofie D’Hoore, Chanel and for the sake of mixing high and low, a pair of trousers from Uniqlo.
Then there’s a bit about white Appenzeller goats and a French family who bought a 45-room palace in Lisbon as a family home. (Filled with their own prototype furniture and flea-market finds and I cannot with the flea-market finds. Where are these flea-markets and dumpsters where everybody else keeps finding design classics for nothing?)
The beauty section presents some new Swiss and German cosmetics labels, and there’s also a doctor’s corner, because there cannot be a magazine for German-speaking audiences without a Doktor Professor. And in keeping with the disciplined teutonic crowds, of course the query to the doctor is from a person who enjoys running too much, what should she do? (It is “starting to take a toll on her body”. Of course it is.)
Konfekt was launched in the middle of the pandemic when the trend has rather been pointing at the opposite direction – many papers have simply shut down as people don’t really buy €15 lifestyle tomes anymore. So, absolute kudos to the makers. If I were a Monocle -person, I might have appreciated Konfekt more. And don’t get me wrong – there were good articles as well.
I’m curious about the future prospect for a magazine whose idea of continental lifestyle is restricted to such a narrow, white demographic. Because the idea of having a post-Brexit, European lifestyle magazine to counterbalance Anglo-American influence is actually quite brilliant. But praising an exclusive riding school for ‘anointing women into its ranks’ after 450 years as some kind of progress is a bit – well.
Is Konfekt a missed opportunity?
My comments should absolutely not be read as criticism for featuring expensive things and unattainable lifestyles – these are the reasons I do enjoy fashion- and lifestyle magazines. It’s just that Konfekt is not really continental, it’s just, I don’t know, Alpine? (Recipe for Stöcklkraut with baby turnips on page 107.)
Also I have nothing against anything Alpine.
Vielen Dank für Ihr Verständnis.